I know when you’re in the process of making a short film, the overriding thought is ALWAYS ‘I just have to get it made’.
But what do you do with your short after it’s finished?
People often say they made it just for the experience and to show people what they can do, and that’s great, but if it’s just sitting on your hard drive, who exactly are the people you’re showing it to?
Here are the useful tips and hacks you’ll need to know for your short film distribution plan, whether that’s festivals or online.
Plan the distribution for your short film early
A film festival expert once told me that shorts need to allocate at least £600 for festivals fees, which is kind of crazy. But essentially, the less money you have to spend on festivals, the more you lower your chance of establishing yourself as a filmmaker worth watching.
By planning your distribution while you’re still in development, you’re giving yourself a much better chance.
Work out who will actually want to see your film. If you want industry members to see it and get to know you + your work, festivals might be the right option for you. If you want to find an audience that is just going to consume your work, then an online release will be FREE (except for your time).
By working out who you want to see your film before you’ve made it, you save yourself a ton of time later on (which you can spend working on your next project or just catching up on sleep).
Applying to festivals? The earlier the better
Giving yourself plenty of time to prep for a festival distribution plan is such a luxury. You can research festivals ahead of time, and find the ones that are truly interested in your film.
By being selective – and giving yourself the time to be selective – you will save quite a lot of money.
A lot of filmmakers have a blanket approach to festivals. They just apply to anything and everything they find online. Be selective and submitting to the festivals that have a proven interest in your style of work. You’ll have a far better chance of being selected (so not wasting your money in the long term).
Picking out those festivals in advance means you know the deadlines you have to work towards. You can get in on the early bird deadlines if the festival has them, shchi saves you ever more money.
You can then break down your distribution budget into individual submission fees. Rather than the usual blanket amount that usually gets set aside and ignored until you’re completely out of post.
Build the hype for your film
Decide on a hashtag for your film and get the whole cast and crew using it. If you can get enough buzz online, you’ll generate an interested audience for an online release. That’s what will get you noticed by festivals if that’s what you’re aiming for.
Festivals were approaching us on a short I produced because they’d seen all the hype on social media. They gave us discounts and some even waived the fees entirely.
Social media is a free marketing campaign option that takes nothing but a bit of time and dedication.
Getting the most from the festival
It’s one thing to have your film selected and shown at a festival, it’s another thing to market the hell out of your film and be memorable.
In an ideal world (let’s all dream for a minute, we’re creators after all) you could head out to a festival two or three weeks before it began. You’d take your lead actor with you and create an entire publicity campaign. You’d do everything, from putting up posters of your film to getting you and your lead on local radio to discuss your film.
The key is to create such a buzz about your film that you get the locals turning up to your screening. Social media is amazing for generating an audience that festivals will take note of, but having a packed screening for your short will grab anyone’s attention at a festival.
Show them your way
Be different. Do it a different way. Forget the awkward networking drinks and business cards and the trying hard to remember 30 names in the space of 20 minutes. Build up your project and let the film speak for itself.
And if your goal isn’t to make an impact at festivals, go all out with your online release. Build up an audience and get those views up. Get the engagement rate up.
Sometimes it’s not just about saving as much money as possible (or spending as little as possible). Sometimes it’s about stretching your money as far as it’ll go, and doing that in the most creative way possible.