Short of the Week

How We Launched Our Film Online: The Thomas Beale Cipher

Article / March 23, 2011

On January 24th, 2011, Jason Sondhi and I released our festival-winning short film, The Thomas Beale Cipher, out onto the great wild web. Like many filmmakers, I wrestled with the decisions of when and how to put my film online. But after 8 months on the festival circuit, I decided it was time. What happened? What did we learn? Quite a bit it turns out.

First, Background

The Thomas Beale Cipher isn’t my first film, but at 11 minutes, it is by far my most ambitious. The production on the animated action-adventure film ran 18 months, with a crew and cast of about 15. Last Spring, the film premiered in front of a large 300+ hometown crowd at the Seattle International Film Festival. Over the following 8 months, the film continued to screen at a variety of festivals (large and small) picking up a few awards along the way.

All the while I felt a twinge of guilt. I praise the courage of online films here on Short of the Week, yet I was reluctant to post my own film online. Honestly, I didn’t know the best way to do it, and deep down I was afraid that a misstep would spell disaster for a project that I, and others, gave so much to. I knew we couldn’t just toss it up on YouTube and say our prayers. We needed a plan. And so, Jason and I knuckled down to plan the launch.

The Launch Plan

Simple. Get as many people to see the film as quickly as possible to build up momentum. This meant doing a few things:

  1. Go Vimeo. It has a stronger filmmaking community than YouTube which may hit more viewers, but Vimeo will attract the right viewers—those more likely to pass it on to others.
  2. Post early. Upload the film early Monday morning (12AM EST) to give the film a full 24 hours to rack up views and keep it relevant all week .
  3. Use Short of the Week as a springboard. Feature the film on our site and use our social media outlets to get the word out.
  4. Harness the crew. Make sure everyone associated with the film knows the plan, and shares it with their social networks. With even 8-10 people sharing on Twitter and Facebook (even if no one individually is Mr. Popular) its not hard to get over 1000 impressions which can be enough to reach a critical mass.
  5. Target key influencers. Email a few major blogs and news sites that share an interest in the film’s topic or technique. A key consideration is crafting a good email. As curators of a site  w/ a submit button, we know it is important to look pro. Have a well-designed email with well-written teaser description, something about the context of the making of the film, a blurb about the filmmaker and a hi-quality image. Make it easy for a blogger to turn around and publish without any further follow-up with you.
  6. Keep at it. All day, all week if needed—continue reaching out to new people.

The Release

We launched the film on Monday morning and continued to promote it all week. We started with what we felt was the film’s strongest asset—the visual aesthetic—and began by targeting the people we knew—Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks, and a few dozen others. Beaming from that initial success, we continued to ask ourselves, “what is interesting about the film and to whom might we target it to?” We approached different technology blogs and earned mentions on Gizmodo, BoingBoing, and others. As more took notice, I began to take interviews with larger publishers like Fast Company and Wired. Here’s the rundown of who took notice when and how it affected the numbers:

  • Monday 24th, 12AM: Posted the film on Vimeo
  • Monday 24th, 12noon: Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks
  • Wednesday 26th: BoingBoing, Gizmodo, MetaFilter
  • Thursday 27th: The Daily What
  • Friday 28th: Fast Co. Interview, Fubiz
  • Next Monday 31st: Wired article

Traffic over the first 2 weeks (yellow = Loads, green = Plays)

The Results

Jason and I have been following the world of online films for the last 4 years. We know that great films don’t always get great numbers, but we were happily surprised with our results.

  • 170,000 views on Vimeo
  • 1300+ blog reviews/mentions
  • Shared over 5000 times on Facebook
  • 2000 Tweets
  • +500 Facebook fans

So, How Does That Compare to Our Festival Run?

What we learned

Top 10 traffic sources by number of Plays.

  • It’s a lot of work. Next time I might think about engaging someone early in the project as PMD—Producer of Marketing and Distribution. This is a newish position that many in the indie-world are getting behind, folks like Jon Reiss, Sheri Candler and Ted Hope. We did it ourselves, but it was tough.
  • Facebook reigns. Perhaps most surprising is that although we had articles in Fast Company & Wired and mentions on big sites like Gizmodo, BoingBoing, and Motionographer, Facebook topped them all with the most number of views.
  • The online video world is not a meritocracy. If we thought this going in, we most definitely know it now. You can’t just put a film online and expect people to find it just because it’s a good film. You need a surge of traffic to get noticed.
  • The industry is now watching. The online premiere generated a fair amount of industry interest, far more than I ever expected. I was soon taking calls from studio execs, production houses, and others interested in collaborating on future projects.
  • Capture your fans. Ultimately, you want to make use of the views you get. I set up a website with additional info on the film and a Facebook page for news updates. The Vimeo page linked to the film website which linked to the Facebook page. After the surge of traffic to the website, I moved the FB Like button to right smack on the homepage. I now have a fan base! Who knew!? And one that I can easily contact, so they can be advocates for my next project.
  • Have something ready to promote or pitch. This is the one area where I could have done more preparation. The success of the online launch caught me by surprise. Fans of the film wanted more, but we had nothing to offer. If I did it again, I’d take a cue from Kirby Ferguson (Everything is a Remix) and ask for some support for future content/projects.

Final Thoughts

My experience with The Thomas Beale Cipher has changed how I think about a successful short film release. Next time I’ll likely aim for just one or two big festival premieres and then go directly online (David O’Reilly did this well with The External World). The extended, year-long festival run doesn’t make sense to me anymore. Medium and smaller festivals just can’t compete with the reach and impact of what you can do online. Next time I’ll keep the entrance fee money and put it toward online marketing. I’ve come to think of a festival run as more of a preview screening—a fun experience with a large audience to share with your cast & crew. The wide release—where a short film can make its biggest impact—happens online.

Editor’s note: We’d like to hear your story too! Have you put your film online? Why? Or maybe you’ve tried other approaches such as: self-marketing your DVD, joining a DVD compilation or signing up with a large distributor? What were your experiences?  We’d love to hear about it. Email us at [email protected], and of course follow our discussions on Facebook and Twitter @shortoftheweek

~
Andrew makes no attempt to hide his love for the magic art of animation. He appreciates compelling visuals but never forgets that in this modern age, a strong story always reigns supreme. You can see his work at andrewsallen.com or his latest film The Thomas Beale Cipher.
  • Femi

    Wow and there I was thinking that crediblity was gained in festivals. As a person who has been collecting online shorts for ten years TTBA is very unique and very good…..Hmm looks like I am moving my resources from Withoutabox to facebook ads. Thanks for the article

  • Jason Sondhi

    What is TTBA?

  • Felonious Punk

    I think he meant TTBC for “The Thomas Beale Cipher.” Thanks for the cool, informative article on the process.

  • Felonious Punk

    Or she…

  • Jason Sondhi

    Ah I would not have gotten that. Thanks Felonious, and thanks Femi too.

  • Daniel

    Really waited for this kind of article to show up, thanks for this precious information that so many are not aware of!

    But I think there’s a difference between the taste of the films I see on line and the films I see in festivals.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but in festivals you see more story based and ‘conventionaly’ animated films, while on the popular motion graphics blogs you see more contemporary and experimental pieces.
    besides the visual side, I do think that the online comunnity of any kind will accept more bizzare themes than any festival so it’s good!

  • richard

    The continuing problem with online is you do not have a captive audience. How many viewers watched your short while checking their e-mail, chatting with friends, looking at news online in the corner? How many watched your short and turned it off after 30 seconds? 5 minutes? 7 minutes?

    Attention span is a problem the internet will always face, it is just not the most comfortable place to watch a film, not even a short. People online are restless – they are online in the first place to be active, not passive, and anything over 30 seconds seems to make them fidget like monkeys.

    I will always prefer a captive film festival audience, together in a darkened room, or a home audience watching my work on DVD – with undivided attention – in lieu of an internet stream on a home computer. The thousands of extra viewers (or half-viewers) you’ll gain are not under the best circumstances.

    (There is also something to be said for attending theatrical screenings of your work and actually seeing your film play in front of an audience, talking to people afterwards, feeling the energy of the room, etc. This direct emotional interaction and presence is something I really miss online).

  • Jason Sondhi

    You bring up a good question Daniel. My sense is that online audiences are biased towards shorter, visually flashy films, as opposed to the more lyrical 15-25min live-action films that tend to dominate festivals. But does this bias hold up to scrutiny?

    I don’t know. The complicating factor is that the longer, high quality live-action films are generally much less likely to make it to online audiences. These filmmakers tend to be much more skeptical than your typical animator in releasing their film online. There are a lot of award winners from 2-3 years ago and beyond that still are not available. I really don’t know why, but its undoubtedly the case.

    When they do show up, longer live-action films can do really well. Just in the last 3 months the almost 30 min documentary film “Undercity” (http://vimeo.com/18280328) has racked up nearly 1 Million views. One of my favorite films to come online in recent memory is the Sundance winner “Sikumi (on the ice)” with over 660,000 views. That doesn’t match well compared to Lady Gaga, but is roughly the same as the number of people who saw “The Adjustment Bureau” this week.

    http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2010/01/25/sikumi-on-the-ice/

  • Jason Sondhi

    @Richard, I agree that seeing your film with an audience is a great experience, and also a way to learn about the film and its reception—do they laugh at the right places? Are people grumbling afterward? It’s hard to get honest online feedback; Vimeo audiences will just butt-kiss you if they choose to comment, while YouTube audiences will just say something derogatory about your mother.

    As for the first complaint though, I don’t have a ton of sympathy. I don’t know who said this, it might have been Sheri Candler recently, but as filmmakers we’ve got to let go of our ego’s re: how our media is consumed. People will see things the way they want to see it. Cinemas are dying, fewer and fewer people go, and even on DVD, people are pausing things to text message or go make some popcorn. Computers probably exacerbate this flightiness, but if I make a good movie that they connect with, I’ll capture their attention. If that connection fails, well, I don’t mind because they are a bonus anyway—as a short filmmaker it is very unlikely that I would have ever gotten them out to a festival or to buy a DVD.

  • richard

    All good points, and your summary of Youtube and Vimeo comments are spot-on :) I think you are being just a bit self-defeatist though:

    “As a short filmmaker it is very unlikely that I would have ever gotten them out to a festival or to buy a DVD.”

    Maybe so, it seems very hard to do, but I have to believe it’s not impossible. Animators like Bill Plympton and Don Hertzfeldt have for years been able to carve out a (seemingly) good living from their indie DVD sales and theatrical tours. It doesn’t sound like those guys have day jobs and their newest work is rarely online. I’m not quite there yet, and my burning question is: Does putting your work online immediately cancel out any hope of selling it on DVD? Or would it help your sales? (Or is the answer a little bit of both?)

    I suppose every short is different, as is every filmmaker’s cirumstance. But it seems to me like a lot of young filmmakers are going straight to the net without much second thought.

  • richard

    I wasn’t referring to you by that last sentence, BTW, from your article obviously it was a decision you put a lot of thought into! :)

  • http://www.thomasbealecipher.com Andrew S Allen

    @Richard, Turns out my one and only sale of The Thomas Beale Cipher came AFTER posting the film online.

  • richard

    Heh, congrats!

  • http://www.radiofreealbemuth.com/ Elizabeth

    Excellent primer ‘How To’ primer for short filmmakers looking to go this route. Thanks for sharing your experince/tips. And now I will go watch your film. Cheers!

  • LizzMo

    The best part of being in a fest is GOING to them, meeting other filmmakers, seeing films in a theater with an audience. And having other folks experience your film that way. Let’s not forget the dynamic of other people, other locations. I fear that my grandchildren will spend their entire life in front of a screen doing three things at once.

  • http://www.coffeeandcelluloid.com Joey

    Great post and insight. I love the number comparison between festivals and online. While I agree with Richard’s points, I think it’s more a signs that festivals need to up their game and figure out their place in a YouTube/Vimeo world.

  • http://www.FiniteFilms.com FiniteFarley

    Very interesting article and comments. After my film, The Puzzle, got into The Stony Brook Film Festival, I was very excited, then very disappointed when it didn’t get into anything else. But rather than give it away online, and as part of an experiment, I made it available for sale online, first for $1.49, then down to 99 cents when some thought it was too expensive. It’s now less than a cup of coffee and plays for 17 minutes.

    I thought that with all the connections via friends, facebook etc, and with a worldwide audience, that I would surely be able to see a few hundred, maybe even a thousand sales and make back some of the cost, right? Wrong. Just checked and since launching the film last year in August of 2010, I have sold a whopping 19 downloads and made $15. (Half those sales were people I knew directly!) The DVD is available through Amazon.com and CreateSpace, but that hasn’t sold any – though that’s not surprising really.

    My thoughts are that people, myself included, are just too used to, and now expect, content for free – thanks youtube! And paying for it, even though 99 cents is nothing, still seems too much.

    Then there is also the process of paying for it that seems an impediment. Perhaps once more people have PayPal accounts allowing payment to be made quickly and without the need to get up and dig out the credit card, people will find it easier to pay and watch.

    I’m still optimistic that as people watch more and more on their phones and ipads, that sales will increase, especially for short form content.

    Guess only time will tell. Now go watch my damned movie, please…

    Cheers

    FF

  • Jason Sondhi

    Sorry to hear about the lack of success @FiniteFarley. It think it’s a very common predicament however. That’s why the publicity of free and the audience-building capabilities of free are important. Who knows anything about your short? Who can vouch for its quality? A site like this might be able to, but most film sites don’t even bother with shorts.

    If, and I understand that is a big IF, you can find an audience by giving the short away, then your options expand. With 170,000 people having seen TBC and driving traffic to our Facebook and to this site, theoretically we could have a lot more success with our next film, or a TBC sequel. If we go this route, I would strongly consider using the “Dynamo Player” http://site.dynamoplayer.com/

  • http://www.thomasbealecipher.com Andrew S Allen

    @FiniteFarley, thanks for sharing.

    Even in pre-production, I had no expectation of making any money from The Thomas Beale Cipher. It was 18 months or work, and the estimated production budget with donated time and effort was around $100K. There’s no way I could ever make even a modest percentage of that back through sales. So it was clear to me from the start that the film wasn’t a business investment but a career investment. I sat down with the crew and we all agreed that we would pursue opportunities to get the film seen by as many people as possible over opportunities to make a little cash.

    A question I have for other filmmakers: Are you approaching short filmmaking as a business? Or as a career stepping stone?

  • Matt

    As an alternative to Dynamo, it might be worth checking out this new tool: http://distrify.com/ I’m not an expert on Dynamo or Distrify, nor do I think there’s significant money to be made from shorts, but it’s interesting to see the rise of two embeddable players offering immediate sales mechanisms, thereby giving the filmmaker direct control over his/her own sales.

  • http://www.similaar.com Samuel Hurtado

    let me share a few thoughts:

    * I watched TBC in HD on a 52″ screen, lying on my sofa, just like I’m writing this comments now; more and more people will have this kind of arrangements at home in the coming years, so DVD vs WEB is an old debate: the web won, there’s nearly no place for physical media on the 21st century anymore

    * I watched TBC from start to finish without multitasking, stopping, or diverting my attention in any other way, becase I was enjoying what I was seeing; when I watched the subway documentary a few months back, I stopped it a couple of times, and skipped a fairly big bit, but I didn’t do that because I could, I did it because I wasn’t enjoying what I was seeing

    * still, it’s obvious that there’s a big difference when your audience is not captive: a slow and uninsteresting beginning won’t be saved by an amazing ending anymore, because most people won’t even get to see that ending

    * on the theaters vs web debate, I think the proof is in the pudding: if this short was made as a career investment, and festivals didn’t attract industry interest but the web release did, you have a winner; of course, each case is different and your mileage may vary

  • http://www.namesinthedark.com/ Names in the Dark

    Are there situations where you’d want to do both, releasing the film online and entering it in festivals? Would festivals reject a film that was already online?

    Also, I tend to agree with LizzMo. Festivals are a chance to meet other filmmakers, show your short on the “big screen” in a real theater, and talk with audience members after the screening. Real people in a real place, together, watching your film.

  • Jason Sondhi

    Samuel Hurtado, I think you make some excellent points, especially regarding the need to for online films to have a quick hook. If I’m watching something from a filmmaker I’ve heard of, has won an award, or is recommended by someone I trust, I can be patient, however when discovering new things I can give up on them quite easily.

    @Names in the Dark: This used to be, and I suppose, continues to be one of the issues that keeps films offline, the fact that online exhibition would make you ineligible for many fests.

    However that has changed. Most big North American fests, including Sundance, AFI Fest, and Ottawa Animation, no longer require your film to be a premiere, and theoretically having your film online does not affect programming decisions. While this is still not the case for many fests, our argument is that the things most short filmmakers are looking to achieve with their films are better accomplished through the web than mid-level and smaller festivals.

    And yes I agree with you and @Lizzmo that it is nice to screen in a theater with a live audience. Do it a couple of times, play your local festival and build ties in your community. But why privilege that experience so highly that you play 30-40 fests? I think romanticism over the theater experience is detrimental—how many filmmakers realistically are ever going to make money through theatrical distribution? Ever?

    I wish that watching films together in theaters was a viable path for indie-films, but I also wish that the US had European-style grant funding for short films and I wish that great short films got the level of free marketing from the internet press that Hollywood pictures get. None of those things are going to happen, so might as well let go of those hopes and embrace the current reality—you’re more likely to find an audience, fans and career opportunities on the web. And if you’re ever to make money off your work it’ll likely be there too.

  • http://berlinfilmcentral.com Xavier Agudo

    Would you suggest uploading your short to a unique portal, be it Vimeo or Youtube as opposed to uploading it to as many as possible? In the first option you would localize all your audience in the second you would maximize exposure. What are your thoughts about it?

  • Jason Sondhi

    @Xavier that’s a good question, and I don’t pretend to know the best answer. We chose to limit ourselves to Vimeo at the start because we felt the community there would be the best match for our film.

    I think the ability to build momentum early with views is key; I know that if I see something on Vimeo that’s able to amass say 5K views on the first day, I’m much more likely to want to watch it. There are a lot of bloggers out there who want to catch a film early in the buzz cycle so as to boost their credibility, similar to journalists questing after scoops, so getting that strong push becomes a virtuous cycle. So for us, we thought capturing all our views in one place made hitting critical mass easier.

    These considerations are probably less important that getting featured by tastemaking outlets with large audiences however, which you could do no matter where it’s posted. YouTube certainly has a bigger user-base, and now that our Vimeo views have slowed, we’ve been meaning to post the film there, however we don’t know how to get momentum on that platform now that the film has been out for over 2 months.

  • Jason Sondhi

    Further thoughts: YouTube and Vimeo are really where its at now, and maybe DailyMotion. The platform wars for user-generated content are, for me, pretty much over. YouTube has a much bigger upside in terms of views, but the probability of your film getting no traction at all is high too.

    Ultimately we opted against YouTube’s high-risk/high-reward proposition for Vimeo’s lower-reward, but more nurturing community. I think it was the right decision too, getting selected for the Vimeo Staff Picks channel very early after our film was posted was instrumental I think in the success we had.

  • http://none Laurence

    Thanks for the advise, very encouraging!

  • http://ericgoetz.com/ Eric Goetz

    I notice a lot of these comments are framed as “online versus festivals” or “youtube versus vimeo” and the relative values between each. These dichotomies are somewhat limiting. Perhaps a more useful way to think about it is: “What is my film’s intended audience and how to I reach them?”

    As a somewhat-insider to the Thomas Beale Cipher (I was the composer), it seems to me there are several reasons why it’s online release was so successful. One is: since computer-assisted animation is still a relatively new technique (as compared to live action video), there is a fair amount of online blogs devoted to them — the movie, commercial and video game industries all seem to be actively watching this space. There’s a lot of room for innovation, so any significant technical achievement is likely garner at least some notice. Secondly, the film’s topic (a historical cipher) had appeal to both computer/networking technicians and history buffs, so it had a “geek culture” appeal. In both cases, online turned out to be a very effective way reach those audiences.

    We, as filmmakers, need to learn from the music industry. As difficult as it is to stand out in the film world, the music markets are probably 5x as saturated as the film markets, so successful musicians have learned that it isn’t enough for their music to be good. It also has to speak for a certain segment of society — it has to find or define a “scene” of people in order to achieve any sort of critical mass. Sometimes that can take many years and a lot of luck to happen.

    So we shouldn’t be discouraged if our films don’t do well in traditional festivals or on vimeo or youtube or whatever. Hopefully with some persistance we can find a niche. Who is it that my film speaks for and what do they do and where do they hang out? If my film is about a young couple with their first child, maybe I contact the local Peps group and see if they would want to screen it at a meeting.

    If my film is a romance between an aspiring tuba player at a conservatory and a skateboarder that hangs out across the street from the practice room, maybe I should try screening it for a community orchestra practice before one of their rehearsals.

    Indie documentary filmmakers seem to have learned this lesson pretty well, but sometimes I feel like narrative filmmakers are stuck in a rut in regards to how they promote their films. My point is that we probably shouldn’t limit ourselves distribution/exposure plan to just festivals and vimeo.

    My 2 cents…

  • http://www.thomasbealecipher.com Andrew S Allen

    Excellent thoughts, Eric.

    There’s much we can learn from the music world and its challenges. A great filmmaker knows their audience. And the good news for indie filmmakers—Hollywood has little interest in serving niche audiences. So it’s ours for the taking!

  • Jason Sondhi

    I get what you’re saying Eric. At the same time the internet isn’t a monolithic thing—its increasingly where people are going to share their interests with others. The same idea of appealing to the niches interested in your film applies to online marketing, and its a lot easier online. The connection isn’t as deep as hosting a screening, however you can target the local Peps group in your hometown, but also hundreds of other Pep groups all over the country.

  • http://iammeshuga.tumblr.com Jackie

    Great article. I’m currently working on my strategy to release a theatrical doc. I’m weighing towards the side of grass routes promotion through social media. We’re probably still going to release it at one of the festivals but they tend to get lost there and we want to build a avalanching momentum. After that we’re going to tie it up with an event at some local theaters, get the public involved, have a limited release online and then distribute to television outlets. So many options on how to get this out there. Thanks for the article.

  • http://www.lucky9studios.com Ivan

    Hey Andrew

    Any suggestions for good sites to contact for non-animated shorts? I’m starting production on my next live action short at the end of the month. And, I’m eager to explore an online release strategy this time around. I still plan on submitting to a few festivals, but in general, I’m fed up with the whole festival process.

    I’ve gotten into a lot of festivals. I’ve been rejected by a lot more. Often the reasons why don’t seem particularly clear (especially because I’ve seen the quality of some of the stuff that is selected)

  • http://www.thomasbealecipher.com Andrew S Allen

    There aren’t as many sites for straight-up live-action films as there are for animation or special effects films. Of course, I’d recommend submitting your film to Short of the Week ;)

  • http://www.shootingart.nl Yvonne van den Akker

    Thanks so much for sharing. Very inspiring!

  • http://www.stuwillis.com Stuart Willis

    Hey,

    I had a meet’n'great with an executive at a large indie prodco yesterday. We talked about online vs festivals. For him to get interested in a filmmaker, it would either be a festival award at somewhere he knows (Cannes, Berlin, Sundance)* OR a large amount of hits (100K). He liked hits because its very quantifiable in terms of audience.

    It makes me lead towards online because online is in the hands of the filmmakers. Festivals are just another round of gatekeepers.

    * This is genre specific though. So an award at something like ComicCon would also be valuable if that was the kind of film you were interested in and wanting to make.

  • Jason Sondhi

    @Stuart Willis: Oh cool, thanks for sharing. What were you meeting about? Payload? I liked that a lot. We need to talk.

  • http://www.stuwillis.com Stuart Willis

    @Jason

    Kinda. Being in Australia (which is basically a government supported indie scene) the conversation tends to go along the lines of ‘I really liked Payload, but we don’t do sci-fi here.’

    Glad you liked it. You have my email :)

  • http://www.slanted.org higa

    an addendum: tiny inventions thoughts on putting their film online: http://tinyinventions.com/blog/?p=485

  • Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Michelle! I agree its an excellent complement to Andrew’s piece.

  • http://thelift.kohrtoons.com Robert Kohr

    I actually arrived at this site from a recommendation over on cartoonbrew.com. They had an article there last week that had the same debate going on, with Tiny Inventions’ piece being the catalyst for discussion. I have a short too thats not currently online and I am done with my festival run so I am looking into all these things. Thanks for this article its a huge help!

  • Jason Sondhi

    I saw that Robert! Its a good discussion to be having and I’m glad you found some value in our experience. Feel free to send us your film if you want to bring it online. Submission link is up top

  • http://www.peakroadproductions.com Ingrid Price

    A comment posted in a thread I’m following at the Film & TV Professionals group on LinkedIn led me here. Timely, since my live-action, narrative short is about 30% of the way through its Festival path right now and I’m weighing the next step(s) carefully. I know that just “throwing it up on the web” won’t cut it, so the bullet-list of strategies in this article is valuable. We had a successful albeit modest Kickstarter campaign, so I’m aware of the power of social networking, but seeing it graphed here is eye-opening in a whole different way. While I wouldn’t trade the festival experience – live audiences, contact with other filmmakers, the occasional award – I’m very interested in reaching a larger audience, captive or not!
    Page bookmarked, strategy adjustment in progress; thank you for sharing so much specific info.

  • http://www.thomasbealecipher.com Andrew S Allen

    Let us know how it goes, Ingrid!

  • http://www.LJFFF.com Fred Sweet

    As someone who produces both a short film festival (www.LJFFF.com) and a short film distribution network online (www.facebook.com/fashionfilmnetwork) I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. They both should be part of a marketing plan. However, the main point is what are you trying to do with your film? If it’s trying to make money from downloads you will have a very difficult time. Most filmmakers are simply trying to make a name for themselves in the marketplace so they will be hired by brands that actually do have money to spend on production. Therefore it may be better to focus on building your personal brand rather than that of your films. In this case the interaction of festivals with industry players is just as important as many views by people who most likely will not be able to hire you.

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  • http://www.mediabistro.com/FishbowlLA Richard Horgan

    Fyi, this article got a very nice shout out today at FilmStew.com from fellow short film/online poster Matt Morris. He says it helped him learn how to properly harness online views for MR. HAPPY MAN.

    http://filmstewdotcom.blogspot.com/2012/02/very-happy-vimeo-success-story.html 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks for the link Richard. We like Matt a lot and were happy to help out in a small way with the success of Mr. Happy Man. 

  • Kaushik Haldar

    I want to make a series of short films / movies but do not have the funds for making a big budget release. Even if the film is able to cover my costs im fine with it. Can you suggest me someone who can help me understand how I can get this done? Kaushik Haldar ( # 91-9999800621 / skype : worldconnectmodels for video conferencing )

  • Kaushik Haldar

    I want to make a series of short films / movies but do not have the funds for making a big budget release. Even if the film is able to cover my costs im fine with it. Can you suggest me someone who can help me understand how I can get this done? Kaushik Haldar ( # 91-9999800621 / skype : worldconnectmodels for video conferencing )

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    I’d reach out to someone like Kirby Furgeson (everythingisaremix.info) who’s created a successful web series using crowdfunding.

  • Tomas Vergara

    Hey guys. This article was a big inspiration on my short film release, the main source in fact. Just hit the 250k mark with it last week. Thanks a lot for offering real insight.

    http://vimeo.com/37097150

  • Tomas Vergara

    Hey guys. This article was a big inspiration on my short film release, the main source in fact. Just hit the 250k mark with it last week. Thanks a lot for offering real insight.

    http://vimeo.com/37097150

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    Thanks Tomas, sorry we couldn’t get a review up to help launch the film, but I featured you on Vimeo. It’s been a crazy few weeks for us here at SotW =)

  • Donald Barr

    Fundraising efforts from donations offered by the General Public in order to Fund Independent  Films;   With the right backers and film development staff you could make and produce  a meaningful film, and all the people who donate  $1.00 to $100.00 dollars or more  would be stars in the movie if they liked or could work  as part of the production staff unpaid until the movie makes a profit, or they could just choose to make a donation. When the movie makes a huge profit in the millions , all the people who made donations and worked as part of the production staff would share equally in the profits.  This program could also help the homeless and/or displaced population and the unemployed as well. 

  • http://WOVOX.com/ Mundo Resink

    Thanks for this guys, really insightful and helpful! I’m about to launch our first film and this really makes planning more fun!

    Enjoy your (work)day!

    Mundo

  • Joshpainter

    What kind of distribution and industry interest did you get?  I’m just curious because its a short film.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    As for interest, we had a few dozen conversations with production houses, talent agencies, and even a couple of the major studios interested in a feature or TV script. If it was something we’d wanted to pursue, we likely could’ve gone further with a simple trip to LA and a script to pitch in person. For distribution, we had a handful of offers (most we turned down because of exclusivity but one we did take one—Arte Creative).  

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharique.elahi.9 Sharique Elahi
  • revanth
  • jayman

    Thanks for the info.

    What do you guys think of this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5iwuZa_WYw&feature=plcp

  • jayman

    Thanks for the info.

    What do you guys think of this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5iwuZa_WYw&feature=plcp

  • Harry

    Any advice on email etiquette? I know my audience, and there are several blogs that would be perfect for promotion. I’m just worried about being rejected as spam.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    You can’t avoid the fact that it is unsolicited. My suggestions: make it short, have something credible to vouch for it (pull quote from a review, prestigious festival laurel), and give the outlet an engaging angle to present the film with. Don’t trust the quality of the film, think like an editor, in the quest for pageviews, what will make a random person click on your film?

  • nicky
  • http://twitter.com/tomarcato Antonio Marcato

    great article, we’re smack in the middle of something similar and these tips will definitely help, great job and thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Great to hear, Antonio. Let us know how it goes and what you learn.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.cantor Mike Cantor

    Very illuminating article – Thank you!!

    Can you please explain the reasoning behind releasing the film on mid-night sunday? Is there some special SEO juice or something that comes from maximizing views in the first week?

    Generally speaking is their any reason to delay a release until you can open with a bang, as opposed to putting something out and then a couple of weeks later starting to market it to blogs etc? I have a music video premiering in a festival this weekend and I’d it like to be on-line so festival viewers can find it. But I don’t want my on-line “launch” to coincide with the election hoop-la.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.cantor Mike Cantor

    Very illuminating article – Thank you!!

    Can you please explain the reasoning behind releasing the film on mid-night sunday? Is there some special SEO juice or something that comes from maximizing views in the first week?

    Generally speaking is their any reason to delay a release until you can open with a bang, as opposed to putting something out and then a couple of weeks later starting to market it to blogs etc? I have a music video premiering in a festival this weekend and I’d it like to be on-line so festival viewers can find it. But I don’t want my on-line “launch” to coincide with the election hoop-la.

  • marcus duprat

    With the views you got on vimeo, you could make a nice amount of money if used youtube. I know vimeo its good for showing to the right people, and yotube users sometimes can be really mean for no reason, but maybe next time you could try it! I just say that because I have a youtube channel and my paycheck come from youtube views (It not bad, and i have much less monthly views)!

    Anyways, really nice!

  • Models WebTV

    Fantastic article with very valid information even at 1.5 years old. Please also consider http://www.filmannex.com A revenue sharing platform supporting filmmakers

  • http://thechaseshortfilm.com/ Tomas Vergara

    oh, sad I did see this now. This was the greatest source of inspiration for launching my film online. That was more than enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sicily.rockmore Sicily Rockmore

    Great article, very helpful. I am looking for a Producer of Marketing and Distribution for a short. Could you recommend someone?

  • Ben Holden

    This article is two years old and still seems to be one of the best on the subject. Has anyone found any more quality articles on distributing short films?

  • Ben Holden

    “Capture your fans” – this was the most interesting point for me. You have a following on the film’s facebook page, twitter and website – but they are all centred around The Thomas Beale Cipher. Would you do this differently in the future?

    If you want a following of people who like your work and would like to experience more of it, then wouldn’t it be better to direct traffic toward a personal or company website? Or somewhere that people could return to if they wanted to find out what you’re working on next..

  • Kristine

    Hi! Did you reach out to all of your targets by email the same night that you released your short? Or did you reach out to them separately, throughout the week, during the dates and times that you listed above?

    Congrats to you on your success with The Thomas Beale Cipher!

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    We reached out to our primary targets the morning of the launch. Then, continued to reach out to secondaries throughout the week.

  • Kristine

    thanks so much!

  • http://twitter.com/HadenSalerno AnthonyHadenSalerno

    I am using this advice as I write this. A great article! Thanks! I’ve posted the trailer for our new film LAPSE – Premiering on Vimeo 3.25.13. Hope you enjoy it! https://vimeo.com/62396367

  • Jeca

    Thanks for this! After much deliberation I decided to post my thesis film online instead of wait out its festival run, and uploaded it Monday midnight as recommended by this article (I’m from the Philippines and unfortunately I’ve just realized that Vimeo follows a different timezone for its view stats, so instead of the count starting on a Monday, it starts on a Sunday).

    Well anyway it’s online and I hope you guys can have a look :) https://vimeo.com/65500345

  • Alvaro D. Ruiz

    OUR ONLINE LAUNCH EXPERIENCE
    I’m the director of a 14minutes long short film, AMANECER (Daybreak), that was
    launched online just a week ago after its festival run and winning a few
    awards. I came across this GREAT article just yesterday (wished I had found it
    earlier!)

    AMANECER is one of many immigration stories that occur everyday in Australia, a
    story within a country that continues to be built upon the courage and work of
    immigrants. Told through the eyes of a latinamerican immigrant, a voice that is
    rarely heard in multicultural Australia.

    AMANECER (daybreak)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTxK4woGCMc
    https://vimeo.com/23879465

    Being back in Colombia after living many years in Australia, and having a
    Spanish speaking short set in Sydney, and with the little support and
    distribution shorts get this side of the world, I knew I had to set up a
    strategy for the online launch.

    Here are my 2cents, our experience doing an online launch. This is a brief
    summary of our strategy:

    1. Set up a FACEBOOK EVENT – it invited people to be part of a cast & crew
    reunion (many of us now living in various countries) via a Google Hangout and
    then watch our just released film.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/198148137001812/

    2. We did 3 WEEKS OF PROMO. The event wall was used on a daily basis to
    highlight facts about our film. Some key material during promo were:

    - Amanecer’s Trailer
    - Amanecer’s Site
    - Director’s Statement (written especially for the online launch)
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/purace-pictures/directors-statement-amanecer-online-premiere/520612531331889

    3. At the same time we launched our new BLOG (Spanish only) where additional
    news about the upcoming premier were posted, thus generating traffic to our
    site.

    4. Two people worked doing our Social Media before the event, but especially during
    our Google Hangout. This generated a conversations with viewers.

    Here our Google Hangout with cast and crew from Bogotá, Sydney, LA and Santiago
    de Chile. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7U_-f2rV8o

    On the night we had audience from Australia, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Canada
    and United Stated.

    THE RESULTS
    In just over a week online our short has had +1400 viewers. It had around 3K
    viewers at festivals. The numbers speak for themselves.

    OUT THOUGHTS are that despite setting up an online launch was more work than
    what we imagined, it was worth it! We believe the more you can do in this
    regard the better.

    It is true also that our task is far from finished. We will continue promoting
    our film! We are certain that online it’ll be the most important “festival” our film will be screened at.

    Thanks for reading! And thanks for watching our short!

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Thanks for sharing, Alvaro.

  • Chris

    Harry

    Many people are talking about Lithasa ! what is it? http://www.lithasa.com
    .
    I’ve see that some where a guy said that he liked the design. I myself went to the website and it is simple but good.
    But I would like to know is it perfect for new authors and upcoming authors?
    They do have a separate publishing model.
    http://www.lithasa.com

    Thanks

    Harry

  • SAI SUNDAR

    Guys watch viral tamil short film….A first attempt from our team
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqIAERh1Ueo
    watch it and plz give us some review

  • Create ‘n Show

    You could also try joining the new site CREATE ‘N SHOW on http://www.createnshow.com . It’s for creative people who want to show off their creations and get backlinks to their own pages.

  • Laurence Williams

    Hi there. I don’t do shorts but have quite a lot of experience in trying to launch a movie. I spent two years making a feature movie which is about to go worldwide through an distributor in New York. We made the film for £9,000, a cast of 160 and ended up with a two hour feature. I am now making a second movie (with no budget) and yet again finding it hard work. Then I write a script for a major film called Uma Frick which I am now trying to raise $5 million to produce. I get the same reply from production companies, they don’t accept unsolicited scripts etc etc. However I keep going because I have a passion to make films. If you want to see my stuff then go to our web site and see how hard this business is. http://www.lakeedgeproductions.co.uk
    We may look big but we are small and very passionate.

  • Laurence Williams

    Hi there. I don’t do shorts but have quite a lot of experience in trying to launch a movie. I spent two years making a feature movie which is about to go worldwide through an distributor in New York. We made the film for £9,000, a cast of 160 and ended up with a two hour feature. I am now making a second movie (with no budget) and yet again finding it hard work. Then I write a script for a major film called Uma Frick which I am now trying to raise $5 million to produce. I get the same reply from production companies, they don’t accept unsolicited scripts etc etc. However I keep going because I have a passion to make films. If you want to see my stuff then go to our web site and see how hard this business is. http://www.lakeedgeproductions.co.uk
    We may look big but we are small and very passionate.

  • http://www.kathleenmusic.com/ kathleen!!!

    this is a SUPER helpful article! thanks!!!!

  • pratap

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He_N9KczSOM.hi frnds..plz see this short film and like in you tube..must see

  • jesse

    I am an actor in Los Angeles, CA, I wrote my first ever play that has so much potential, the play is called ” PACO ” I want to make it into a short film, once we finish filming we are going to submit it to a local public television station.

  • jesse

    I am an actor in Los Angeles, CA, I wrote my first ever play that has so much potential, the play is called ” PACO ” I want to make it into a short film, once we finish filming we are going to submit it to a local public television station.

  • Sathya Siddhi

    Sathya

    Hi Folks here is the link for my debut short film “POOKALI PARIKATHINGA
    (??????? ??????????)” Please watch and write ur commands…if u like it
    please share with ur friends too…
    This is the lowest budget film ever done…
    http://youtu.be/VTSFTWpmcHQ