Film Sprout bridges the divide between filmmakers who have created socially-driven documentaries and the communities that eagerly want to come together to experience them. Founder Caitlin Boyle grew her own experience into one that has helped countless films connect with viewers outside of the traditional distribution model.
“In the end, we’re primarily interested in whether a film stirs the passions and emotions of regular, lay audiences—teachers, parents, community activists.”
Who decides what films you get to see? Unless you live in a city where there are off-the-radar independent film organizations like Rooftop Films or Outfest, your options are essentially at the whim of major film companies' distribution teams to decide which movies to pick up and release in theaters. What if a documentary film has a particularly challenging or even subversive theme? Chances are only those lucky enough to attend the film festival circuit, or know the filmmakers, will get to see it.
Such was the scenario of Caitlin Boyle, seeing her future husband Curt Ellis and his partners move into post-production on their 'buddy-flick/corn-industry-expose' King Corn in 2007. "As the film opened in select art house and independent cinemas," Caitlin remembers, "the filmmaking team and I noticed there was a huge, untapped groundswell of demand from folks outside the major theatrical markets and metropolitan centers. And we realized that we had no organized platform or infrastructure for bringing them the film."
Inspired by the way grassroots organizations were embracing the documentary, she set out to correct that gap by creating an organized and accessible way for community groups to present the film. "By responding to—and eventually proactively courting—the interest and enthusiasm of nonprofit groups, educators, activists and community advocates, I helped to expand King Corn’s public reach from about 60 art house cinemas to more than 200 community-sponsored exhibitions held nationwide in about five months. All along the way, I earned direct revenue for the filmmakers, and paved the way for indirect revenues in the form of DVD sales."
Since then, Caitlin and her small team at Film Sprout have served ten feature documentaries, "and we’ve helped dozens of additional filmmakers who are spearheading community distribution platforms for their own projects, with our guidance," she prides.
Most importantly, Caitlin acts as a bridge between filmmakers and their audiences. "We’re increasingly living in a time when people get their entertainment and their news and their diversions alone and in private, but Film Sprout gives people an opportunity to do something a little more old-fashioned: to come together, in a physical space, around a story," she reflects. "Even as technology moves us in another direction, there’s still a powerful pull toward community and togetherness in the way we view media and communication and the way we work toward social change. "