Andrew Allen devotes much of his free time to finding new and exciting short films online for his Shortoftheweek.com blog.
But when it was time to release his own short film, The Thomas Beale Cipher, Allen and his partner-in-crime Jason Sondhi instead opted for a more traditional approach, showing the film at more than a dozen festivals. “I felt a twinge of guilt,” Allen wrote on his blog this week, adding:
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.
Earlier this year, Allen and Sondhi finally sat down to come up with a very detailed plan, which involved releasing the film on the right platform at the right time, and then pitching it to the right people.
The results are impressive: The Thomas Beale Cipher has since clocked more than 170,000 views. That may not be much compared to some of the most popular viral videos on YouTube, but it’s still a lot more than the 3,000 film festival visitors that got to see it last year.
And the best thing: Going online was not only free, but it also generated significantly more interest from mainstream media and industry representatives. “I was soon taking calls from studio execs, production houses, and others interested in collaborating on future projects,” wrote Allen.
Of course, Allen never actually expected to make any money with The Thomas Beale Cipher, and he was quick to admit that a feature film would have been a completely different story when I contacted him via email. Still, there be other revenue opportunities even if you don’t make any money directly through your film, be it short or long. Said Allen:
The biggest thing I learned from this experience is that giving something away to earn people’s trust and build a fan base makes selling future creations much much easier—be it a feature film, web series, or even merchandise. It’s an obvious idea that’s been around the online startup world for years, but most filmmakers know nothing of it.
And here’s another thing Allen learned: next time, he won’t rely on festivals. Sure, showing the film in front of a large audience can be a fun experience for the filmmaker and everyone else involved in the production, but according to Allen, “[t]he wide release — where a short film can make its biggest impact — happens online.”
Check out The Thomas Beale Cipher below — and if you’re a filmmaker, do yourself a favor and read Allen’s entire post.