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How to Distribute Your Short Film in Today’s Online Marketplace

Rachel Wilson

Here is some insight into finding the right home for your short film or video content in today’s online distribution world.

Cover image via Ekateryna Zubal.

So you made a short film, and it got into some festivals — now what? In the past, this would more than likely be the end of your film’s public life, especially without a sales agent.

For years, the only way to increase visibility for your short film was to upload it directly to a free watch site like YouTube or Vimeo, but there are many more options today. Some of them even offer licensing or acquisition fees — or an amount that correlates with your film’s streaming success on the site. In this article, we’ll give you a look at some of the options you have to distribute your content online, and some examples of the terms distributors are offering short filmmakers.

First, A Little Advice

Every distribution outlet has its own compensation policies, so make sure you read the fine print and know exactly what you’re getting into before you ink the deal. An exclusive contract means the company or site has acquired the right to be the sole distributor of your film for as long as the contract states. This means you cannot post the piece anywhere else online, limiting your capacity to make money distributing your film. It’s best to sign several shorter, non-exclusive contracts so you can maximize your film’s potential by distributing it on several sites, each with its own compensation deal. Ultimately, there’s not a lot of money in distribution for shorts, so the key is to have the film seen by as many people as possible. When it comes to having your finished work seen, exposure is a currency all its own!

Types of VOD

How to Distribute Your Short Film in Today's Online Marketplace — VOD
Image via Jacob Lund.

  1. TVOD: Transactional — you pay to view (ex. iTunes).
    • Site pays per minute of content, a one-time flat rate.
    • Site pays per project, a one-time flat rate.
    • Site pays per increments (often minutes) streamed, a number that, in some cases, has no limit — your success can increase exponentially if your film gains popularity on the site.
    • Site pays per viewer or up-vote.
  2. SVOD: Subscription — you subscribe to view (ex. Netflix/Amazon Prime).
  3. AVOD: Advertising — you watch adverts to view (ex. YouTube).

Explore Indie Markets

With “indie darlings,” often the goal is to have your short seen by the filmmakers you want to be working with. The key here is curation. You want your film to screen on a reputable site alongside other quality, heartfelt, decidedly idiosyncratic pieces. Here are a few good options:

  1. NoBudge — Founded by filmmaker and actor Kentucker Audley, this is a “movie club” that hosts a new film every day and even offers live screenings in its home city of Brooklyn, NY.
    • $25 submission fee (shorts under 25 minutes).
    • No financial gains, but the opportunity to find your film a well-curated home on “one of the premier destinations for true independent movies” (No Film School).
    • Live screenings and filmmaker afterparties offer the opportunity to network with potential future collaborators.
  2. Short of The Week — A well-respected and looked-to destination for short films, Short of The Week boasts an impressive degree of visibility for the films it curates.
    • $29 submission fee (shorts under 40 minutes).
    • No financial gains, but the opportunity to increase your film’s visibility exponentially, giving it a longer shelf life on social media, and a greater chance to help you create a name for yourself.
    • The website’s promise: “We will help you coordinate your launch and seed your film with key industry influencers in advance to maximize impact.”
  3. Seed&Spark — Female-founded and run, Emily Best’s popular indie-crowdfunding platform is also a great outlet for distributing your short film. Seed&Spark’s only requirement is that your film cannot be available online for free while streaming on the site. Enjoy radical transparency, plenty of web traffic, and a limitless capacity for earning — the more people stream your film, the more you make.
    • Submit simply and free of cost on their website.
    • One of the highest-paying platforms for short films, averaging at $00.25/minute streamed.
    • Enjoy 60% of the revenue split and a non-exclusive contract.
    • Customized marketing support + deep audience data.
    • Many of Seed&Spark’s viewers are also people who spend time on the site contributing to crowdfunding campaigns — you might find your next financier.

Explore Niche Markets

How to Distribute Your Short Film in Today's Online Marketplace — Niche Markets
Image via David MG.

If your short film fits into a specific genre, you might want to explore niche-streaming sites as a way to deliver your content directly to its most likely fans. The most popular type of site is for sci-fi, horror, and fantasy content. Here are a couple:

  1. DUST — Gunpowder & Sky’s genre channel is a favorite for all things science fiction & VR.
    • Films of any length welcome, free to submit.
    • The channel pays to acquire content via non-exclusive contracts.
    • Enjoy web traffic from audiences who already trust and look to DUST to deliver quality sci-fi content.
  2. It’s A Short — The content on this site is organized by genre channels, so fans of comedy, drama, horror, or documentary can go directly to that channel and find your film.
    • Subscribers pay monthly, annually, or immediately per rental — the site pays the rental fee for your short directly to you.
    • It’s A Short offers online film festival contests you can enter to win cash prizes.
    • There’s a channel for every major genre, including Action, Animation, Family, Music, and more, so there’s bound to be a place for your piece.

Explore International Markets

There’s a reason the studios commission different posters for their blockbuster movies in foreign markets: different audiences, different desires. Sometimes a film received only marginally well domestically goes on to have an exceptionally long and successful shelf life internationally. For international distribution, your choices are vast. You’ll have to do a lot more research, but here is a start:

  1. Shorts International — The self-proclaimed “global home of short movies,” Shorts International/ShortsTV is a website, TV channel, and now producer of short content active on an international scale.
    • Boasts the world’s largest catalog of short films online.
    • A free submission form is available on the shorts.tv website for films 40 minutes or less.
    • The site doesn’t pay to acquire content, but in some cases will link to an outlet (i.e. Amazon, iTunes) where your piece is available for rent/purchase.
  2.  UniFrance List — This 2010 list compiled by UniFrance contains information for 50 distributors in 17 different countries. You can find the list in the following places:
  3. Show Me Shorts Website — Compiled by Grace Hood-Edwards in 2017, this list provides a good technical overview of some of your options for VOD distribution for both shorts and features.

If you find the right home for it, your short film can have a life far beyond its initial festival run. With today’s appetite for quality short film content, you might even make a few bucks!

Looking for more filmmaking tips and tricks? Check out these articles?

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