Filmmakers need to treat their short films as features to make money

Short filmmakers now more than ever need to be treating their productions as if they were feature films. Here’s why.

First of all, short films have a become an increasingly relevant format in recent years especially with the growth in social media and online video demand. Therefore, short films have a lot of potential to reach big audiences without indie filmmakers having to spend millions of dollars in advertising from TV spots to billboards. We’re all connected socially through the web, and it’s not impossible to reach people at scale for a fraction of what it used to cost in traditional advertising. It’s no longer just the select few who can put out content and monetize it, although you’ve probably been told that short films can’t make money. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Short films like feature films are something we consume. It’s a product that provides a value whether it be for entertaining, educating or promoting. What separates feature films from short films is length, but that shouldn’t get in the way of making short films earn revenue because they aren't two hours long.

There are many VOD platforms out there from Amazon Prime to Dailymotion and Vimeo on Demand that host and allow you to sell films. Filmmakers can promote a full-length, 'premium access' experience for their shorts even if they are not feature-length and because so many of us are now used to watching videos online and via VOD, it's no longer an unrealistic goal to charge for access. According to research conducted by Reuters Institute, over the next 5 years, video growth online will increase by 1400%.

A 20 minute short with a highly targeted audience has the potential to earn considerably, not just with standard video ads, but through subscriptions, pay-per-view, merchandise, and many of the other additional business models that exist in the feature film landscape. You may have come across Star Wars, but did you know there’s a billion-dollar merchandising business earning revenue too?

Here’s the hard part. Most filmmakers are not taught how to market. They are very proficient in editing, shooting, directing and screenwriting, but when it comes to marketing and promotion, this area tends to be an unknown. It shouldn’t be.

Short films need to be approached as if they were going to be released theatrically. Filmmakers need to start building audiences from day one for their shorts and take the marketing process very seriously as if it were a studio movie with a set release date. Making a viral short film can stand out, transform a career and attract investment for larger projects. To get things started, filmmakers should consider brushing up on their marketing knowledge, learning crowdfunding and how to raise money, and getting familiar with the other successful shorts out there like Kung Fury and this Star Wars fan film.

There’s never been a greater time for short films to earn revenue and indie filmmakers need to seize the moment and embrace this opportunity. People want to watch videos online, and it’s up to filmmakers to inspire and create content that audiences will love.

film industry network members