Short of the Week

Would You Sell Your Short Film Online?

News / November 14, 2012

(Disclosure: Short of the Week Editor Jason Sondhi is a Curator for Vimeo)

As promised in September, Vimeo has given us a peek at their new service which will allow content creators to rent or sell video content on the site. Yesterday’s offering of 6 feature films is only a curated beta launch, but sometime next year the service is expected to expand into an open platform for all Vimeo PRO subscribers.

We touched on why this is exciting news during the initial announcement, but many commentators agree that having a platform which is web-based, does not rely on gatekeepers or aggregators to gain access to and, most difficultly, already has a large native audience, is potentially a great development for indie filmmakers. We know the details of what’s being offered, what we don’t know is how it will be used.

According to Vimeo’s rules you can monetize anything that is acceptable via their terms of service, including short films. Is that a good idea though? We want to hear from you—is there value to be had in selling your short film? How many of you are interested in renting or selling short films via Vimeo’s new service? What are the potential drawbacks as you see them? Please give thoughts in the comments.

~
Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.
  • Terry Mills

    While this could be good for creators, I’m really worried that all the stuff I watch on Vimeo now will get put behind a paywall, which would suck. Part of what’s enjoyable now is discovering random things.

  • Terry Mills

    While this could be good for creators, I’m really worried that all the stuff I watch on Vimeo now will get put behind a paywall, which would suck. Part of what’s enjoyable now is discovering random things.

  • Ignacio

    maybe they thinking to became an open netflix? or? I mean isn’t look something new this idea of service pay per view…vimeo it is getting old with this capitalist decision, so if the have 75 millions active viewers moreless. why they don’t create something new so everybody can see nice films.

  • Ignacio

    maybe they thinking to became an open netflix? or? I mean isn’t look something new this idea of service pay per view…vimeo it is getting old with this capitalist decision, so if the have 75 millions active viewers moreless. why they don’t create something new so everybody can see nice films.

  • http://www.justpinegames.com/ Tomislav Podhraški

    I like the idea and the presentation. But old problems still remain: “Sorry, this film is not available in your region.”

    I guess they don’t want my money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericgoetz Eric Goetz

    I’m not sure I would pay to watch a 10 min short, but I would probably pay to watch a 45 minute short that had some star power behind it or otherwise came highly regarded (Dr. Horrible, being a great example). I would also pay to subscribe to a web-series or channel that was producing or curating great content that I liked, though it would have to be fairly focused. If Short of the Week was a little more focused, in terms of it’s content (eg. Sci-Fi Short of the Week), I would probably be open to paying. Integration with set top boxes like Apple TV or Roku would be key.

  • http://twitter.com/NYC_Jen Jennifer Bourne

    Why would you pat to watch great short films when you can watch them for free and help the filmmakers at the same time? Several filmmakers and animators I know are on Film Annex where they can earn revenues so they can finance their next films. Just take a look at what the most active ones have earned so far on http://www.filmannex.com

  • Anonymiss

    No. Just no.

  • Marco

    Not sure this would work for regular unknown filmmakers, not many people will pay to watch something not knowing who made. This might work for bigger known studios with budgets, or companies like Red Bull that keep creating docu-shorts. But in my opinion will only make the rich richer.

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

    When I’m honest about it, this is probably what I agree with the most.

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

    Well that’s part of what we want to find out through these conversations. It’s my feeling that the service will mostly attract new content, feature films, Tutorials and other things that weren’t on the site to begin with, rather than charging for the kind of work we love on Vimeo that’s currently free.

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

    Haha. Believe me, it’s hard enough to get people to watch the things we recommend without charging for them, so i don’t imagine curation being the answer.

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

    We ended up having a pretty robust discussion on FB too: http://www.facebook.com/shortoftheweek/posts/508008049216828

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

    Good points, Eric. Shorts have historically been difficult to charge for because of their anonymity and brevity. It’s a gamble many viewers aren’t willing to take.

    I agree, access across devices is also important. On a web browser, your paid film competes with all the free content the internet offers like Hulu. On Apple TV, it sits next to other paid films. That makes a big difference.

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

    I don’t share your worry, Terry. Creators still need to build credibility and a fan base before they can monetize their content. There will always be random things to discover for free online simply because that’s how you get noticed.

    This feature is perhaps most valuable to the established filmmaker with an existing audience who’s looking for a way to make a living. Right now, they have few options, most of which end with a product that you have to purchase (typically at a higher price with a fair chunk going to middle men). Vimeo’s new service presents another option for these filmmakers. They can now make new work that we, the broader audience, wouldn’t otherwise have access to at what will likely be a lower price.

  • http://daredreamermag.com Ron Dawson

    +1

  • http://daredreamermag.com Ron Dawson

    I agree with Andrew above. You don’t necessarily need to be a well-known commodity. There are many filmmakers with a decent following who could use this service to help monetize that following. It might not be enough to pay the mortgage, but I could see it helping a filmmaker fund a pre-production on a new project, or pay for his/her monthly Starbucks quote. Heck, even if it made a filmmaker only $50/month, that ain’t too bad. That’s $50 more you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

  • http://twitter.com/marcoluca_ Marco Luca

    I believe that at launch many creators will try it out, and we will lose a lot of good free content on Vimeo, at least until they realize they sacrificed thousands of views for a few bucks

  • http://twitter.com/marcoluca_ Marco Luca

    I believe that at launch many creators will try it out, and we will lose a lot of good free content on Vimeo, at least until they realize they sacrificed thousands of views for a few bucks

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

    Andrew brings up a good point which is that current paid distribution options for filmmakers are highly inefficient and stifle unique and creative voices. Existing avenues don’t properly leverage the online audience building that is becoming a core responsibility of smart filmmakers. That’s what is exciting about this initiative.

    But, great free content is still the path out of anonymity in order to create that audience in the first place. This is a path that is still being refined and developed however.

  • http://twitter.com/kung_fuelvis kung_fuelvis

    As someone who can’t get to the cinema as often as I would have liked and with limited options available when I do go – the idea of being able to watch independent feature films on Vimeo excites me no-end. I’ve been wanting to see ‘Beauty is Embarrassing’ for a while and happy that Vimeo has given me the option of doing so. I will be interested to see how this service develops, as I would definitely be interested in using it as a service to view feature length films.

    The idea of having to pay for a short though, does fill with me trepidation. Being someone who watches a great deal of shorts in my spare time, I like probably everyone else who visits SotW am all to aware of the varying quality that is available. For me to actually stump up my hard earned cash to view a short film – it would have to be from a filmmaker that guaranteed quality….and there aren’t too many of them around.

  • Brendan Hogan

    I think i would be very unlikely to pay upfront to watch a short film, but I think the tipping feature could work very well. There are plenty of shorts I have been so impressed with i would have been happy to show my appreciation monetarily if it had been convenient to do so.

  • Brendan Hogan

    I think i would be very unlikely to pay upfront to watch a short film, but I think the tipping feature could work very well. There are plenty of shorts I have been so impressed with i would have been happy to show my appreciation monetarily if it had been convenient to do so.

  • Vito

    As others have said, dishing up money for something as inconsistent in quality as short films would be tough. What about if they were able to offer a series of shorts? Not a subscription to the channel or anything like that, but a few choice shorts that add up to 45 minutes or so?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=211600373 Stu Willis

    Same here. The problem with short-films isn’t the absence of monetization strategies (there are PLENTY of options for that) — the problem is awareness and exposure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=211600373 Stu Willis

    … and there are some great filmmakers who work with short content who have a following (Evan Mather is one). Its especially true in the documentary space.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590866003 Andy Ward Innit

    Does the new service allow for public viewing ? I help run a small donation based short film night (covers costs of electric, space etc) and getting permission to show films is a hard business, I’ve only been doing this a short while but have been emailing directors of shorts I would like to show, we cannot pay fees to aggregators and gatekeepers but if films were available for download for a small fee then this would be a great service to the likes of me and would put money direct to the filmmakers I like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590866003 Andy Ward Innit

    Does the new service allow for public viewing ? I help run a small donation based short film night (covers costs of electric, space etc) and getting permission to show films is a hard business, I’ve only been doing this a short while but have been emailing directors of shorts I would like to show, we cannot pay fees to aggregators and gatekeepers but if films were available for download for a small fee then this would be a great service to the likes of me and would put money direct to the filmmakers I like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590866003 Andy Ward Innit

    Does the new service allow for public viewing ? I help run a small donation based short film night (covers costs of electric, space etc) and getting permission to show films is a hard business, I’ve only been doing this a short while but have been emailing directors of shorts I would like to show, we cannot pay fees to aggregators and gatekeepers but if films were available for download for a small fee then this would be a great service to the likes of me and would put money direct to the filmmakers I like.

  • http://twitter.com/Nimblegimbal Pryce Duncalf

    I think its a good incentive for people to make nice work. If you feel like you may get something back then it could justify taking a bit of time out to create some independent work off of your own back. Free vids are great, but how can a film maker justify giving up their day job and incurring production costs to give away a free film. This could create an influx of great content. P.

  • Kevin Alexander

    I think it all depends on whether or not you have the audience to sustain your work. A first-time filmmaker can’t expect people to pay for content if they don’t know who you are or what you do. However, after releasing a body of work for free, and gaining credibility, & developing a loyal fan-base, I could only imagine that fans would be willing to pay. When you have a loyal fan-base anything is possible. That’s what I’ve discovered. I’m a former TV photojournalist, & a few years ago decided to make a short doc about the rare disease PKU, which I have. There are only about 15,000 of us in the US, maybe 50,000 worldwide. Since we’re a small community, and there was nothing else like it done before, the film took off on YouTube. To date it’s received over 18,000 hits in over 100 countries. Not exactly the same views as a cute kitten doing something funny which gets over a million hits… But each and every view on my doc was meaningful, because it was targeted to a very, very niche audience. I’ve been able to build a following on Facebook, and connect with companies and organizations that serve our community. In my case, I know my audience is willing to pay because there’s nothing else quite like it on the market, and people are hungry for stories and information that affect our community. I know it’s not easy, but if you tap into people’s deepest desires and needs they will be willing to pay. So I think selling content online is an incredible option, but much work would have to be done to build an online community before you expect to sell your content.

  • Tamara Summers

    The best options available for short film distribution I have seen to date are on http://filmbay.com where they pay out ad share AND google adsense to filmmakers.

  • René

    With more than 20k play on vimeo a week to see the trailers since months no one dare to buy the films… Less than 10 sales (5$ the episode of 25mn)
    Who will share the truth of the real money that is earn by creator ??? Who and where we can get this crucial information ?

  • René

    With more than 20k play on vimeo a week to see the trailers since months no one dare to buy the films… Less than 10 sales (5$ the episode of 25mn)
    Who will share the truth of the real money that is earn by creator ??? Who and where we can get this crucial information ?