You poured your heart and soul into making your incredible short film. The filming process was a whirlwind, and now you have an amazing finished product in hand. But the work doesn’t stop there – next comes promotion and distribution so that audiences can actually see your cinematic masterpiece.
Promoting a short film can feel daunting, especially if you’re working with a small budget. But with some strategic planning and commitment to hustle, you can get your short film out there in front of the audiences it deserves.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll cover the key strategies and tips to cost-effectively promote your short film and get it the views, press coverage, festival placements, and credibility needed to propel your career to the next level.
Let’s get started!
Start Promoting Your Short Film Early in the Production Process
One of the most important rules of promoting a short film is to start early. Very early. In fact, you should begin building buzz and your promotional strategy when you’re in the middle of the production process.
Waiting until your film is 100% finished and edited to begin promotion is a rookie mistake. It takes time to build momentum and get your short film on people’s radar so you want to start putting it out there as early as possible.
Here are some key ways to kick off your short film promotion during the production process:
Create Social Media Accounts
As soon as you begin filming, take the time to create accounts on major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Come up with a memorable name and handle for your short film. Aim for something catchy and representative of the genre/vibe of your project.
Fill out the accounts completely including profile photos and descriptions. You’ll build these platforms out more as you have content to share later on.
Start Posting Teasers and Behind-the-Scenes Content
Once you begin filming, you can start generating interest in your short by posting teasers, clips, and behind-the-scenes photos on your social accounts.
Give fans an inside look at the production process – share candid shots of the actors getting ready on set, a prop being prepared, and the director framing up a shot.
Post very short video clips showing tone and style without giving away key moments or plot points. Enough to intrigue people and make them excited to see the final film.
Build a Mailing List
It’s also a smart idea to start collecting emails from fans and followers early on who may want to receive updates on your project. You can later use this mailing list to notify them of festival play, screenings, and your online release.
Make sure to include a call-to-action on your website and social profiles encouraging visitors to sign up for project updates. Consider offering an incentive like access to exclusive content or production photos for signing up.
Start a Production Blog or Vlog
Creating an ongoing production blog or vlog is a great way to document the entire filmmaking journey with your followers.
Share candid behind-the-scenes insights into the process through blog posts and short, raw video clips. Let fans feel like they are right there on set with you.
Not only will this build buzz for the release, but it will also help you accumulate great marketing content you can repurpose across platforms later on.
Optimize Your Film’s Press Kit
While you’re in production, start preparing professional press materials that shine a spotlight on why your film is unique and worthy of press.
At a minimum, your press kit should include:
- A compelling, professionally designed poster featuring key actors, and visuals that capture the style and intrigue audiences.
- An engaging film synopsis that provides an overview of the story and themes without giving away spoilers. Around 300 words.
- Director’s statement explaining their vision and passion for the film.
- List of key cast and crew members with 1-2 sentence bios highlighting experience and achievements.
- Any relevant press clippings, awards/nominations, or notable accomplishments of cast and crew.
Having these press materials ready to go will make pitching your film to press much easier down the line. You want to present your film in the best possible light to get journalists excited about covering it.
Research and Build Your Target Press List
Once you are in post-production and preparing for release, research press outlets you want to pitch for coverage and start compiling a target media list with contacts.
What film blogs, magazines, and websites make sense for coverage of your short? Think about the genre, style, themes, location of your shoot, and affiliations of your team.
For example, if your short is a comedy filmed in Austin, look at local Austin press as well as major comedy and film blogs.
Search for and follow the writers who cover content similar to yours. Follow relevant publications on social media. Get familiar with how they write headlines and story angles so you can pitch accordingly.
Look for journalist contact information like email. Building an Excel sheet or database of target press contacts will make your pitching much smoother.
Strategize Your Social Media Marketing and Content Strategy
While production is wrapping up and you have a final cut, it’s time to kick your social media strategy into high gear leading up to your launch.
Here are some tips for maximizing your social media marketing:
- Start posting excerpts, clips, trailers, and teasers from your final film. Enough to get fans hooked without spoiling the full story.
- Share fun facts, behind-the-scenes photos, and production stories from the set. Repurpose this content across platforms.
- Research relevant hashtags to use that will help people discover your content like #shortfilm #indiefilm #filmproduction
- Tag cast, crew, partners, and sponsors to expand your reach.
- Reach out to influencers in your niche to see if they will help promote your short film. Offer to send them an early screener link in exchange for sharing with their engaged follower base.
- Partner with the cast to coordinate a social media takeover where they post directly to your account in character. This can create a viral buzz.
- Make sure links to view the film are on every post and profile. Add “Link in Bio” language frequently.
- Run occasional social media giveaways/contests to incentivize follows and shares. Free merch is an easy prize.
Executing a strategic social media marketing plan in the final stretch will help drive anticipation and visibility for your release. Coordinate with your cast to engage their existing fan bases as well.
Build an Email List to Market Directly to True Fans
In addition to social media, you should be focused on building an email subscriber list for your short film’s website and promotion. This will allow you to directly communicate with fans who want updates on your project.
Make sure every website page has an email signup form front and center. Provide an opt-in incentive like exclusive content for joining.
Promote your email list on all social posts. “For exclusive updates, join our mailing list!”
Collect email addresses in person at any local pre-screening events, fundraisers, and festivals. Have a tablet handy to capture leads.
Segment your list by level of engagement so you can send tailored content to super fans vs. casual followers.
Emails are great for sharing major announcements like festival acceptances, screening events and of course, your online release date!
Focus on delivering value – share behind-the-scenes details subscribers can’t get anywhere else. This builds loyalty over time. Just avoid over-promoting through emails or people will tune them out.
A clean, well-segmented email list will become one of your most valuable assets for marketing your short film directly to true fans.
Submit Your Short Film to Key Festivals
The film festival circuit is a pivotal part of the promotion and distribution of most shorts. Festivals provide credibility, press coverage, networking opportunities, and industry exposure you just can’t get on your own.
Begin researching film festivals 6-8 months prior to completing your final cut. Make a list of festivals that align with your genre, style, and ambitions.
Some major short film festivals to consider submitting to include:
- Sundance Film Festival
- South by Southwest
- Tribeca Film Festival
- Palm Springs International ShortFest
- Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival
- HollyShorts Film Festival
- AFI Fest
- Student Academy Awards
Also, look into niche festivals centered around your specific identity, genre, or region. Sometimes these provide more opportunities to stand out as a big fish in a small pond.
Once you’ve compiled your target list, note the entry deadlines and requirements for each. Written loglines, preview links, in-person screenings, and entry fees are common requirements.
Leverage any festival acceptances or nominations to promote your film through announcements on your website and social channels. Pitch journalists who previously covered that festival to do a write-up on your acceptance.
Attending the festivals in person also provides networking, panel speaking opportunities, and more exposure. Just budget for travel/lodging costs in advance.
While competitive, a strong festival run can be a difference-maker in getting industry exposure and audiences for shorts with limited promotion budgets.
Host Local Screenings to Connect with Your Community
Hosting local in-person screenings is a great way to generate buzz and gain fans within your city or region. Especially as you await your online digital release.
See if local indie theaters will host a screening event for your short. Offer to promote it and sell tickets. You can make it a larger showcase of multiple short films.
DIY screening events at local bars, music venues, or art galleries are another engaging option. Offer ticket discounts if attendees pre-order food/drinks.
Outdoor screenings at local parks in the warmer months are also fun for shorts. Attendees can bring blankets and snacks.
Use services like Eventbrite to create free or paid ticketing pages with trailers and film info to promote the experience.
Be sure to invite local press to attend, cover, or even introduce the screening. Have postcards, posters, and merch on hand.
Live events allow you to connect directly with engaged audiences and build your community. Make the most of them before your film is available for streaming everywhere online.
Distribute Your Short Film on Targeted Online Platforms
While you may aim to hit the major film festival circuit first, eventually you’ll want to distribute your short film digitally so it is widely accessible online.
Here are some top online platforms worth uploading to:
- YouTube – The world’s largest video platform. Post natively or use a distribution service like Bitpix to post and analyze data.
- Vimeo – Popular with filmmakers. Offers upgraded pro accounts to enable password protection and analyze viewer demographics.
- Amazon Prime Video – Their Shorts TV category has a wide reach, though films must be picked up by invitation only.
- IMDb TV – Popular ad-supported streaming option owned by Amazon. Get exposure alongside bigger budget content.
- Omeleto – Curated platform specialized in narrative short films. Submit for consideration.
- Dust – Science fiction-focused platform that pays cash to creators. Requires application.
- Short of the Week – Curation site but solid exposure if you make their weekly showcase.
Film festivals may request or require your film not to be online during their event for eligibility. But once your festival run concludes, get your film online to maximize viewership.
Embed your shorts on your website prominently and share viewing links across marketing materials and social media. Pitch relevant websites in your niche to feature or review the film and include a viewing link.
Distributing across both live screening events and targeted online platforms will help you reach the right audiences anywhere they consume content.
Key Takeaways on How to Promote Your Short Film
Launching an effective promotional strategy takes work, but pays dividends in reaching the widest audiences possible for your labor-of-love short film.
Here are some key tips to keep in mind:
- Start promoting early – build social media and email lists during production to plant seeds.
- Assemble polished press kits to pitch media and festivals.
- Strategically leverage social media and emails leading up to and after release.
- Target film festivals that align with your genre and aims.
- Host local in-person screening events to engage your community.
- Upload your finished film onto platforms where your audiences are active.
- Don’t get discouraged. Promotion takes patience and persistence.
With the right commitment and hustle, you can get your incredible short film the visibility it deserves. Now get out there and start promoting!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you market a short movie?
- Start promotion early in production through social media, email lists, and blogs/vlogs.
- Create polished press kits with loglines, photos, and cast/crew bios to pitch media.
- Promote screenings and festival play through website, email, and social media.
- Distribute on targeted online platforms like Vimeo, Dust, and Omeleto.
- Leverage influencers and casts’ existing fanbases to expand reach.
How do you make a short film go viral?
- Have a unique, attention-grabbing concept that resonates emotionally.
- Include Easter eggs and subtle details that reward multiple views.
- Market to influencers in your niche and supply shareable clips/images.
- Promote strategically on social media using viral trends, hashtags, etc.
- Partner with brands for sponsored content and leverage their reach.
- Run contests and sweepstakes related to the film.
How do you engage an audience in a short film?
- Have a compelling hook in the first 10 seconds.
- Cast talented actors who quickly build connection through performance.
- Tell the story visually with engaging cinematography over exposition.
- Evoke emotional response through relatable characters and stakes.
- Leave the audience wanting more at the end through cliffhangers.
Can I sell my short film to Netflix?
While rare, it is possible for Netflix to buy short films. You usually need a reputable agent to facilitate the deal. Your short would need to win major awards and acclaim at high-profile film festivals first to get on Netflix’s radar.
Who to sell short films to?
- Online platforms like Omeleto, Dust, Crypt TV, Gunpowder & Sky
- TV anthology shows like Love Death & Robots, Black Mirror
- Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video
- Advertising agencies & brands for commercial use
- Niche websites in your topic/genre vertical
Do short films make money?
It is very difficult for most short films to directly make money, though they can lead to paid opportunities down the road like feature film deals. Ways shorts may profit:
- Winning cash prizes at festival competitions.
- Getting acquired by a streaming platform or TV show.
- Picked up for commercial work by brands/agencies.
- Leveraging success to raise funds for the next project.
- Monetizing through the YouTube Partner Program
Can you make a living off of short films?
For most creators, short films alone are unlikely to provide a sustainable living. However, they can serve as powerful calling cards to demonstrate talent and get hired for paid gigs based on the success of shorts, including:
- Getting signed by an agency for representation
- Fielding offers to write/direct commercials
- Getting hired to direct music videos
- Getting hired by brands as an influencer/content creator
- Landing a TV show or feature film based on the short
Do short films do well on YouTube?
Short films can certainly gain traction on YouTube, but the platform tends to favor frequently posted vlog/tutorial/topical content. Tips for shorts on YouTube:
- Have a strong, searchable title and descriptive metadata.
- Join the YouTube Partner Program to monetize views.
- Promote new uploads heavily to initial viewers.
- Use YouTube ads to expand reach.
- Add subtitles to localize content.
- Upload a series of thematically linked shorts.
What makes a successful short video?
- An original, compelling premise executed concisely.
- Clever editing that builds tension and interest.
- Striking visuals and cinematography.
- Emotional resonance through relatable characters/storytelling.
- Strong payoff ending that satisfies yet leaves you wanting more.
- Promotion across platforms where target audiences are active.