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Profitability of Short Films


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#1 Stephen Whitehead

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 06:35 PM

Basically I was wondering if anyone knew about how much a really well done short that is shot on 35mm, and runs about 6 minutes could make if it got distribution. Now I know the short films usually aren't profitable, but if one was to get distribution and sell internationally, what kind of figures would we be talking about here?

Cheers,

Steve
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 07:16 PM

$00.00 :)

R,
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#3 freddie bonfanti

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 07:45 PM

he's right...nothing.

BUT, a well crafted short can be a good calling card and can get you somewhere.
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#4 Elliot Rudmann

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 08:12 PM

Unfortunately, you're going to have to learn to just laugh when you hear the words "profit" and "short film" in the same sentence.
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 08:52 PM

Ok Steve well there is this:

http://www.zzizzlfilms.com/

Have a look I don't know any thing about them. Also, I THINK atomfilms.com pays people in some way for their shorts.

There is also:

http://www.funlittlemovies.com

In any case I would heavily lean toward comedy when working in this "genre". If you can make some one bust out laughing in two minutes you might make some cashola.

Don't do the "Canadian Thing" and make a movie about two lesbians discussing life on an Indian reserve while smoking pot in their wheel chairs. Don't bother flaming me over my comment, if you've seen gov't funded Canadian short films then you know what I'm talking about.

R,
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:28 PM

Hi,

If you've seen British government funded short films you'll know what he means.

Oh, the agony.

Phil
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#7 Chance Shirley

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:36 PM

Basically I was wondering if anyone knew about how much a really well done short that is shot on 35mm, and runs about 6 minutes could make if it got distribution.


From the previous posts, you can tell that short films are notoriously unprofitable. A big reason for that is the third part of your question, "if it got distribution."

Do you know of any distribution avenues for short films? I sure don't. I've never paid to see a short in a commercial movie theatre, and I've never rented a less-than-feature-length film from Blockbuster.

The only reason I could see for shooting a short on 35mm would be to use as a calling card. If you want to make money with shorts, I'd say shoot on the cheap, keep it really short, and put it on one of the web video sites that pays per view. If you get lucky and your movie goes "viral," you could turn a nice profit.
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#8 Frank Barrera

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 10:48 PM

most if not all of my director friends (after making a few great shorts) have sworn them off in favor of features. the battle cry is : why spend all that money on a short that goes no where when you can spend a little bit more money on a feature that goes no where. or something like that...
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#9 David Venhaus

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 11:24 PM

There are compilation DVDs of short films and cable channels like IFC occasionally show short films. The only theatrical distribution of shorts, that I can think of, is for animation, like Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation Festival and the Animation Show, which are touring shows. Those would make up only a tiny-tiny fraction of how many shorts get made. Over 30 minutes may have more of a chance, like "Cat Soup", which won several awards and had a running time of 34 minutes but it is also animated so there may be more of a special niche market for it, was released internationally on DVD. As mention above, the chance of making money off a short from distrubtion, is very small.

Edited by David A Venhaus, 23 January 2007 - 11:26 PM.

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#10 Matthew Bennett

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 11:28 PM

Don't do the "Canadian Thing" and make a movie about two lesbians discussing life on an Indian reserve while smoking pot in their wheel chairs.

R,


Ha! That Indian res wheelchair weed will get you everytime.. especially if you're a crippled lesbian, you're twice as vulnerable. I had no idea people were making shorts like this, Rich, do tell! This comment made me laugh for a good ten minutes...
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#11 Bryan Darling

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 02:03 AM

One of my friends did a short film for about $30k. It was back when it was still practical to edit on film. It also included his answer and release print. He sold it to IFC for less than $5k, I want to say $2k, so let's say between $2k-$5k. It was a 2 year contract.

I'd say you don't make short films to make money. You make them because you like short films. I personally enjoy working with the short film as a format. It's focused and disciplined. It becomes so easy to lose it when making a feature length film. It's a difficult form, real easy to lose focus, etc. How many feature length films have you seen and turned off after 15 minutes, haha?

Anyhow I think it healthier to look at short and feature length films as different formats. You use whatever format the film you want to make calls for, or ends up as.
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#12 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 02:58 AM

Hey if your film is short enough and it features something like detergent or it is super cool and nobody can tell what is featured I hear they pay pretty decent for it. :unsure:

-Rob-
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#13 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:00 AM

With enough exposure, and if your short film has a socially conscious message of some sort, you can make a good amount of dough just by self-distributing it through your own website.

Jay Rosenblatt is a good example of self-distribution, and I'm sure he'd be willing to answer any questions you might have about it: http://www.jayrosenblattfilms.com/

Besides that, yeah, there are a lot of websites starting up at the moment where you upload your film and subscribers pay to view it. And I assume you get residuals based on how many hits or downloads you get :)
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#14 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:17 AM

There are short films that make you money, they're called commercials. B)
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#15 Max Jacoby

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:23 AM

We have a distributor for my last short film as well, but since the budget was so high, I never expect to see any money. It sold to some TV stations already, so the best I can hope for are royalities.
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#16 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 05:05 AM

A couple of shorts that I made have sales to TV stations, however, you're extremely unlikely to make enough money from these to make a profit. Both films have a distributor, so he can package them in with other shorts.

Personally, I only know of one short that has made a profit (I expect there are only a small number of others out there) - you really need to have a mass market appeal. I believe amounts that you now receive for a short has gone down over the years, so reducing even further the chance of making a return.
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#17 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 07:18 AM

From a DP's standpoint short films are a way of getting experience in the fiction genre in order to hopefully move up to features. A kind of stepping stone between music videos and commercials and feature films.
They are definitely not a way to make any kind of money unless perhaps you can make the producer give you some money for your own camera package (very rare!).
Short films if they are good can help reinforce your credibility in the fiction market because they often have longer takes, dialogue and a "less glossy" look unlike most music videos and commercials.
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