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Distribution Disruption: How Tugg Is Changing the Relationship Between Filmmakers and Their Audiences

By Laura Hess

Engage. Empower. Entertain.

This is the mission of Tugg, an innovative crowdsourcing platform for cinema-on-demand film distribution. Founded in 2011, Tugg’s business model encompasses theatrical, non-theatrical, and educational licensing sales and strategic distribution for narrative and documentary films.

By empowering filmmakers and motivated audiences alike, Tugg’s approach disrupted film distribution standards. This direct-to-consumer channel has proven to be especially influential for independent and documentary films, which often struggle to secure effective distribution via traditional avenues.

The Tugg process has been likened to a Kickstarter for film distribution and is driven by a filmmaking team or by promoters (any person or organization hosting a Tugg event). As an open platform, promoters are not necessarily affiliated with the film’s production – anyone keen to host a Tugg film screening may submit a proposal.

Once a request form is processed, Tugg facilitates communication with regional and national theaters, including AMC, Cinemark, and Regal Cinemas. Theatrical, non-theatrical, and educational campaign goals may include expanding audience reach, adding revenue streams, creating fundraising opportunities, and encouraging social change through call-to-action avenues.

Tugg executes the logistics, consisting of theater booking, RSVPs, media organization, and customer support. Outreach initiatives and audience engagement, however, are helmed by the film team. To that end, some filmmakers partner with an impact producer. Impact producers are sometimes referred to as engagement strategists, outreach coordinators, or producers of marketing and distribution. As an evolving role, these titles share significant overlap of responsibilities, but also have areas of distinction in their scope and depth.

With Tugg’s headquarters in Austin, I am supporting their Los Angeles Content Department this summer, as a Content Partnerships & Management Intern. This role comprises two core areas of focus: researching films for potential Tugg collaborations, and developing distribution campaign strategies, including release rollout, partnership and sponsorship opportunities, and audience engagement tactics.

My career goal is to comprehensively promote and position documentary films as an impact producer. By working in tandem with Tugg’s Director of Independent Film and Director of Content Partnerships, I will gain a robust, direct education in the creative skills and strategic insight necessary for a dynamic impact producer.

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