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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 


Political Campaigns vs. Film Distribution

Michael Gottwald, Carl Kriss & Josh Penn

To continue our discussion on the relationship between grassroots political campaigns and grassroots film distribution, here is an interesting blog on an independent film called, Grassroots. The blog compares the process of distributing an independent film without major studio support to running a grassroots campaign to elect a political candidate. Similar to a political campaign, the production team tries to form partnerships with organizations that resonate with the social issues in the film. The film Grassroots is about an underdog candidate that runs for city council in Seattle, so outreach was done to colleges to screen the film and talk about the importance of young people running for political office. Although a studio eventually purchased the rights to the film, the distribution run for the film was shorter than expected. Part of the reason could be that vague goals were set for school screenings, social media hits and ticket sales. In contrast, the Obama campaign had a very complicated and precise matrix system put in place to calculate the number of TV ads, doors knocked and calls needed to persuade someone to vote for Obama. The Washington Post article, “Obama’s ‘Moneyball’ campaign,” reveals the depth of data the campaign used to target voters and raise money for the campaign.

This article reveals the data and concrete goals set by the Obama campaign served as a road map to victory for organizers and media teams in all ten of the battleground states. Clear goals gave the campaign direction, helped keep thousands of political operatives and volunteers accountable, and allowed the campaign to shift resources to states that needed help.

This leads to our third question for this blog. Can the intricate matrix system created by the Obama campaign also be applied to grassroots film distribution or is the data needed to do so too abstract?

-Carl, Michael and Josh