Filmmakers create thousands of shorts every year, knowing that there are few commercial opportunities. Prestigious international festivals and positive reviews can unfold some markets, especially outside of the United States, where screening venues may include TV, galleries, the Internet, planes, shops, clubs, cafes, bars, and mobile phones, although even these forms of exposure offer few financial benefits.
"It's very difficult with short films," Ruben acknowledges. "However, if filmmakers make a short film and spend years trying to recoup their money, they're really missing out on the opportunity of future projects. Short films are often a résumé piece, so filmmakers have to retain the balance between showing off their work and focusing on future projects. Historically speaking, when looking at the legends, they all started with small movies and micro budgets. Eventually it all paid off, so it's important for filmmakers to keep their future in mind."
"Short films help get the recognition that gives your intention to show you're doing the right thing and your processes are working and your approach is working," agrees Kerry Rock of Potoroo Films.
Despite the odds, there are significantly more opportunities for short films to get exposure compared to the recent past.
"Ten years ago there were miniscule, if not zero, outlets for short films," says Ruben. "Obviously the Internet has been the groundbreaker for the ability to screen video directly to consumers. It's shown that people really have an interest in seeing this programming.
"We definitely cater to the independent film audience so we have more opportunity for viewers to purchase from different types of avenues. Akimbo, for example, has a set-top box [like cable for your TV or PC] that consumers can buy to have access to thousands of hours of independent cinema. There are the traditional routes like home video, which we have some interest in with our Short Series. As far as television broadcast, a lot of the new programs that set up short films, such as A&E, Sundance Channel, HBO, Spike TV, and MTV are looking for films but have a shortage of good ones. So filmmakers who have good shorts can seek those broadcast routes and get some tremendous exposure. There's a short film that's part of our series called Divali, which is a South Asian identity film that was screened on PBS. They have a whole series of short films that's broken down by genre, one of which is identity. So this film was screened around forty times on PBS. That's an example of a student film that got a tremendous amount of exposure. Filmmakers definitely need to search which broadcasters or distributors are seeking their type of content.
"It's also important that filmmakers look toward the future. Continue to promote the project you have but know it's really a step toward something else you will make. Success breeds failure so you have to make films over and over again to learn every mistake that's possible, whether that's through your own wrongs or those of your friends, but until you figure out how to make things well, it's all a learning process."
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