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