Time was, filmmakers promoting their short film trod a well-worn path. They’d enter the film into festivals. Then they’d try to get a small distribution deal, and usually fail, just because supply was so much higher then demand (and still is). Sooner or later, they’d make their film free to view on YouTube or Vimeo.
Festivals first, online last. From exclusive access, to public access. This pathway is still open, but things are changing.
75% of filmmakers responding to a survey by the good people of Short Of The Week, said they wanted their short to open up career opportunities. 66% simply wanted to have their film seen (meaning one third weren’t much interested in this).
Given these two main drivers, filmmakers are realising the need to maximise the value of their film quickly after release. They need to be proactive, and not wait two years – they want to have made another couple of films by then.
So they are reviewing the importance of finishing “the festival run” before doing anything else. And concluding that it’s no longer either/or.
Most short film festivals are local affairs. (Sure, Cannes and Sundance are exceptions, but their international profile is down to the new features, not shorts). Audiences come from nearby, or at best from the country of the festival. By contrast, the web is world-wide, as it says on the tin.
More people seeing your film, means more people seeing you.
Restricting online availability reduces the chances of someone influential seeing the work. A short film is a self-advertisement, and a filmmaker will weigh the few dozen people going to festivals against the hundreds or thousands who might watch a film online.
The facebook effect
Coupled with this, as filmmakers become more social-media-savvy, they realise the importance of clickthrough. They post on facebook, they tweet, but real engagement starts when people follow links to the film. Then they are more likely to follow you, and share, and retweet. Self-promotion is a numbers game!
If your film isn’t online, any promotion you do is for the festival your film’s in, not for you.
Festivals aren’t as exclusive as they used to be
Fortunately, festivals are relaxing eligibility rules that prohibit shorts from being freely available online. The fact is, people don’t go to festivals for exclusive access to see a short film, they go for the vibe, the chance to meet filmmakers, and to see shorts in cinema environment. A short being available online won’t discourage this.
My advice to filmmakers is, use every avenue of distribution and promotion in the few months after finishing your film. Do it before your energy for the project burns out, and you need to refocus, on your next film, or, I don’t know, earning some money.
As for festivals that prohibit a film being available online, they are now the diminishing minority. Unless you’re confident your film can beat the 1-in-150 odds against selection for Sundance Cannes and Locarno, ignore them. There are others.
Like Short Film Reviews, for instance! We love your short being online so much, we want to help you promote it!