The Dressmaker learning resource

The Dressmaker: Distribution Stage

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The Distribution Stage involves making a film available to an audience. During distribution the success of a film is often measured by box-office numbers and awards.

The producer's role

Producer, Sue Maslin was responsible for making distribution deals and entering The Dressmaker into festivals.

In outlining the challenges she faced as an independent Australian producer trying to finance The Dressmaker, Maslin also offered detailed insights into the challenges and secrets of distribution. Read this account of her talk at the Screen Forever conference.  

  • Explain how the development and distribution phases are interconnected.

  • What were some of the risks Maslin faced?

  • Why was the date chosen for The Dressmaker's cinema release crucial to its success?

  • How did Maslin as the producer eventually make money from the film?

During the Development Stage, Maslin pitched the film to distributors in order to stitch together the necessary finances. She discovered that many distributors were concerned that films targeting a female audience were not a good risk.

  • The Dressmaker was a critical and commercial success. Do you think this could lead to more investors funding films with female protagonists and female directors in the future?

  • A study of top-grossing U.S. films (2014-2017) concluded that "female-led films outperformed male-led films at all budget levels". How are these findings revolutionary and how do they challenge previous assumptions within the film industry? 

Targeting a female audience led to box office success for The Dressmaker.

Marketing the film 

At the beginning I thought I was producing a film. In retrospect, I realise I was producing not just a film, but a set of experiences for audiences and the film was just one part of the value chain. (Sue Maslin)

  • How has the process of marketing and distributing a film changed over time?
  • Describe some marketing/distribution strategies you consider  to be particularly effective.
  • The Dressmaker did its best box-office in Australia. Can you pinpoint some of the reasons for its huge success in Australia? 

The changing audience 

When Jocelyn Moorhouse accepted the AACTA award for The Dressmaker, she thanked Australians for going to see both it and other Australian films.

  • Why did she do that? In formulating your answer, do a bit of research online so that you can support your response with accurate figures and references to the ongoing discussion within media and industry forums. 

  • Do a short survey to gauge the attitude of family members and friends to Australian films including their knowledge of and support for the national industry.
  • In light of the growth in view-on-demand streaming services, do you think box-office figures will remain important? In an interview format, ask your fellow students their opinion about this issue and create a short vox-pop documentary around their responses.