As an accomplished filmmaker whose shorts have played True/False, HotDocs, the Toronto International Film Festival, and New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, Sophy Romvari understands the short film market. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty small one. Not only are there limited opportunities for shorts to be seen outside the insular but prestigious scope of the festival circuit, but there are even fewer opportunities to monetize the work. For now, however, Romvari has cooked up a solution to the former, and hopes to eventually figure out the latter as well.
Her Exquisite Shorts Program is “a space that allows filmmakers an opportunity to highlight work they care about, are inspired by, or that they simply believe deserves a platform,” according to a shiny new website, which Romvari launched earlier this month. “Our unique process of curation will encourage communication and support between filmmakers, as the baton is passed from one filmmaker to the next.”
The concept is simple: Every two weeks, a new film will screen on the site that was chosen by the filmmaker whose work showed previously. The filmmaker will appear via video to introduce the film and explain why they chose it from the pool of submissions, and the process repeats itself. The first short will be chosen by “Lingua Franca” filmmaker Isabel Sandoval, whose first two features are currently streaming on the Criterion Channel. By connecting filmmakers directly through their work, Romvari hopes to offer filmmakers insight into the curation process while also building community amongst creators.
“I’m hoping it gives an opportunity to filmmakers to highlight other filmmakers’ work,” Romvari said during a recent interview with IndieWire. “And that they can see the value in their own work by being paid for it, and by being given he opportunity to curate themselves.”
While the $200 dollar screening fee is mainly an honorarium at this point, she hopes to be able to increase the fee as the platform grows in prominence. Romvari raised initial funding for the project through IndieGoGo, but she’s eyeing brand sponsorships and hoping film institutions will see the value in supporting filmmakers at the beginning of their careers.
“There are a lot of filmmakers that are making shorts because they can’t financially make a feature, so it’s important to invest in filmmakers at that stage,” she said. “Especially filmmaking institutions that want to support minority filmmakers and filmmakers from different backgrounds … it seems like a missed opportunity.”
Even though short film is how almost all filmmakers begin making movies, there traditionally hasn’t been much support for the medium in the United States. While micro-short-form content gets shared in viral-sized chunks, and serialized episodics reign over our streaming platforms, somehow the art of the short film often seems to remain the purview of festivals and film schools.
The few online platforms for shorts distribution, like Vimeo and Short of the Week, offer limited exposure that rarely breaks out beyond a narrow scope. “I don’t know how much people in the industry are really paying attention to those things. They’re good hype for your film, but it’s kind of hard to value it cause there’s no revenue from that, it’s just the exposure bucks,” Romvari said. “All kinds of companies are trying to acquire shorts, but very few are actually paying any sort of license fee, they’re just trying to get content.”
And yet platforms are starting to blossom, including Exquisite Shorts and Kentucker Audley’s NoBudge, which recently opened up its own streaming platform that includes a majority of short films among its offerings. As Exquisite Shorts grows, Romvari plans to host virtual events and industry mixers for all of the filmmakers who have submitted their work.
Submissions for Exquisite Shorts are currently open for a nominal five dollar admission fee, which Romvari will waive for anyone who doesn’t have the funds. “It’s a bit of an experiment,” she said. “It’s gonna be very different from week to week, and I’m hoping it’s going to turn into a bit of a community space as well.”