Making Your Film Successful: Distribution & Exhibition

So you’ve made your film, and unlike most of the stuff on the internet, it’s not 11 minutes of beautiful HD footage of your cat sleeping on the sofa which film distributors don’t really want. How do you go about finding an audience for your film and raising your profile?

Will Massa, Tom Vaughan, and Philip Ilson give the lowdown at the Virgin Media Shorts Sessions.

Ideally you should know before you go into production if your film is going to go online or if it’s doing the festival route. As discussed our earlier blog post, Putting Your Short Online, let content decide which way your film is going.

If you’re aiming for festivals, there are some things you need to do before you start pushing it. It’s very important to have an online presence during production – good to drum up some hype, interest, or excitement about your project while it’s happening. Remember to take lots of good stills, behind-the-scene shots as well as production stills for promotional material like posters and press packs. Start thinking about which festivals you want to submit your film. There are way too many festivals around nowadays, and since some of them are quite expensive, not all of them will be useful for you. Do your research and see which ones cater to your genre and style and see what kind of films they’ve screened in the past. What is important for your film? Do you want exposure or are you just after an award so you can write ‘award winning…’ on the back of the DVD?

Knowing your festival can be just as important as knowing your audience, says Philip Ilson. The London Short Film Festival gets up to 3000 submissions and selects 30, only 6 or 7 of which are from the U.K. Sending to multiple film festivals without doing your homework will put a huge dent in your budget since most festivals in the U.K and U.S charge for submissions. Festivals in Europe tend to be a bit forgiving, and you will find lots that are free. Be involved in the distribution of your film from the start and figure out who you are targeting. Here’s quite an exhaustive list of festivals if you have lots of time.

If you don’t have time to mine the internet for suitable festivals, deciding which festivals to submit to can be a daunting task. The British Council Short Film Scheme has 40 BAFTA recognized festivals on their list, though all of these probably won’t be suitable for your particular project, but it’s a good place to start. Don’t just go for the big names like Cannes and Berlin Film Festival, some of the smaller festivals also get a lot of film agents and distributors. The general consensus at the session was that it’s rare to see a short film at more than four or five festivals, which makes sense because you typically get around €500 / minute, less in the U.K, if you sell your film, and travel, accommodation, and submission fees can really add up. The British Council has recently re-launched its international support for UK filmmakers; if your short is accepted at any of the world’s key film festivals then you might be eligible for travel and accommodation support.

Don’t despair if your film doesn’t get selected for screening at the festival though, it’s never the end of the road for a short. Other than the popular competitions like Virgin Media Shorts and Reed, there are other options like Shorts TV and Channel 4’s Random Acts. Also try Dazzle, Atom, and Bombay Sapphire’s Imagination Series.

As long as you have an internet connection, you can always find channels for your content – good luck.

By Vasi Hasan

Putting Your Short Online

Let’s just cut to the chase; you finally did what you’ve been thinking of doing for the last 5 years: sold your car/furniture/soul-to-the-devil and raised enough money to make a short film. Now it’s time to show it to the public and take over the world, right? The only problem is that so far you’ve managed to give out one DVD out… to your mom.

We were at the Virgin Media Shorts Sessions listening to what MJ Delaney, Simon Young, Michael Stevens, Nick Scott, and Thomas Thirlwall had to say about putting your short online.

Film making is an expensive hobby; you have to be either extremely persistent or extremely lucky – being a hard-working, talented story-teller is mandatory. Traditionally films go the festival route, going from festival to festival in the hope of getting picked up by a distributor; there really wasn’t any other way films could be seen before the internet. Although this is changing now, but most festivals still don’t take films that have been put online because they want fresh material, it is after all, a showroom where distributors come to buy tried and tested films – they’d be vary of buying something that millions of people already had access to online. So you put your film in film festivals, and if it does well or wins an award, it’s a sure fire way to getting more work. If however, you’re not going to send it to festivals and you want to put it online, the big, bad, extremely judgemental world wide audience will decide the fate of your film.

Putting your work online means that you present it to the best rating system ever devised; if people like it, they’ll recommend it to others and you’ll get more people to watch it. If they don’t like it, it’ll be thrown out before you can say “click me”, dead and buried under billions of other casualties that the internet chews out every day.

Unfortunately, there’s no science to making it work, no formula for making your short viral. There are some rules that some follow, like keeping it short. MJ Delaney, famous for her Newport State of Mind video seems to think that anything longer than 3 minutes tends to not get shared; watching something longer on the internet is just not something people are used to. Or the Golden 15″ rule: If it’s not funny in the first 15 seconds, you’ve lost your viewer. Funny or Die, say proponents of humour on the internet – people generally seem to agree that internet is made for comedy, (It’s actually made for cat pictures) so content on the internet is skewed towards short, funny stuff, something that Michael Steven’s extremely popular channel Vsauce seems to endorse. Michael has been making at least one video every week for the last 5 years. There are no secrets to success on the internet, he says. More is good. If the first one isn’t popular, the next one might be.

So once you’ve decided to put it up on Vimeo or YouTube, you have to push it. Yes, push it more, Egor. You post it on Facebook, and depending on your content, you post it on sites like Reddit, 9GAG, common interest forums, send it to blogs, writers who have large followings – you get the picture? It’s like The Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park; you have to shout it out.

The Webby Awards is something you should be aiming for, the Oscars of the internet. Or use your internet popularity to raise money for your next venture, check out Kickstarter for that. People have done it before, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be the next success story.

By Vasi Hasan