In recent years, independent filmmakers have increasingly turned to short films as a way to get their work seen. The rise of online film festivals and the ease of distributing films digitally has made it easier than ever for filmmakers to reach audiences.
And while theatrical distribution is still the gold standard for many filmmakers, the success of short films at festivals like Sundance and Cannes has shown that there is an appetite for independent films of all lengths.
As the trend toward shorter films continues, filmmakers are experimenting with new storytelling techniques and forms across international markets. This is resulting in a wave of innovative and exciting films that are pushing the boundaries of what a short film can be.
Whether they're being used to tell personal stories or explore larger social issues, short films are proving to be a powerful medium for independent filmmakers.
What is Considered a Short Film?
A short film is typically any movie that is under 60 minutes in length. This includes movies that are made for television, as well as those shown in theatres.
While there is no strict definition in the film industry, most experts agree that a movie must be less than an hour long to be considered a short film. This time limit allows filmmakers to tell a complete story without having to worry about filler material or excess footage.
As a result, short films are often highly focused and concise, with every scene serving a purpose. In recent years, the popularity of short films has grown, thanks in part to the rise of online streaming services.
These platforms have made it easier for audiences to find and watch short films from all over the world. Whether you’re looking for a heart-wrenching drama or a light-hearted comedy, there’s a short film out there for you.
However, not all is as rosy as it seems when it comes to their distribution, as you'll read ahead.
Common Problems With Short Film Distribution
Short films can be a great way to showcase new talent or tell a unique story, but they can also be difficult to distribute. Here are a few common issues that most short filmmakers face when seeking success with their short film distribution efforts.
1. When distribution companies have another preference
Most of the common problems with short film distribution stem from the fact that distribution companies have another preference for short films. Also, it would be wise to keep in mind that distribution companies are in the business of making money.
Short films often have trouble finding an audience since feature-length films simply tend to be more profitable than shorts. Theatrical release is expensive, so the distributors don't make much money off of them.
They also don't get much help from marketing or promotion budget-wise because most of that goes to the feature films. So a distribution company only makes money off of DVD and VOD sales, which are both declining.
Thus, it makes sense that they would focus on distributing these types of films.
2. Varied distribution costs
Once you do find a distributor for your film, you may have to deal with distribution fees. These fees can vary depending on the distributor, but they can sometimes be quite high. This can cut into any profits you might make from your film.
Another common problem is getting your film accepted by a distributor. Even if you do find a distributor that seems like a good fit for your film, they may not accept it for distribution.
This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as the quality of the film or the content of the film. If your film is not accepted by a distributor, it can be difficult to get it distributed at all.
3. Finding the right showcase platform
One of the biggest challenges is finding the right platforms to showcase their work. While there are a growing number of online outlets for short films, many of them have very specific requirements that can be difficult to meet.
If short filmmakers turn to the distributor route, finding the right distribution outlet for the film becomes the issue. There are many different distributors out there, and each one has its own submission process and guidelines. It can be difficult to find the right distributor for your film if you don't know where to look.
Turning to online distribution becomes a fairly decent solution since the traditional means of short film distribution are closed to most filmmakers.
4. The limitations of online film distribution
Although there are a few good options for filmmakers to turn to when promoting their short movies, many short filmmakers end up relying on online platforms to reach their audience.
While this can be effective, it can also be limiting, as these platforms may not have the same reach as traditional distributors.
In addition, online distribution can often lead to piracy, which can further reduce revenue.
Another issue is visibility; with so much content available online, it can be hard to make your short film stand out from the crowd.
Finally, there is the question of rights and permissions. When you distribute your film online, you need to make sure that you have the rights to all of the footage and music included in the final cut. Otherwise, you could be facing some serious copyright issues down the line.
5. Short film distribution through traditional film festivals
Film festivals are often the best avenue for drawing attention to your work, but even then, standing out can be difficult.
Unfortunately, the distribution landscape for short films is far from ideal. The vast majority of platforms favour feature-length content, making it hard for shorts to get the exposure they deserve. This is a major problem for filmmakers who pour their heart and soul into their projects only to find that they have little chance of being seen by a wide audience.
In addition, most international film festivals require an entry fee, which can be prohibitive for many independent indie filmmakers.
7 Ways to Get Your Short Film Distributed Successfully
Even with the prominent challenges that experienced and young filmmakers face when distributing their short films, there are many more ways to get out of the rut and build connections to have their efforts showcased to the right audience.
Here are a few ways short film distribution can be successful, not just limited to short film websites or theatrical releases.
1. Screening Events
For many filmmakers, the power of local can't be underestimated when it comes to getting their films distributed successfully. Connecting with the indie film community in your area can open up a lot of doors, both in terms of getting your film screened and also making industry contacts.
Local festivals and venues are often more receptive to programming shorts from local filmmakers, so it's definitely worth reaching out to them. In addition, getting involved with the local filmmaking scene can help you connect with other professionals who can provide advice and support.
2. Choosing a Distribution company
A distribution company, although associated with raking in the revenue through other options than short films, does fulfil the objective of getting your film out there.
There do exist distributors who specialise in promoting shorts and a few also help in curating a festival strategy. These specialised distributors have unique outlets to have a short film distribution distributed with the possibility of hosting the short film in private industry screenings.
3. Investing in Sales Agents
A sales agent comes in handy when you're choosing to go get your short film noticed through local film or international festivals. Sales agents specialising in short film distribution know the lay of the land better and have prominence in their networks.
An added bonus of getting represented by a sales agent is their knack for cracking the European film festivals scene which is prominently known for showcasing short films on TV programs.
4. Online short film festivals
There's no shortage of ways to get your short film distributed successfully these days. One option is to submit your film to an online short film festival.
These festivals are a great way to get your work seen by a wide audience, and they can also lead to other opportunities down the road. For example, many online festivals partner with distribution companies that are always on the lookout for new talent.
So if you're looking for a way to get your short film distributed successfully, submitting to an online festival is a great place to start.
5. Traditional film festivals
There's no question that short film festivals are a great way to get your work seen by industry professionals. But with so many festivals out there, it can be tough to know which ones are worth your time and money.
The Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival are among many prominent traditional film festivals that account for a competitive distribution platform and festival premiere. Submitting to these platforms doesn't give you a guaranteed acceptance but still gives your short film much-needed exposure.
Even if your film doesn't win any awards at a festival, simply having it screened there can be a great way to generate buzz and interest. If your film is good, people will talk about it and recommend it to others.
This can eventually lead to distribution opportunities, even if they're not immediate. So if you have a great short film, don't be afraid to submit it to festivals.
6. Local film meetups
If you're hoping to find success with your film, you'll need to get creative and explore all your options. One great way to get started is by attending local film meetups. These events provide a great opportunity to network with emerging filmmakers and learn about new distribution opportunities.
You might even meet someone who's willing to help you get your film into the right hands. But even if you don't make any new connections, simply attending these meetups can give you a better understanding of the distribution landscape and what it takes to succeed.
So if you're serious about getting your short film distributed, make sure to check out your local film meetups.
7. Online streaming services
One of the most popular short film distribution tactics in recent years has been through online streaming services. Social media platforms have made it easy for filmmakers to reach a wide audience, and they offer a variety of features that can be helpful in promoting your film.
For example, you can use tags and keywords to make sure your film comes up in searches, and you can also create a custom thumbnail image that will grab the attention of your online audience.
Additionally, many online streaming services allow you to embed your film on other websites, which can help to increase its reach even further. However, one streaming service differs from the other in terms of limitations to long-form content distribution.
Content creators can find success on various media distribution platforms and get paid for their efforts in full. Castlly is one such provider and tool that connects a global audience with talented filmmakers and media professionals.
Finding success is made easier with the opportunity to connect to a dedicated short film community and let your story be heard by an appreciative audience.
So do the required research before signing up to curation websites and streaming distribution platforms to get your video content noticed by the niche market.
The above-mentioned tips are some of the most popular and effective ways to get your short film distributed. But keep in mind that there's no one-size-fits-all solution. The best approach for you will depend on your film, your goals, and your budget.
So take some time to explore all your options and figure out which distribution strategy is right for you. With a little effort, you can ensure that your short film reaches the audience it deserves.
P.S. And if you’re interested in selling products other than video content, we have Castlly Marketplace for you!