First things first - the big strand that ran through to day was to know what your objective is for your film. Is it a showreel? Is it meeting-bait? Is it to get you noticed? All of these are valid reasons for making a short but they are not all going to give you the same resultant strategy to get it out there. Start with knowing WHY you are doing this and build a strategy around that.
The first session, chaired by Briony Hanson, Director of Film at the British Council, focused on Film Festivals. The big take out point from here was to ensure that you have a film festival strategy before you shoot your film. Some Film Festivals have restrictions regarding whether they will take your film if it is online so a duel strategy of distribution is unlikely to work. Besides, there are some great reasons to go the festival route.
1) First of all it is the tried and tested way of getting your film our there and seen by the right people.
2) It’s a great way to meet and network with filmmakers at a similar level to yourself.
3) It is a good way to make contacts with the festival programmers for future projects – although be wary, start bugging them and they’ll give you the FO.
4) You could win prizes and thus help fund your next film!
Tips from the panel included – don’t both with the big festivals they get so many films it is unlikely they’ll screen yours, submitting to festivals can be expensive again – make sure you do the ones in your strategy only, each festival has a different vibe to it so don’t put a horror film into a family festival etc.
Case Study – John MacClean/Pitch Black Heist
John won the BAFTA for live action short last year with a delightful film called Pitch Black Heist. Starring Michael Fassbender, this film with elegantly simple and packed a big emotional punch. John described his experiences a) in the lead up to making the film and b) what has happened to him since. I really love listening to Filmmakers two, three, four spots up the ladder ahead of me. Not because I want to replicate their particular path, but to prove that as paths go their are many ways in, you just have to either find one or make one.
Traditional Film Sales – Working with Sales Agents and Markets.
Having just come off the Jon Reiss (DIY distribution/Direct to audience weekend) I was intent on viewing this session with a dose of scepticism. This kind of melted away when Chris Tidman, Head of Acquisitions for Shorts International more or less said that in reality Filmmakers could distribute themselves. What stops them, the vast majority of them – is that they would simply rather get back on set and make their next film.
First the warning – from the figures that were being banded around you ain’t going to make your money back with a sales agent on short films. But, there might be some revenue generated that comes in and can help with the next project. DVDs and short films don’t necessarily mix any more, it’s more about using shorts as fillers for mainstream broadcast or as bread and butter for limited VOD channels including itunes. Deals might be different for Oscar nominated films but other than that forget it. Its a flat fee based on a per minute basis.
Like I say, don’t expect to get your money back from a short film – best you can hope for is a bit of money for your next project.
Interesting business opportunity came up for those with the eye of a curator and a passion for shorts – there is only one You Tube channel at the moment for short films, that is Future Shorts. They are treated as a You Tube partner and earn revenue as such. Don’t expect to make millions – but if you have what it takes to build the audience and encourage the filmmakers to put their short films with you then there is a opportunity here.
Online and Digital Distribution
After lunch and the room begins to heat up. Quite literally – BAFTA man, you need some new air con. James Mullighan, ex-Shooting People started the session by clarifying that there are British Film Industries, not one British Film Industry. There are the government funded bodies, there are the larger American affiliated production companies and the are the guerrilla filmmakers out funding themselves and trying to smash their way in.
There was a lively debate of the merits of Vimeo versus You Tube which given that the You Tube community manager was there was most amusing. And Virgin Media renewed their commitment to filmmakers particularly those around the Vrigin Short strand.
And with that we had another case study.
Case Study – Luke Snellin/Mistape
Luke won the Virgin media shorts prize a few years ago and the talk was incredibly interesting as it followed his career path, and the continued help Virgin have given him since this happened. Mixtape was a beautifully shot short make for £3500 – £2500 of which was the music rights. Luke has made a longer version called DISCO and is now making what sounds like a MEGA GOOD feature about a coming of age film in the 1990s set against the britpop era. As I went to uni in the mid nineties – and thus have the root of my musical taste in Britpop – this was great to hear.
Interestingly, Mixtape made in 2009 is still being requested at festivals.
At this point I have to admit that I had to dodge off early, as much to escape the lack of fresh air in the auditorium as to get ahead of the rush hour so I did miss the Future Trends session.
All in all this day was incredibly informative and, as with all of these things, got the mind whirling as to the possibilities. All I need to do now is take the action and get on with it.