In recent years, short films have grown rapidly in popularity among audiences and filmmakers alike. The rise of video streaming services also now provides indie filmmakers access to massive potential audiences globally through platforms like Netflix.
However, while it’s easier to distribute short films, the competition to get acquired by top streaming platforms remains fierce. For indie filmmakers with a limited budget and credentials, it can seem nearly impossible to get your short film picked up by Netflix.
But there are ways to stand out and boost your chances if you understand Netflix’s acquisition process and optimize your short film appropriately. This comprehensive guide covers key strategies and tips for filmmakers on how to catch the eye of Netflix and finally get your short film featured in front of millions of viewers.
Understand Netflix’s Short Film Acquisition Process
The first step is researching and understanding Netflix’s process for licensing and acquiring short films. This will allow you to tailor your approach and better target the right Netflix contacts.
Here are key aspects of Netflix’s short film acquisition process that you should be aware of:
Submission Guidelines and Requirements
Netflix has clear submission guidelines and technical requirements for features and short films outlined on their website. While short films are acquired on a case-by-case basis, their baseline technical specifications mention:
- High-resolution film elements (2K or higher)
- 5.1 surround sound preferred
- Closed captioning
- Subtitles for all visible text.
Make sure you have high-quality digital file masters of your short film that meet these specifications. Lower-quality submissions are likely ignored.
Identify the Acquisitions Team
For short films, Netflix has an acquisitions team dedicated to identifying and licensing original, independent films. Getting in touch with the right Netflix contacts is key.
You can find contact information for the Netflix shorts team on the OLSCS (Open Locations Short Film Showcase) website. OLSCS partners with Netflix to highlight diverse independent shorts.
Alternatively, you can try contacting Netflix acquisitions executives on LinkedIn or via film events and mutual connections. A personalized email pitch directly addressing the relevant Netflix shorts buyer is ideal.
Types of Short Films Netflix Acquires
While Netflix licenses short films across genres, many acquired titles tend to be:
- Live-action fictional narrative films under 30 minutes long.
- Prizewinners and standouts from major film festivals like Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca.
- Films with a unique premise, critical acclaim, and buzz from festivals or online.
- Works from burgeoning indie directors that show distinctive filmmaking voices.
So crafting a compelling, festival-worthy short film in the sweet spot of 5-20 minutes length is recommended to appeal to Netflix.
Optimize Your Short Film for Netflix Success
With an understanding of what content Netflix looks for, you can now focus on optimizing all aspects of your short film to appeal to their standards:
Length and Production Quality
Ensure your short film’s runtime is ideally between 5-20 minutes long. Unless you are an established director, it’s unlikely Netflix will acquire shorts longer than 30 minutes.
The overall production quality of cinematography, audio, editing, and more should meet film festival standards. Having a strong festival pedigree or awards recognition will boost your chances with Netflix as well.
Metadata and Captioning
Provide a quality HD master with proper metadata like title, runtime, credits, logline synopsis, etc.
Netflix also requires subtitles and closed captioning for 100% of dialogue and relevant audio. Invest in professional captioning services to meet their standards.
Ratings and Content Warnings
Submit your film with appropriate MPAA ratings or content warnings for language, violence, etc. Familiarize yourself with Netflix content rating guidelines.
Rights and Clearances
You should own proper rights or secure clearances and licensing for all content in your short like music, archival footage, etc. Netflix will require proof of worldwide distribution rights.
Build Your Credentials to Stand Out
Success with major film festivals like Sundance or an impressive online reception can make your short film stand out during Netflix’s evaluation.
Target Key Film Festivals
Research relevant short film categories and programming at major festivals. Submit your finished short to multiple top festivals to build prestigious credentials.
Even official selection at reputable regional festivals helps demonstrate the quality of your work. Work with a savvy festival strategist if needed.
Go Viral Online
Outside of festivals, you can attract buzz by showcasing your short online and leveraging social media. Participate in short film contests and challenges hosted by sites like Vimeo and YouTube.
Building an audience and having your short organically trend online helps demonstrate potential mainstream appeal to Netflix.
Create a Strong Press Kit
Have a polished press kit featuring a compelling logline, synopsis, biography, still images, credits list, director’s statement etc. ready to include with Netflix submissions.
This helps sell your creative vision and production credentials through marketing collateral other than just the film alone.
Develop an Online Presence
Have a dedicated website to showcase all your films and accomplishments as a director. Build your social media channels and newsletter list to engender organic interest in your work.
This digital footprint helps Netflix evaluate your viability for their platform as an up-and-coming filmmaker.
Network and Connect with the Right People
Success in getting short films on Netflix often relies on who you know and connect with. Networking with well-connected industry insiders and influencers can provide a crucial foot in the door.
Attend Film Events
Attend film festivals, markets, conferences, and networking events to connect in person with Netflix acquisitions execs and important industry figures relevant to shorts.
Exchange contact info, share your work, and pitch your film to them directly when possible. In-person connections can help significantly in getting on Netflix’s radar early.
Partner with Experienced Reps
Work with a reputable film producer’s rep, sales agent, or distributor who specializes in shorts. They will have existing buyer relationships that can facilitate pitching to Netflix.
The fee involved is well worth the connections, insights, and representation they offer in getting your short film to a wider audience.
Build Social Media Connections
Use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with Netflix shorts buyers and other important industry leaders. Comment on their posts and engage genuinely to get noticed.
Social media outreach done persistently but politely can help strengthen your chances of direct contact and consideration.
Pitch and Follow Up with Netflix Relentlessly
Once you have optimized your short film assets and connected with the right folks, it’s time for relentless and strategic pitching.
Craft a Strong Pitch Email
Send a concise, well-written email directly addressing your identified Netflix shorts contact, introducing yourself and your festival-recognized short film.
Highlight key details – logline, runtime, accolades, talent involved, potential mainstream appeal etc. Provide a link to the film and press kit. Follow email best practices to get through spam filters.
Follow Up Regularly
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back on your initial pitch. Persistently follow up every 2-4 weeks with status update emails recapping any new festival selections or online traction.
Reiterate politely why you feel your short film would be a great addition to the diverse and creator-focused Netflix shorts library.
Attend Industry Events
Look for opportunities to pitch your short film directly to Netflix execs at film events and conferences. Respectfully approach them, introduce yourself, and offer a DVD copy of your short.
Brief in-person pitches with a sample screener can help boost your chances of getting shortlisted for acquisition.
Explore Additional Distribution Avenues
While actively targeting Netflix, explore other distribution options too like targeted online platforms and niche streaming services. This helps build audience and industry buzz.
Netflix may be more likely to license your short if it already has momentum on other platforms like Amazon Prime. So don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Getting your indie short film acquired by Netflix is a massive achievement that can take your career to new heights as a filmmaker. But nothing happens overnight.
Focus on continuously improving your craft, expanding your network, targeting the right opportunities, and persisting politely to get Netflix’s attention.
Remember – Netflix’s shorts team is actively looking for fresh directorial voices with unique perspectives. So keep perfecting your skills and creating festival-caliber short films that captivate any audience. The Netflix deal will happen when the time is right.
Stay motivated and believe in yourself. We hope this guide provides helpful perspectives and strategies for finally getting your short film showcased to millions of viewers on Netflix.
Keep pushing your creative boundaries and crafting compelling stories. Your time to shine on the world’s largest streaming stage will come soon.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to put a movie on Amazon Prime?
Amazon Prime Video Direct has no upfront costs to submit your film or show. Once your title is selected and streamed on Prime Video, you earn royalties based on the number of hours watched. Amazon retains a distribution fee of 15% for exclusive titles.
How do I get my short film on a streaming service?
- Research and target relevant streaming services that accept short film submissions like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo, YouTube, and more.
- Ensure your short film meets their technical guidelines and quality standards.
- Submit via their website portal or pitch to acquisitions contacts directly.
- Follow up persistently and explore distribution through aggregators.
How do I pitch a story on Amazon Prime?
- Identify the relevant Amazon Studios acquisitions execs for original movies/series.
- Send a logline, synopsis, and short pitch deck outlining your story’s key details.
- Follow up regularly to check status and provide additional materials if requested.
How do I sell my short film on Netflix?
- Identify and directly contact Netflix’s short acquisitions team.
- Send a compelling email pitch including a logline, link to your film, laurels, and press kit.
- Network via events to connect in person with Netflix executives.
- Persistently follow up on your submission every few weeks.
Does Prime pay for movies?
Yes, Amazon Prime Video Direct offers royalties based on hours watched for exclusive titles. Non-exclusive titles earn a flat rate per view. For originals, Amazon Studios pays upfront licensing fees.
Can I sell an idea to Amazon?
You cannot directly sell a raw idea to Amazon. You can pitch your idea for a movie or TV series by submitting to Amazon Studios through their website. But it needs to be developed into a solid concept with characters, outlines, etc.
How do I sell a script to Amazon Prime?
- Research Amazon Studios’ submission guidelines for scripts/pilots.
- Register on their website and submit your script through the portal.
- Follow up regularly on status. You may need to secure a literary agent to facilitate deals.
How do I get my short film noticed?
- Submit it to major film festivals and niche online festivals to gain visibility.
- Promote it heavily on social media and film sites like Vimeo.
- Reach out to relevant online publications for reviews and features.
- Build an email list to keep fans engaged.
How do you get paid for short films?
- Upfront licensing fees from streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu
- Revenue share from views on YouTube, Vimeo
- Royalties when sold on sites like VHX
- Screening fees from live events/theatres
Where can you sell a short film?
- Streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
- Online outlets like Vimeo On Demand, VHX, Seed&Spark, Revry
- TV channels and cable networks
- Educational distributors and libraries
- International film markets