8 Above Independent Film Distribution



The 8 Above Distribution Lab is a weekly immersive program led by distribution innovator Jon Reiss. In an intimate cohort of up to ten film teams, you will learn how to navigate the distribution landscape and create the best path to release and market your film including:
  • 20 Cohort Meetings of presentations, AMA, Group Reviews
  • 1×1 Sessions with Jon Reiss
  • Exclusive Access to 8 Above’s Templates and Supports Documents
  • Distribution
  • Audience Building
  • Marketing

The Lab consists of presentations by Jon and other noted experts in the field, hands-on discussions, feedback on your film and marketing materials, and one-on-one sessions with Jon to develop a concrete actionable plan to distribute your film.

8 Above Distribution Lab
Sonja Henrici

“Jon’s new Lab should be a required workshop for every indie film team!! He is not only an important thought leader, but he also practices what he preaches. I’ve brought him to Scotland to run workshops for the Scottish Documentary Institute numerous times.”

Producer & former Co-Director Scottish Documentary Institute


Independent film distribution and marketing are broken – and have been for some time. Over the past year we’ve hit a new breaking point as traditional avenues to distribute independent films shrink.

But here’s the good news: there’s still a pathway to successfully releasing your film. It starts with developing a new mindset and learning new skills and tools.

Independent filmmakers are creatives, not business people. We are rarely taught how to distribute and market our films. The landscape is continually changing, making advice offered in print outdated. It’s hard to know what the best path forward is for a project as distribution has become more bespoke and uniquely tailored for each film’s content and desired audiences.

In short: there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success. Every filmmaker, film and audience is different. This is why every film needs to find its own unique distribution and marketing plan.

8 Above Distribution Lab


Twenty Weekly
Cohort Meetings

A presentation by Jon Reiss or visiting experts on a specialized topic alongside a group discussion.

Group feedback sessions that include a review and feedback by Jon for each team on their strategy and marketing materials.


3 hours of private one-on-one consultations with Jon (6 half-hour sessions) to formulate a customized distribution strategy.

Private Access
to Material

Private access to instructional/support documents and templates pertaining to the presentation topics.


8 Above Distribution Lab


Ten years ago, with esteemed indie producer Ted Hope, I was honored to help develop a lab that focused on film distribution and marketing- called The IFP Distribution Lab, which was later folded into the IFP/Gotham Filmmaker Lab. I helped run that lab for 10 years as we guided 20 lucky filmmakers a year through finishing, distribution, and marketing.

At this moment, there is still a strong need for a collaborative environment that offers filmmakers the knowledge, training, and resources they need to succeed in the ever-changing film distribution landscape and craft a path through the often confusing, arcane, and seemingly non-transparent world of film distribution and marketing.


Helping filmmakers has been my passion since 1981 when I started working in film at a punk rock documentary collective in San Francisco – Target Video. That is where I got my first taste of distribution – booking our documentaries on event tours throughout the United States and nearly every country in Europe. Since no one would distribute our films, I learned how to do it myself. I have repeated this process with many of my other films since then. I have also seen how countless incredible films face the same challenges over the years. I have committed myself to helping other filmmakers ensure that their work finds audiences.

For the past twelve years, I have advised hundreds of filmmakers on how to release their films. In 2010, I wrote a book called Think Outside the Box Office, which was the first manual to help filmmakers through this process. More recently, I started directly supervising the release of many films from post production through their VOD releases and beyond. My company has also started releasing films theatrically in what we call “Impact Event Theatrical” to great success, even in the topsy-turvy current landscape where some people claim that no one goes to movie theaters anymore. We are on the ground every day making this current market work for our filmmakers and their films.

8 Above Distribution Lab



How many people per film team can participate?


How long does the Distribution Lab run for?

6 months 🙂

What if I can’t attend a session?

All Lectures, Discussions, Ask Me Anythings and One on One Sessions will be on Zoom and recorded. They will be available to each team for 6 months after the duration of the program. Note 1×1 Sessions will only be viewable by the team.

What stage does my project need to be in order to participate?
Anywhere between a rough cut through a film festival release.
What experience level do I need to be?
Any. You can have no knowledge of distribution and marketing, or you can have released one or more films.
Is the Lab just for documentary filmmakers?
No. While the landscape is tougher for fiction films (especially those without stars) – there is still a path to release and plenty to learn in the Distribution Lab.
Is the Lab a distributor?
No. The Lab teaches you how to navigate the distribution landscape and even take on certain aspects of distribution yourself.
Can I email Jon specific questions about my film during the 6 months?
Each team can pose up to two brief project-specific questions for Jon to answer each month.
Why do I need to apply to the 6 Month Distribution Lab?
Don’t worry! The application is short. The application just helps us with intake to know more about your film so we can create the best possible synergy and chemistry between the teams in each cohort and align films at approximately the same stage with similar needs. In addition, each cohort is limited to no more than 10 teams. Once a cohort fills up, we will start building a new one.
How do I get more information before I commit?
We will hold several information sessions before the beginning of each cohort so that you can ask questions and see if it is a good fit for you, your team and your film.
What topics will Jon or special guests cover?
This will vary based on the needs of each cohort but will typically include:
  • Setting Distribution Goals
  • All Rights vs Split Rights/Hybrid Distribution
  • Marketing 101: PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned Media)
  • Types of Audiences and How to Reach Them
  • Email List – Why and Best Practices
  • Organic Social Media Best Practices
  • Fundamentals of Paid Social Media
  • Fundamentals of Impact and Outreach
  • Creating Synergy Between Impact and Distribution
  • Festivals 101
  • Community Screenings and Theatrical 101
  • VOD and Broadcast 101
  • Publicity 101
  • Educational Distribution 101
  • Timing and Windowing Strategies
  • Budgeting Basics – Where and How to Spend Money
  • Building a Team
  • Creating a Pitch Deck
Can I actively distribute while enrolled in the Distribution Lab?
We recommend participating in the Distribution Lab prior to beginning distribution, but you can certainly join while part of your distribution efforts have begun if you are still actively planning other components of a release.
Will the Cohorts differ from each other?
Before the start of each Lab cohort, teams will fill out a survey as to the topics that are most pressing to them. Although the Lab has a defined structure, each cohort will ultimately take on its own unique quality, shaped by the nature of the films, filmmakers and everyone’s collective interests.
What about Impact?
Will you help me shape my impact campaign as well? Yes we cover impact as part of your overall strategy to reach your goals.
How long is each Seminar?

Each seminar is one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.