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Examine Your Shorts, Part III: A Resource List For The Shorts Market

Examine Your Shorts, Part III: A Resource List For The Shorts Market


By John M. Forrester

You’ve just finished filming your short and you’re in financial peril,
having maxed out all your credit cards during production. Your friends
begin to hate you because of all the work you guilt-tripped them into
doing for free. You’ve called in markers, even hocked yourself in the
emotional bank account which creative people use to trade favors. But
your artistic soul grins like a Cheshire cat. Your work is good and you
know it. It’s stylish, hip and makes a statement. Now what? Unique
distribution opportunities for short films exist. You must go out and
find them.


Exposure, baby. Hit the festival circuit with a vengeance. It’s a
great idea to get to know the artistic directors at the festivals, even
to volunteer to work at them. Film festivals literally swarm with sales
agents, producer’s representatives and distributors. Shake hands and
exchange cards with as many film marketers as you possibly can. It
would be impossible to mention all of the film festivals in this
article, however, we will mention a few of particular interest to short

Beyond the Triple Crown of international festivals of Cannes (May),
Berlin (February) and Venice (September), France’s Clermont-Ferrand
festival is very esteemed for its shorts. During the 1997 short film
market, more than 40 TV channels or services, about 50 distributors and
more than 60 international festivals attended the market to view, select
and buy short films. In Los Angeles, The Short Pictures International
Film Festival (SPIFF) has emerged into one of the premiere showcases in
the world for shorts. To reach the SPIFF, try 310-558-6691 or visit
their website>. Filmmakers’ Alliance member
Dave Fennoy puts on monthly coffee house film screenings. Call Dave at
626-794-3648 for more details. There’s also, of course, the Los Angeles
International Film Festival (LAIFF) in April, which programs short films
before its features. Also, Kimberly Browning of Hollywood Shorts stages
monthly shorts screenings, with lots of industry representation
present. You can e-mail Kimberly at


The best outlet for short films continues to be television and cable
worldwide. There always existed a strong commercial demand for shorts
in Europe. Only recently, the demand for shorts dramatically increased
in the U.S., Latin America, South East Asia and the Middle East, mainly
due to the proliferation of specialized cable channels. According to
Carol Crowe, President of Apollo Cinema, a prominent shorts distributor,
“The majority of territories purchase shorts by the minute. A 30 minute
short has the potential to make US$30,000 plus, however, a one minute
short may make its way into a movie theater and make the same or more.”
Contact Carol at 323-939-1122, or E-mail

HBO, Cinemax, Playboy and Comedy Central have always programmed shorts
commercially. Lifetime and TNT both recently featured “A day of shorts”
programming. FXM, the Fox shorts division, now actually pays talented
directors to produce shorts for them. If you’re a short filmmaker, FXM
can really help get your career jump-started, even paying for your film
to go to festivals. For more information about this unique program,
contact Kim Adelman at FXM: 310-444-8655. And if you’re in New York
City, you should know about Forefront Films, a well-known shorts
distributor. Send your shorts for consideration to: Megan O’Neill,
Forefront Films, 401 Broadway, Suite 1012, New York, NY 10013. E-mail: Also consider another smaller shorts
distributor, Coe Films. (212) 831-5355. There’s also CineBlast!, a
video compilation of short films released intermittently by Gill
Holland: voice mail (212) 533-0868.

Sometimes overlooked, the Public Broadcasting System occasionally
purchases shorts. PBS affiliate WNTV (Washington, DC) recently
purchased an hour’s worth of short films by Frank Chindamo, a shorts
director with over fifty produced projects. Larry Russo of The Shooting
Gallery packages shorts programming for PBS also. Take a peak at Larry’s
website:>. Here’s another opportunity.
Short films are currently being solicited for a new late-night TV show
entitled “Live from the Starlight Room.” The Starlight Room is located
at the top of the Sir Francis Drake hotel in San Francisco. For
additional information, contact Jodi Hillman at 415-834-1311. Or just
send your short film on VHS to: Ms. Marcia Kimpton c/o Jodi, 1831 Grant
Street. Apt. 301 San Francisco, CA. 94133.

Bravo and The Independent Film Channel continue to be extremely
short-friendly in their programming schedule. Contact George Lentz,
Bravo’s director of film acquisition at 516-396-4595,
>. Also, Mike Horowitz buys shorts for the
Sundance channel. You can contact him at 310-234-5311,>. Do you have a high quality
documentary, work-in-progress or a student film? Call Mitch Block from
Direct Cinema, a shorts film and doc distribution company at
310-636-8200. Animation’s your bag? Try Locomotion, the only all
animation channel for Latin America. Contact Daniel Rodriguez, director
of programming for Locomotion at: 305-531-6689.

Would you like to get your film screened on “Air your Shorts?” Produced
by Sean Goodwin out of public access station KYOU in Orange county. “Air
your Shorts” is a great venue for student and independent filmmakers to
get exposure. Send a VHS copy to: ShortFilmz, P.O. box 692 Corona Del
Mar, CA. 92625. And in Palm Springs, a new channel called The Showcase
Channel, hosted by Jacqueline Bisset, will feature shorts. Contact
Maggie Abbott for more details, 760-320-5243.


Surf and you shall find. The Internet abounds with opportunities for
shorts. Check out>, a distributor of
shorts and a comprehensive resource guide. They have “world-wide
tentacles for commercial distribution,” says President David Russell.
Russell advises short filmmakers to resolve all clearance issues, like
music rights, SAG releases, etc., before approaching distributors. Also
look at>. Shortenz features a useful
classified section, and tips for marketing your film.

Resfest showcases vital independent digital films. According to
Resfest, “The once daunting barriers to traditional filmmaking –
cumbersome process and great expense- have given way to new methods and
new technologies. Empowered by new, mobile and inexpensive digital
tools, this new wave in cinema puts the means of filmmaking and
storytelling back into the hands of individual artists.” RES can be
contacted through their website> or by phone,
415-437-2686. DVD companies are also screaming for content. Short Cinema
Journal presents shorts from around the world in a bi-monthly DVD
journal. You can subscribe to the short cinema journal, or purchase
copies in outlets like The Virgin Megastore and Tower Records. To
submit a short film, call 888-DVD-MAGS, or check out>.


Sometimes, if your work creates a “buzz” you can get a distribution deal
relatively easy. Take the case of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators
of Comedy Central‘s “South Park” A few years ago, Parker and Stone made
an animated short called, “The Spirit of Christmas.” This riotously
funny battle between Jesus Christ and Santa Claus was originally
intended as just a video Christmas card. However, it was so hilarious
and widely duplicated that it became an instant cult phenomenon. Comedy
Central got a hold of it, and the rest is history.

This writer produced an event this past July at The Viper Room called
“Night of a Thousand Stevies.” After many debates, the Viper Room
finally allowed me to film this surreal event, based on the popular
annual Stevie Nicks tribute at Jackie 60 in New York City. The legend
of the tape spread, and soon VH-1 actually contacted me to purchase this
experimental performance art.


Once just a calling card for aspiring filmmakers, the short is just now
coming into its own as a commercially accepted art form. More and more
opportunities are popping up for short filmmakers to actually make money
off their projects. You do not need massive celebrity names to generate
sales, rather just a good story that works. Remember that filmmaking is
as much a business as an art form. Translate your genius filmmaking
skills into marketing wizardry. Show your work at the festivals, and
explore new media forms like DVD, digital TV and Internet video
streaming. You must learn to schmooze the media, the buyers, the
distributors and ultimately the public. There are no rules. Your
success depends on your ability to persuade distributors or end-users to
pay for the rights to your work.

[John Forrester is a Los Angeles based writer/director. He is currently
working on a short film/sitcom pilot called “Harsh,” about a young Irish
posse living in America.]

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