Release Your Short Film in 10 Steps

by Rebecca Norris - updated on July 16, 2019

Attention screenwriters and filmmakers! If you have a short film you haven’t yet released, or one that’s collecting dust because you don’t know how to get it out to the world, this article’s for you. Short of the Week, a curated online festival that seeks to connect filmmakers with industry audiences, just released its Ultimate Guide to Releasing Your Short Film. It’s full of amazing information to help you achieve your ultimate goal: exposure for your work and a launch pad for your career.

Have a short script that needs to be read? Enter the ScreenCraft Short Screenplay Contest here.

Here are some of the guide’s best tidbits:

Know What’s Most Important

Before you even start making films, it’s vital to take stock of what’s most important to you. What do you want? Career opportunities? To earn prestige? To find an audience? A big financial payout? The truth is, the best currency in today’s media landscape is exposure. Not just exposure to those who might attend a shorts program at a festival, but exposure to as wide a net as possible so that an “accelerator,” or person in a position to help you, such as an executive, agent, producer, or financier, can recognize your talent and accelerate your career.

The Conventional Approach is Broken

Filmmakers have historically been advised to stretch out the release of their films over a period of years, starting with a long festival run, and culminating with traditional distribution. Short of the Week says this approach is broken and not in step with where people are looking for talent today: online.

A New Approach: Be Everywhere. All at Once. 

You can now reach people all around the world without leaving the comfort of your couch. Go where audiences are and get your short film onto as many platforms as possible. If you broaden your reach to as many sites as you can, you increase the chance that someone in a position to help you in the industry will see your work and reach out. Do everything you can to allow serendipity to happen.  

The guide emphasizes that since we live in a noisy world, and the online space is already so overcrowded, you must deliver your message with one big swing of the hammer rather than tiny taps. Compress your film’s release to a few short days or weeks and get it out to everybody all at once. 

The Strategy

Short of the Week lays out a 10-part strategy to successfully release your short film in today’s marketplace. 

  1. Create an Online + Festival Strategy.  Unlike with feature films, most festivals don’t care if you have your film online before submitting. Take advantage of this by submitting to online outlets as well as festivals early to increase your chances of exposure. Don’t spend a fortune on festival submissions. Submit only to top-tier festivals and festivals you know you can attend in person, and keep the rest of your money in your pocket.
  2. Secure Your Premiere. If you’re premiering at a festival, follow the buzz with an online release soon after. If you’re premiering online, work to get as much buzz and press as you can. You can make a big splash online and then be invited to submit with fee waivers to festivals.
  3. Find partners. Connect with curators online to reach their audiences. Find influencers, organizations, sites, and Meetups focused on your subject matter and reach out to them to share your film.
  4. Don’t prioritize money. The vast majority of short film distribution deals yield very little profit. Remember that your goal is exposure and not chasing an elusive financial payout.
  5. Don’t sign away exclusivity. Hang on to your right to be everywhere to maximize your chances of finding people who can aid your career.
  6. Go cross-platform. Get your film out to multiple sites and as many platforms as possible.
  7. Internationalize your film. Since it’s now easy and affordable to subtitle your film, reach an international audience by having it translated into different languages.
  8. Compress your release window. Release over a few days or weeks rather than several months or years. Capitalize on the urgency and excitement of the launch.
  9. Launch, engage and recalibrate. The most views will come in 1-2 days after your launch. Throughout the launch, keep tabs on who’s connecting with your film. Once you’ve found your audience, hone in on publishers, forums, Facebook groups, and communities that could share or feature a film like yours. 
  10. Be prepared to pitch your next idea or project. Always have ideas (and even scripts) at the ready for your next project so you can capitalize on the heat from your current one. 

To check out the entire guide, click HERE. 

Rebecca Norris is a producer, writer, and filmmaker with her production company, Freebird Entertainment. Her recent award-winning feature film, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine, has been distributed on Amazon Streaming and DVD. Rebecca is also a script analyst and consultant who has read for many companies, including Sundance, ScreenCraft, Bluecat, and the International Emmys, as well as her own script consultancy, Script Authority. Rebecca blogs for Screencraft, The Script Lab, WeScreenplay and Script Magazine, exploring the film writing and production process and encouraging writers to produce their own work. Follow Rebecca’s posts on Twitter at @beckaroohoo!

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