Today, I want to share a sneak peek into one of my major goals for 2024 –
Make a new short film every single month.
I’ve thought about challenging myself to do this for years, but never got around to it. I always prioritized feature film projects, mainly because I didn’t see as much benefit to short filmmaking.
Short films are incredible for honing your craft, developing a body of work, and possibly landing some festival screenings. But as I discovered years ago, DIY feature films offer even more benefits.
Far fewer features are made than shorts, so just having one under your belt makes you stand out when seeking financing or distribution.
Not to mention, with a feature film you are far more likely to recoup costs (or even turn a profit), while short films are usually loss leaders.
For these reasons (among others), I’ve spent the last 6 years laser focused on making feature films.
This run started with our DIY road movie Shadows On The Road in 2018 and has carried through all the way to today with Teacher’s Pet – a funded indie feature that goes to camera exactly one month from now.
There is no denying that making feature films has changed the course of my career.
Each has opened up amazing new opportunities I would never have otherwise had, enhancing my craft, expanding my network, and growing my business in the process.
I have no plans of slowing down on that front. I’m already writing my 5th feature film, while in development for a larger budget project too.
But amid all of the ups and downs of making these full length indies, I’ve constantly been tempted to return to the short film world.
I have so many ideas that would only work as short films, and love the immediacy of the format. With features you might wait a year or more to see the results of your efforts. Shorts can be turned around in weeks.
What really shifted my thinking lately though, was my experience with YouTube. I’ve written about this in more depth here.
In short though, I’ve been exploring a sustainable distribution model for DIY filmmakers that harnesses YouTube as a primary outlet.
WIth the right strategy, it is entirely possible to make a series of $0 – $25K movies, release them exclusively on YouTube, market them strategically, and generate predictable revenue.
Some distribution outlets are already doing this and making a killing.
When you look at the data, feature films generally perform better (and offer more financial upside) than short films on YouTube. That’s why you are starting to see a lot of “free” feature films popping up on YT.
But unlike traditional distribution models, shorts can turn a profit too.
At the time of this writing, my highest performing film on YouTube is a short film I directed almost 10 years ago when I first moved to LA. It has almost 2 million views, and still generates thousands of daily views.
When I make any film (short or feature) it is about the art first and foremost. To a fault, in the past I have not focused on sales or distribution as much as I should have.
But the reality of filmmaking is that it’s expensive. And the more money you can recoup, the more movies you can make. And the more movies you make, the more likely it is one of those movies takes off.
On my podcast, David F. Sandberg (director of Shazam!) spoke about how his no budget short film Lights Out went viral, and led to his career directing studio movies.
While his experience is certainly not common, no platform other than YouTube offers that type of reach while also generating direct revenue for the filmmaker.
The best part is though, you don’t have to be a viral sensation to find success. You just need to be consistent, and put out enough work to build a body of work.
Imagine having 10 or 20 short (or feature) films on your channel. Each one has the potential for festival play, can be used as a calling card for financiers, and will act as a revenue generator directly on YouTube.
And because the collective body of work can yield profits, it’s a self perpetuating system that allows you to keep creating more work, while growing your audience and business in the process.
It goes without saying that no success is ever guaranteed, even with the model that YouTube offers.
But it’s reached the point that there are so many potential upsides and derivative benefits to publishing on YT, that it’s hard to ignore.
Coming to this realization helped me justify the idea of running the experiment I have always wanted to: Making 12 films in 12 months.
By doing so, I could simultaneously:
- Make exciting films I’ve been sitting on for years
- Grow my YouTube channel / increase revenue
- Provide an experiment I can share with all of you
#3 is the most exciting part of all for me. Every time I make a film my goal is to share everything I did and everything I learned with the filmmaking community.
By making films every single month, I will be able to document the creative process, the experimental YouTube strategy, and the results at each step.
Between this run of short films (starting in 2024) and my current slate of features, you can expect a lot of material coming to the blog very soon.
For now though, I hope this has sparked some ideas for those of you with similar experiments on the horizon!
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
1. Make a feature film today: The No-Budget Feature Film Blueprint
2. Build your network and sharpen your craft in our community: The Backlot
3. Color grade & polish your footage with my post-production tools on: Cinecolor