Many filmmakers start out making short films. With all the new distribution tools available, one question I get a lot involves selling a short film. A filmmaker named John asked the following question:
“Is selling a short film possible? Would you do it the same way you would sell a feature? If not, what is the best way to market your short film and get an audience? Would you suggest YouTube?”
My Answer: Selling a short film can involve any number of strategies.
Selling A Short Film
Unlike selling features, selling a short in the traditional marketplace is rare. This is because there are very few buyers looking to pick up short content. But don’t get discouraged. As a result of the internet, you no longer need permission to reach your audience!
So let’s start at the start. What are your goals? Are you looking to make a quick dollar or grow your audience?
Many filmmakers enjoy putting their work on YouTube and building an audience over time. These filmmakers make money by placing YouTube advertisements on their videos. Other filmmakers would rather put their stuff on a transactional platform and then drive people to their content.
In both instances, the one metric that matters is your subscriber list.
The filmmaker who has the audience rules.
Thinking long term, building your audience is the most important objective. (And for this reason, growing an audience most challenging.) What does it mean to grown an audience? What I’m talking about here is your email mailing list. How large is your list? What are you doing to migrate subscribers onto your mailing list?
One strategy for building an audience would be to continually create good short films – Then allow people to view them for free. Then build subscribers.
For case studies, check out some of the popular YouTubers and find out how to incorporate successful aspects of their model. How often do they create content? How did they get started?
One interesting documentary related to YouTubers is Please Subscribe by filmmaker Dan Dobi. In the movie, Dobi profiles several popular YouTubers who candidly share their success stories. Many of these YouTubers have built million dollar businesses from their apartments. Here is the trailer:
Selling a short film is challenging. But if you take a long term perspective on your career, you may soon realize that it’s OK to make several dozen short films for YouTube. The benefit is you will have more experience than most filmmakers. And you won’t stress about the festivals. As an ancillary benefit, once you have 10,000 raving fans – you can virtually write your own ticket.