How To Make Money On Short Films?

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Everyone knows that no one makes a short film to make money.

“The real profit is when you get to make another film,” says Kimberley Browning, director of Hollywood Shorts. The likes of Christopher Nolan and Wes Anderson made short films before their respective big breaks. Short films are used as a calling card for filmmakers to showcase their talent. But it doesn’t hurt to make a little money in the process!

But let us begin with the harsh reality of the industry. Over a gazillion short films are uploaded to YouTube every week. There were 8,061 shorts submitted to Sundance last year, out of which only 60 got selected. If you are an Oscar nominee like Don Hertzfeldt, Netflix will be happy to pay you for your animated short about a little girl and a trippy future. But what if you are still an emerging filmmaker?

The most elementary secret of selling something is that there should be a market for it, if not you should be able to create one! We call it fanbase. Without a fanbase, it’s almost impossible to find an audience for your short films, let alone money.

  1. VOD: The full form for VOD is Video On Demand But for us filmmakers it should be Vimeo On Demand. Vimeo is by far the best platform for independent filmmakers to gain money of their short films. Shorts like High Maintenance and Angry Video Game Nerd are examples of the success stories of this model. Let’s do the math. Let’s say we go for a CPM ( Cost Per Thousand Impressions) of $10. If we charge $5 for the short film and if we get 10,000 views, we tend to make $1,368. Yeah I know! So cut down your budget!
  2. VIDEO ON DEMAND: Consider other Video On Demand services like iTunes and Amazon Prime if your short is of theatrical quality. Since both iTunes and Amazon are trusted platforms, it’s easy to sell it. The short ‘Shabath Dinner’ used to gross around $200 a month in Amazon. But the director later decided to go for a free release and it racked up over 100,000 views in YouTube, after a successful marketing campaign.
  3. Digital Downloads: Make your products valuable to the audience. I don’t want to pay you if I don’t get anything in return. VFX breakdowns, detailed behind the scenes videos, production scripts, storyboards, lighting plots are just a few examples.
  4. Merchandise: Tee-shirts, wristbands or anything that you can buy cheap. You are not going to make a ton of money through this unless you have a huge fanbase. Film Riot has got it right.
  5. Product Placement/Corporate Sponsorship: I know this is not the most favorable method in this list. But if you want to show a local restaurant or a theme park in your film, you might cover your catering cost. The end result will be a happy Producer and a not-so-happy Director.
  6. YouTube: The ad revenue from YouTube are peanuts! But it’s still money. Remember the math we did for Vimeo? With the same views, we might make only a little over $40 in ad revenues, when compared to the $1,368 on VOD.
  7. Selling the legal rights: It happens once in a blue moon. But it’s not impossible. Argentinian filmmaker Andrés Muschietti did it with his horror short Mama. So go ahead and make an awesome film!

You are a filmmaker. You are an artist. Making money is an art. Get creative! 

By Aslam Basheer

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