How to sell a short film? Can you really sell a short film? If yes, then how do you do it? Few years back, these questions were tough to answer. Short films were impossible to sell but in this day and age when online video consumption is growing at a rapid pace, short films too have found its market.
Well the simple answer could be to market your short film in festivals, short film forums, social media platforms, short film buyers, short film agents or look for sponsors. But It is easier said than done.
As a short filmmaker, you don’t have a backing of any studio. So, you have to hustle around carrying your film to as many people as you can. But it costs time and money. Moreover you will end up reaching only few.
So, before marketing your film or before making your film even, you should layout a detailed road map that enables you to reach your audience and making money from it. And, there are inexpensive and powerful ways for a newbie to do it quickly and effectively, which we are revealing below.
11 Powerful Steps to sell your Short Film Easily
1- Find your Purpose.
Most of the aspiring filmmakers begin with short film to have a first hand knowledge of their craft. It is like riding your first bicycle. Also, many make shorts as a stepping stone to feature film making. They approach studios with these in the hope to grab a feature. Some do it to express or touch upon a thought. Reasons can be many but will it be sold is the question?
The answer to this is – You have to have a clear vision and focus before making a short film. Short films are not confined to the definitions to that of feature films. We know that all feature films needs a film release and has a very predefined audience and marketing at place.
Short films usually can be a home video, instructional film, public awareness and welfare stories, a demo reel, a short fiction, a short nonfiction, documentary, an experiment or anything.
Not all the above are sell-able. The journey can be rocky if you make a personal film and wish people pay to pay for it. Would you buy a ticket to see someone’s home video or an experimental film?
So, if you have a desire to make some money, recover your costs or make profits out of your shorts, you have to make shorts films for markets where the audience pays to watch.
You need to define your purpose as to why you are making this film. Usually, makers want to participate in festivals to network with fellow filmmakers, agents, distributors. But, unless the film has any tangible commercial angle behind it, the exercise can be futile.
2- Find your Audience
Every story has an audience. The trick is to find them. Many short films are difficult to sell if they fail to find its audience. If you have made your film based on a niche subject in your native language, there is no point finding an audience outside the community where the language is not spoken and the subject is irrelevant.
You may reach a wider audience and may find people appreciating it, as story and emotions are beyond language barriers but when it comes to selling it, you will struggle for sure.
The best way to find your audience are the online forums and social media groups. Go there interact with them. Identify the people with authority and connect with them. They are going to be of great help in building your audience.
Also, look for short films showcased in such groups. Connect with the makers and share your concerns. It is always better to get advice from people who have walked that path. Ask them which festivals are good for your short films and how much costs they will incur.
Warning: Never spam these forums. Add value to the discussions and also learn from them.
3- Do a Budget Estimate
When you have an idea of your audience and talked to other filmmakers about how much it costs to participate in festivals, keep an estimated budget for that. Many festivals entry fees are quite high, so you need to pick them wisely.
The usual costs involve the entry fee, your DVD costs, printing the DVD covers and poster costs, postal costs etc. Freight charges can be expensive if it involves a long travel. Also, keep in mind your travel costs if you want to be present in the festivals. The budget can shoot up in no time when you stay in expensive cities or take an agent for dinner.
Marketing budgets are tricky and if you don’t plan them well the cost of your film goes up and it becomes difficult to sell it.
4- Build your Audience
This is where you will have an edge over other filmmakers if you build an audience for your film genre or you as a filmmaker. What could be better than aggregating all the like minded people into your into a forum or a community which is run by you.
When you gather thousands of avid movie viewers on your platform, marketing your film becomes a cakewalk. Moreover if you have a large audience or a following, short film buyers become even more interested in your movie as you bring your tailor-made traffic to them.
But, How do you build an audience for your niche or genre?
If you are not a social media animal, too bad ! if you want to make your selling easy and want your film to be watched by millions, in this day and age social media platforms are an excellent way to build an audience.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and YouTube are the best ways to create communities. but it takes time build them. but you can speed up the process if you get into some sort of paid advertising together quick followers.
The best platform to build an audience is creating a Facebook group. invite you are like minded friends and post your movie related posts or share interesting articles for movies based on your genre.
Over time, when you start seeing some traffic to your site you can start a weekly or monthly newsletter subscription. Many passionate readers will enroll to your newsletter subscription and in no time you will have a good email list.
Similarly if you are good in front of camera you can start a YouTube channel around your Niche and grow your subscribers.
Is you are net savvy, other way to build an audience is to start a blog or a website around your genre. Share your blog on online forums, social media and fellow filmmakers. Your website will grow in no time. You can blog about your short film and create some awareness around it.
5- Create the Buzz
Once your audience is hooked on to your content and you have developed a following, it is time to create a buzz. the best way to create Buzz is to update or apprise your followers with the development of a short form.
When you have an audience you can raise funds, review your scrip,t blog or vblog your day to day shooting report, get feedback on your posters and teasers. so when you already with your short film, you have an army who will fight your battle.
Check out this podcast of filmmaker Alex Ferrari on how he built his audience and was able to sell his film for $90000.
6- Showcase your film & Get Noticed
Once your film is ready, you should start applying for the film festivals. Few will select your film and few may not. Don’t get disappointed. The purpose of filmmaker to participate in a film festival is to win an award. Or, at least create a buzz and crack a deal.
It is a great platform to get noticed and your film being reviewed by critics. It is also a good space to be in with other fellow filmmakers. You should not forget to invite your followers who can make it to the event. You will have your entourage to pep your film up during the screening.
Any positive response can trigger or influence the decision in your favor. There will be buyers and agents lurking in there whom you don’t know. Any positive news will make the agents chasing you.
Publicity is a crucial part. Gather the positive reviews and approach the media with press release write ups, positive response interviews excerpts from QnA’s. Also, you should share this on social media, with your followers, bloggers, and all the other film-making websites.
The more buzz it creates, the more you film is in circulation. It makes it easy to do deals with the agents, distributors or buyers.
7- Network with Producers, Managers, Agents, Distributors and Fellow Filmmakers
It is not only you but almost all are there to network. Everyone has an agenda. Some are there to grab some awards, some to find talent for their studios, some to crack some deals to rake in some commissions, Some to buy content and many to upgrade their careers.
As a filmmaker who is there for the first time with his short, you should keep your options open. If it wins an award, Awesome! If it doesn’t but you crack some deal. Great!. But here you not only should be open to sell your film but also to grab a feature or future short film deals. After all they will be more profitable in the long term than mere selling of your short.
If you find any Feature film Producer hanging out in a short film festival, you can always offer your short film to be included in his feature DVD provided his film is in the same genre. Producers usually hang to spot talent for their movies, so the relationship can go beyond a short film deal.
Managers can be key for filmmakers as they can look for long term relationship with the talent. So, if you pick them wisely and look beyond one film deal, it can a fruitful decision.
Agents are hardcore and if you have created the right buzz, you may find many approaching you. They may work on project basis. But, it is often seen their compassion with your project fall short by a distance to that of a manager as their hands are usually full and will dedicate less participation as you may warrant.
Distributors are much easier as they mean business and if they like you or your film, they will invest in it. You should come across as a genuine filmmaker and not a hustler who wants to make some quick money. They deal people like this day and night and hence they have an eye for genuine filmmakers. If your film is making noise, they are the first to hear it.
Networking with fellow filmmakers can land you up in collaborative deals. A filmmaker can be a producer too. Especially if you touch some common chords, then it becomes easier to package a better deal for the buyers.
There are also many Short film companies or aggregators sprouting everywhere. It seems they don’t offer much money. But, you should ignore them yet, because some may be doing really well and are willing to share the money with you.
8- Patience is Key
By now, you have done enough to for your film and just wait if things have not happened for you. Many of you may have sold your films by now, but if it still hasn’t, don’t be disappointed. You can just wait till your film completes an year of festival circuit.
Now, if you still haven’t found any buyers or offers, you should follow up with the people you have met so far. Keep mailing them, connect through LinkedIn, or send them your newsletter to keep you in their mind. Something usually happens.
For some motivation, check out how Jonny von Wallström,a Swedish filmmaker sold his documentary to Netflix.
9- You should have a Figure
I know this point should have come earlier in these laid steps. But, you kind of knew what the figure is when you finish a movie. You may have a profit attached to it and have a figure in your mind but as the time pass by and you start spending on festivals and networking, you should seriously do some rework on the figure.
Before closing the deal, always take into account your expenses of your hustle. You have invested a lot of time and money into it other than the short film cost. So before coming to a conclusion, you should have a concrete figure in your mind.
It sounds good but when you haven’t sold your film you may not get what you are rooting for. In such cases, you should be flexible in lowering your price. I know it is a tricky situation but I leave that to you to take a call on that. You should be happy when you close the deal.
10 – Hustle till it dies – Alternative Strategies
Film festivals usually allow to showcase films from the latest calendar year. There are some exceptions where they allow films from the last two years. So, you should have a span of maximum 12 months to sell them. After that probably , it is going to slump down fast.
So here is what you can do to keep hustling till your film dies out.
- Make your next film:
Your film didn’t sell because it wasn’t good enough. So during this time, rather than waiting for a deal make your next on or few more. It brings more films to your table and also keeps your audience busy and growing. The chances of selling improves significantly.
- Win Some Awards:
You may not have won the mainstream awards, but the real low hanging fruits lie in the lesser known small community festivals. Apply to a local film festival and the chances of winning quadruples. It is a smart strategy and unless some feathers add up in your DVD cover your film won’t look sell-able.
- Sell it to Association or Companies :
Figure out an angle in your film that can be marketable to any community. If you have made a film on Autism, or Breast cancer or any sport, try to connect with the associations, Non profit organizations or companies who have concerns for the cause or make products in that niche. Many times you will find a strong buyer there.
- Promote your Film on Cultural Events :
Hang around in cultural events where your audience hangs around. Like Comicon for example. Usually films are not well represented in other art or cultural events. But to your surprise, you will be better welcomed if you showcase your film there. People always have love for films and respect for filmmakers.
- Dub it in Other Languages :
Many filmmakers don’t think about this strategy. If you dub your film in other languages where there is an affinity to your kind of movies, connect with the distributors and offer them to give a dubbed version. It will open a new avenue to sell your film.
- Direct sell the film :
It is very easy to have a buying cart on your website nowadays and sell your film directly from there. It may sound cumbersome to rush to the nearest post office every day to courier your DVD to fulfill single orders but many filmmakers have not shied away from it and made decent money in the long run.
You can also upload your film to websites like gumroad.com , kajabi.com etc. and deliver them the login and password to view the online option. Amazon Prime, Vimeo and Youtube also provide such options of private viewing. But we will come to that in our next and the Last step of selling your short film.
11- Release it Online
If all your resources have exhausted , the last resort that will not squash ‘ selling your short film’ dream is to release it online, There are certain online platforms like Vimeo and Youtube where your views can be monetized but the returns are minimal unless your film goes viral.
Another, great stream of income can be the online short film aggregators like Amazon Video direct, Distribber, Editstock where you can upload your film and share the revenue with each sale. This model can be fruitful if you can bring your traffic to these platforms than relying on their search engine and organic traffic.
But, you have your audience and in no time you will have it ranking up against the other top ones. If you play your cards well, there is a chance that you can make pretty decent money out of it.
The above 11 powerful steps on How to sell your Short film easily can only be powerful if you are willing to take action and hustle rather than overthinking and procrastinating over it.
Building an Audience takes time, but you have to accept the fact that no one knows you and if you start building your audience from today, you will be reaping the benefits for a long time.
Selling may be difficult for the first film but the road will get much smoother for the next ones. Moreover, you will be a celebrity and will have a stronger arm in the deal.