How To Get An Audience And Make Money With Short Films In The Age Of Streaming
The streaming golden age isn’t ending anytime soon. Despite brands like Netflix and Hulu streaming media for over a decade now, things are just getting started – and that’s great news for independent filmmakers. The global streaming market is now estimated to be worth $42.6 billion, with that number only expected to grow year-to-year.
If you’re an independent short filmmaker, how can you get a piece of this pie? Each year you see the stories of short films that break through the crowd–the Oscar winners, festival darlings and viral hits. Maybe you even know a filmmaker who had one of their shorts hit it big. In most cases, these filmmakers made deals with traditional short distributors who then prepped them for Oscar runs or sent them out to worldwide markets.
The traditional route sounds glamorous (and yes, upfront money from a short film is always exciting) but the truth is that most films won’t end up even making the Oscars longlist. This is where the darkside of getting a distribution deal kicks in. Your short films end up playing in places you’ll never know about, including on planes. Sure, people saw it, but will they ever know who the director was? Will that short film ever be associated with you and your brand as a filmmaker, or will they just remember the company who bought the distribution rights from you?
So, if streaming is hotter than ever and lets you share your brand with the world, there should only be one question left: how can I get my film seen and still make money back? It’s not an easy question to answer, especially as things keep changing and technology creates ever-evolving new possibilities. But let’s explore the options you have at your fingertips right now.
First Of All, What Are You Up Against?
Sure, there’s a loooot of short films being made around the world. But there’s also more opportunity than ever before. There are distribution platforms for just about every kind of film and television show at this point. But most of these companies are already overflowing with content. If you want your short to feature on one of these services, you’ll likely end up on a very long waiting list.
Want to know the truth? Mainstream streaming brands have become the new gatekeepers. Even though the percentage of people with 3 or more streaming subscriptions has increased big time in just a few years, these streamers are already more than saturated with original content. Production and acquisition of new projects will slow as the mainstream services go at it for established library content (like popular shows Friends and The Office).
As an independent short filmmaker, you should avoid these types of distributors entirely. But there is another problem – these distributors own a big piece of the total market. That leaves less space for thousands of more independent filmmakers trying to break through the noise.
But don’t worry. There are still definitely some great options. The most important takeaway from this is that trying to take a short film straight to Netflix, Hulu, Prime or Disney+ is a losing game. Instead, let’s see what’s left for independent short filmmakers.
The Truth About YouTube And Vimeo
Almost every short filmmaker you know ends up at one of two places – YouTube or Vimeo. These are not bad places to go, especially as OTT (over-the-top services) technology lets people watch YouTube and Vimeo films from just about any device imaginable. But too often people just throw a video up and hope it goes viral. The truth, of course, is that it almost certainly won’t. Even worse, you won’t make any money from it.
Instead, you need to have a plan. If you are seriously considering posting your short film to YouTube or Vimeo for free, here is what you have to realize – you will probably make no money at all from it. While the right YouTube channel can make money from ad generation, that takes a lot of strong, consistent views. One hit short film alone isn’t likely to do this.
If it’s just exposure you’re looking for, you have a slightly better chance of reaching your goal. With curation teams like Vimeo Staff Picks, there is a chance that the short film you dropped goes to tens of thousands of views overnight. However Staff Picks run continuously throughout the year and audiences quickly forget the ones chosen even just last week.
This, of course, is where the power of film festivals come in. By screening at dozens of festivals before ending up on as a Vimeo Staff Pick, many short films manage to ride the wave of press attention and fan interest. They stay in the cultural conversation long enough to maintain long-term interest.
Unless you already have an established brand or your short has already found big success in fests, just posting your own short film for free on YouTube or Vimeo is not the right way to make any revenue or even get exposure. So what are you left with? Let’s stick with YouTube and Vimeo-adjacent entities – the third party channels.
You need the right plan for a short film to go viral on apps like YouTube or Vimeo.
The Good And Bad Of Third Party Channels
A Third Party YouTube or Vimeo channel is an outside collective with an ability to draw a large audience to outside content.
Think of sites like Short of the Week – they pick out short films and typically premiere them on their site at the same time that the video goes live for free on either YouTube or Vimeo. While this can certainly get you attention, and even win you the respect of people with some influence in the film business, it will not let you control the revenue potential from your short film. And honestly, if your short film is good enough to get a Short of the Week pick, then there’s a good chance you have something on your hands that you could be making much more money from.
The always excellent animation site Cartoon Brew recently did a deep dive on third-party YouTube accounts that select and curate animated shorts from around the world. The consensus? Popular third party channels (like TheCGBros and CGMeetup) were exposure goldmines, helping animated shorts get seen by hundreds of thousands of more people than they would have otherwise…but in the end, no money went to the filmmaker. As the Cartoon Brew article shows, many of these third-party channels make their profits through ad-generation, which comes with high traffic from the free content (like a short film).
If you’re in filmmaking for the long haul, then you’re probably not expecting to get rich off of a short. In fact, no one really should. But at what point should a short filmmaker say enough is enough? How many shorts have to get made, even ones with millions of views, before you can make your rightful amount of revenue from it?
Thankfully, there is another option available.
Miniflix is the right solution for someone who wants to get their short film seen and still control their revenue stream.
Everything Great About Streaming In One Place
For an independent short filmmaker who wants to make money and have their film seen, there is only one solution – partnering with a boutique streaming brand that gives them their fair share of profits.
This is why there’s no better choice out there right now than Miniflix.TV. No other service or streaming brand is offering all of the benefits at once for independent short filmmakers. With Miniflix.TV, you have the advantage of having your film play on an established network, full of eager viewing subscribers and a vibrant social media network. With several dozen award-winning short filmmaker interviews also in the Miniflix catalog (including an Oscar-winner), you can have your film advertised directly in front of some of the biggest names in your industry.
Miniflix.TV also boasts a highly-curated library, giving each film in their catalog the social media and PR attention that it deserves. And unlike anyone else in the market currently, Miniflix.TV offers flexible contracts that put the filmmaker in control. They make it priority number one that you make your fair share from your film. Instead of having to come into contract negotiations being told what to do, they have an actual conversation with you. They will hear out your situation, assess your goals and come up with a solution that gives you what you deserve.