I get A LOT of questions about how best to make money with short films. It’s something that I think is inherently appealing to most filmmakers, to start making a little bit of passive income from every project they make. Unfortunately, while possible, it’s not that easy, and the reasons why are relatively simple.
The root issue of why it’s hard to make money with shorts lies in basic economics. There are far more shorts created o an annual basis than there is demand of those who are willing to pay for them. Think about it, when’s the last time YOU paid to watch a short? When’t the last time you WATCHED a short on its own outside of a film festival or before a Pixar movie? I might be wrong for you individually, but I’d bet that for most of you there are crickets in the background while you try to remember when it happened.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably more likely to consume shorts so than a member of the general public. According to the best available estimates I’ve been able to find, there are around 131,000 shorts produced every year in the US alone. There just aren't enough people willing to spend money on these sorts of shorts. That said, shorts have their purposes. They can help you network, build your skills, or build your brand. So with that in mind, here are the 7 ways to.
Also, yes. I'm aware that there are a few sales agents who license shorts. HOWEVER, they're few and far between, and I don't see many people. flocking to them.
1. Use it to build your brand and your skills.
First off, almost none of these ways to make money with your short are exclusive. You can likely use more than one of them at the same time. In fact, in many ways the more of these tactics you use the better it’s likely to be in terms of building your brand, as in order to have a meaningful brand, you must first have awareness of you and your work.
Part of using your short to expand your brand is submitting it to festivals to see if you get in, and attending those festivals to get the most out of it.
Skill building is slightly outside the purview of how to make money with your shorts, but since you won't make money from a poorly executed feature, it's worth mentioning. Shorts are great practice for you to grow you skills in whatever position you want to grow into.
2. Use as a proof of concept for a feature.
One example of this working is the film Slingblade, which started with Billy Bob Thornton giving a riveting performance as the title character in a single location and largely a single shot. That short then got into some major festivals, and was picked up and turned into a feature film.
That said, this is much more the exception than the rule. Most of the time people try to expand their short into a feature by approaching sales agents or studios, it doesn’t work. The reason it’s as high as it is on this list is purely that when it does work, the value of it is huge.
What would mean a lot more is if you can prove that there’s an audience for your work, which really ties back into #1.
3. Sell it to a shorts program.
4. Put it on Amazon Prime and put considerable effort into promoting it.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s unlikely people are going to pay for your short. #SorryNotSorry. That said, if you can give them a way to watch it for free, then you might get something. So you might want to try Amazon Prime. Sure you only get paid 6 cents per hour viewed, but if you happen to strike a chord and get caught up in their algorithm, it can lead to more money than you may be expecting.
5. Use it as an email capture giveaway.
If you’re starting to get a brand behind yourself, then you might want to keep some of your early shorts behind an email capture on your website. This might also be a good place to keep some special features from your feature length DVDs as few people tend to actually buy physical media any more. Using this as incentive to join your email list can be a good way to grow your email list and expand engagement with your burgeoning community. That being said, this is generally only advisable if you’ve already got some work and a brand under your belt.
6. Put it on Youtube and put considerable effort into promoting it.
My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of Producer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.