02 Feb 2023

Short films can have long lives in new media

Ajitesh Sharma, short filmmaker, feels that in short films, it's not always the best that survives; it's the smartest that survies. Sundance Film Festival received over 6,000 short submissions this year. Statistically, it is not just a number but also a significant indicator of the huge number of short films produced around the world. But what is the economics of this market? Let’s try to explore. Even in the age of new media, short films are not considered a profit-making medium, but as a filmmaker’s show-reel or stepping-stone to features. Worldwide, there are not many professional companies, groups or studios that deal specifically in shorts, and neither is there any dedicated audience section for short films. Documentaries enjoy better professional setups, audience base and also sold as hot cakes in international markets, but shorts have yet to be graced like that. There are mediums of exhibition, such as home video, video on demand, satellite TV that can be exploited for short films, but again the choices are limited and market is not uniform and matured, it differs country to country. The real problem for the short filmmakers is that they know what to make, they know how to make, but they don’t know what to do with the film after making it. Majority of shorts finally ends up screening for closed group of people, locally or maximum at some regional or national festival. Film students, film enthusiasts & groups, and prospective feature filmmakers are usually the one who put their everything on stake to make that short they love but unfortunately not many sees light of the day. Globally, generally the short films that do well at top international festivals have very good chances of being handsomely sold. Other than that a unique, contemporary or controversial subject with a strong word of mouth might do well. The two major platforms for any short filmmaker are American and European film festivals and markets. There are also first-rate festivals in Australia and Asia, but markets are yet notch behind their counterparts. In Asia, Japan, China and Korea are developing film markets, with India yet to fully adopt the world cinema culture. However even film markets are skewed towards features & documentaries and shorts again have a tough time. Surviving rule for the shorts, it’s not always the best that survives; it’s the smartest that survives. In India the gap in short films is not of talent or quality but of knowledge and awareness. Ignorance about the right platforms hit the short filmmakers most. There are few Indian companies who specifically deals in short films, but still a profitable and sustainable model is yet to be developed. There is a latent opportunity in Indian film market, especially independent filmmakers, but Indian corporate giants have overlooked it over the years. Instead of waiting for new opportunities or markets to get develop, the filmmakers have to look for existing opportunities, internationally. Agree it is costly but so is filmmaking. As more and more Indian short films will get international exposure and rewarded, the new opportunities and markets in India would automatically be created. So it is about re-inventing the wheel, but then wheels are better than walking. To sum it up some of my personal advices for all short filmmakers, plan length of your film (15 minutes is the best), do not hesitate to discuss it helps, get educated about all national and international opportunities, be prepared to face negative reactions & results, and be patient, it helps.