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. Some filmmakers enjoy putting their work on YouTube and building an audience over time. Other filmmakers would rather put their stuff on a transactional platform and then drive people to their content.
Selling A Short Film
Focus on your goals. Are you looking to make a quick dollar or grow your audience? If you’re looking to make a quick buck, you can put your short on any number of the transactional VOD platforms, like Chill or The Watchbox.
If you are thinking long term, building your audience is the most important objective. (And for this reason, the most challenging.) One strategy for building an audience would be to continually create good short films – Then allow people to view them for free.
Study some of the popular YouTubers and find out how to incorporate successful aspects of their model. How often do they create content? What are they doing to migrate subscribers onto their own mailing list? 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.