Teaching Tools

Understanding the Educational Marketplace

Understanding the Educational Marketplace

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society


As more classrooms move into the 21st century, trading old VCRs for networked iPads, a growing number of film distributors are building roads into the educational market. The specifics of an educational package vary according to the distributor and the film, but sales generally occur on the institutional level: a school or a university will buy a license to screen a film in classrooms and on campus. These packages cost significantly more than a DVD copy of the film, and they often come with ready-made lesson plans, curricula, and short video modules to faciliate classroom screenings. Some filmmakers create curricular materials themselves, and others work with educators or curriculum developers. Read the Developing Curricula article in this series to learn more about that process. 

Educational distribution may provide income streams and new audiences for an issue-oriented film long after the initial buzz has died down. Educational organizations generally choose a film based on its relevance to their students and their teaching goals, so educational distribution can be a slower and more long-lasting process than the spike and lull that comes with theaterical and home video release.

The majority of profit in the educational marketplace comes from the sale of educational licenses to colleges and universities, who make the film available in their libraries for community and classroom screenings. K-12 schools sometimes buy educational packages, though budgeting constraints in that system may hinder the sale of higher-priced licenses.

Working with the right distribution company will help you to balance outreach goals and revenue targets. Educational distributors range from giants with large catalogs to boutique companies that work with filmmakers to ensure that a project reaches its target audience. Boutique distributors working in the educational space often focus on particular subject areas, so be sure to research a distributor's catalog before reaching out.

If you decide against working with an educational distributor, you can still use your film as a learning tool by creating curricula and engaging in grassroots outreach to connect with educators and students. Read the articles on Developing Curricula and School Screenings, and look at the Featured Outreach Strategies to see how other filmmakers have made their films relevant in the classroom. 

Below is a list of distributors in the educational marketplace. 

Bullfrog Films
California Newsreel
Documentary Educational Resources
Energized Films 
National Film Board of Canada
Ro*co Films
Video University List
Women Make Movies 


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