In 1997, a first-time feature director named Sarah Jacobson screened Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore at the Sundance Film Festival. The film explored sex from a woman’s perspective and had a strong female lead, making it very different from what audiences had seen in mainstream features.
Although Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore was well received at both Sundance and South By Southwest, two very influential film festivals, Jacobson wasn’t offered a distribution deal for her film.
“These Hollywood people, these investment bankers said girls don’t go to movies unless their boyfriends take them,” Jacobson told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1998. Not only did she strongly disagree, but she decided to prove them wrong.
Rather than waiting for a distributor to bring her work to the public, she set out to do it herself. Working with her mother, Ruth, Jacobson sent her film to a number of high-profile festivals and then literally became her own distributor, booking screenings at theaters across the United States. The San Francisco Chronicle described her daily activity as follows:
She’s on the telephone for hours each day, schmoozing small theater owners across the country. She sends them a tape of her film and badgers them for a commitment to screen the movie. That’s when she’s not sending out hundreds of mailers, contacting the media and stapling neighborhoods with posters.
“You have to be pushy, you have ...