How to make money from your short films

Yeah. Short films are cute but … They’re learning tools but … For beginners but… Practise but… A place to hone skills but … you’ll never make any money at them.

Mom and Dad, it’s time to eat your words.

Yes, I’m here to tell you that the days of using short films to simply expose your talents to the world (with no potential for profit, like ever) are over! Yep, forever ever over.

And the change is coming like rapid fire. So hold on to your hats and let’s get through this cavalcade of information together.

I am confident to say this though: if you’re currently looking at a short film distributor’s contract, stop. Put down the contract and step away (or in some cases, run!) What I’m about to share with you might change your decision to go with a distributor (it might not) but just hear me out.

Four companies have popped up who are all aimed at doing for filmmakers what the e-book revolution has done for authors: putting revenue control in the artists’ hands.

Yeah, you read that right. So, who are these angels of industry?

And what are they offering?

The ability for filmmakers to upload their films, set a price and then embed their films on to their own websites – or wherever they want – collecting those fees and putting them into the wallet of the filmmaker. No more putting your film online for free, no siree babba. You can now collect a profit every time someone wants to watch your film online.

No limitations to Canadian filmmakers – or any filmmakers – but IndieFlix does reserve the right to only select from festival competitions.

Here’s the submissions links for each:

I recently sat on a panel at the Seattle International Film Festival and witnessed a packed room of inquisitive Seattle-area independent filmmakers learning all these details at the same time.

Fellow panellist Rick Stevenson said it best when he explained that we have an industry of broken-hearted filmmakers. People who’ve sunk their hopes and dreams, and money, into a film only to win what seemed like a major victory – distribution. Then watch hopelessly and helplessly as their dreams got shelved by a machine bigger than the filmmaker.

Which, as it turns out, was one of the reasons Scilla Andreen put her filmmaking know-how to work to address the issue which has been haunting filmmakers – of shorts, features and web series – when she created IndieFlix.

What will make these companies work is the influx of intelligent filmmakers using these sites to their best advantage. Meaning: you’re uploading your best work and you’re sharing it with your network.

Sergio Radovcic, head of Inmoo says, “We expect to be partners. We are taking large risks by covering all the costs related to encoding, storing, delivering and monetizing content including ongoing development costs for the site, Roku/Boxee distribution, iPad/iPhone/Android apps (upcoming), etc. We want our partners to help us promote the films, share with their social networks and help us get the word out.”

OpenFilm, which has a large roster of Canadian filmmakers, including: an early adopter Patrick Bolvin, regular contributor Vancouver Film School and a popular Canadian travel web series, is more pointed.

“We’re proud to have created a space where filmmakers can show their work and have it not get lost in amateur videos,” says Open Film boss Brenda Nieborsky.

“We will continue to serve the independent film market and provide a platform for filmmakers to expand their careers and gain visibility and revenues for their work.”

Dynamo’s head honcho Rob Millis reminds filmmakers that uploading is only half the battle in building their brand. “We hope that filmmakers have a good sense of who their audience is and how best to reach them. The most important thing they can do is present the film well with a large video player displayed on the front page of a good looking web site. We are happy to offer guidance and help filmmakers use Dynamo to maximize sales.”

Want more proof?

Check out these filmmaker reviews for Dynamo Player: The first is someone who has been using Dynamo for a few months, while the second is a filmmaker who just signed up recently.

IndieFlix, however, goes beyond the upload business and gets into packaging.

Boss Scilla Andreen explained at the SIFF panel that, in addition to their online catalogue, they curate groups of films and sell them to customers as a game called Film Festival in a Box – of which those filmmakers also see a shared revenue.

As it stands now, Dynamo Player and IndieFlix offer the best deal for filmmakers because you keep the largest portion of the revenue. However, all offer quick and easy downloads and submission requirements. But, as always, check the fine print, do your research and make the best decision for your film.

So does this change what film festivals can do for your short film? Yes and no.

What film festivals do is provide the prestige – which nothing else currently does unless you’ve got named talent in your short. But that might change too. Check out the terrific case study of the Short of The Week guys, still the best article comparing festival to online distribution.

So there ya have it peeps. Go forth, and for the love of pete, prosper!

Kellie Ann Benz is a columnist who writes about short film and web series on the NSI website. Read Kellie’s own blog The Shorts Report

One comment

  1. Brilliant post! Very insightful! THANK YOU!!

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