How I Made Over $90,000 Selling my Short Film + Video Tutorials
Making a Short film can be tough but selling a short film can be impossible. Here’s my story on how I did both.
I directed a small action short film a few years back called BROKEN (Watch it on Indie Film Hustle TV) I shot the short film on MiniDV Tape (yes I’m old) on the Panasonic DVX 100a, the indie film workhorse of its day.
My team and I filmed it in West Palm Beach Florida (not exactly the Mecca of the film industry) and it starred only local, no named actors.
Now once the filming was over I marketed the living hell out of that short film. It went on to screen at over 250 international film festivals, won countless awards and was covered by over 300 news outlets.
That little short film had a life of its own. I even got a review from legendary film critic Roger Ebert (to hear the full story on how that happen to take a listen to this podcast: Getting Attention from Influencers & Gatekeepers)
“BROKEN is essentially a demonstration of the mastery of horror imagery and techniques. Effective and professional.” – Roger Ebert
Now you must be asking,
“But Alex how the hell did you make money with it?”
Well, I knew that no one would pay “real money” for a 20-minute short film, shot on MiniDV, with no name actors, and from a first time director to boot. So I thought like a Filmtrepreneur and planned to create a guerilla indie film school with over 3 hours of footage, tutorials, commentaries and more.
By creating all the supplemental material and packaging with the short film on DVD I created a viable product for the marketplace.
VOD (Video on Demand) and digital download technology were just getting off the ground and still very expensive if it worked at all. Youtube was not “Youtube” yet, it had just launched. So DVD was the only way to go.
I went after every message board and film news outlet I could get my hands on. I’d had created so much hype around the release that on day one I sold over 250 DVDs for $20.00 a pop. That’s $5000!
The orders kept coming and I went on to sell over 5000 copies worldwide (and counting), shipping them out of my bedroom in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
10 years later I’m still selling copies today, as crazy as might sound. I’ve probably have generated well over $90,000 selling that little short film over the years. All because I understood my marketplace and what it needed.
At the time there was nothing on the market like the BROKEN DVD; no courses on how to make a low budget indie feature or short film with low budget technology. BROKEN has found a new life in Indie Film Hustle’s first online educational course “BROKEN (Watch it on Indie Film Hustle TV)” More on that later.
BONUS: Online Filmmaking Courses
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Netflix for Filmmakers and Screenwriters)
- Martin Scorsese Film Directing Masterclass
- Ron Howard Film Directing Masterclass
- Spike Lee Film Directing Masterclass
- Werner Herzog Filmmaking MasterClass
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting MasterClass
- Mira Nair Independent Filmmaking Masterclass
- David Mamet Dramatic Writing MasterClass
- Shonda Rhimes Masterclass: Learn Television Writing from the Creator of Scandal
- Steve Martin Teaches Comedy Writing & Acting MasterClass
- Annie Leibovitz Masterclass: Learn Photography from the Legend
- Jimmy Chin Masterclass: Learn Adventure Photography
- Judd Apatow Comedy Writing/Directing Masterclass
- Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
How to Make a Short Film (Infographic + Video Course)
Making a short film is your first step to becoming a feature filmmaker. Check out the infographic from the good folks over at Canal+ and the video course below, they will show you how to make a mini-movie masterpiece.
One tip I can give you. Shoot something simple. The masters all start off with something small. Still not convinced? Check out some of cinematic masters’s first offering to the film world for inspiration.
Martin Scorsese’s What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?
Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket
Neill Blomkamp’s Alive in Joburg
How to Make a Short Film Infographic
How to Make a Short Film
Professors and students from Santa Fe University of Art and Design explain exactly what it takes to make a short film. Hear about the pre-production (coming up with an idea, writing a screenplay, creating storyboards, scouting locations, raising money, and recruiting a crew), filming, and post-production processes. Watch examples of student’s short films at the end of this video.
Seven Things to Know About Making Short Film!
Here are seven important things to know about short films, from efficient exposition, to what the best length is when submitting to film festivals!
Now check out Filmmaking Hacks – How to Shoot and Market Your Indie Film. Included in this indie short film school collection is over 6 hours & over 50 videos. Filmmaking Hacks goes through pre-production, production, post-production and what to do after your done shooting your indie short film. The Ultimate Guerrilla Indie Film School for filmmakers who ACTUALLY made it happen!
Included in this indie film school collection is close to 7 hours & over 50 tutorial videos. Filmmaking Hacks goes through pre-production, production, post-production and what to do after your done shooting your indie feature or short film.
Included in IFH’s Guerilla Indie Film School:
- Storyboards: The ENTIRE Collection
- Storyboards: Comparison with Final Shots
- Concept Art / Location Comparison
- Costume Design Gallery
- Rehearsal Comparison with Final Scene
- Blocking Action in a Scene
- Evolution of an Action Sequence
- A Director’s Best Friend – Finding Your Shot
- Casting an Indie Short Film
- Designing a Cinematic World
- Production: Recipe: “How to Make a Guacamole Gun”
- Special Effects Make-up Breakdown
- Indie Film Stunt School
- How to Get Pro Looking Guns with Little or No $$$
- Tips on Producing an Indie Feature or Short Film
- Fly on the Wall: Shooting an Action Short Film
- Breaking Down Stunts: RPB
- Fight Sequence Breakdown: RPB
- Black Arts: Practical Effects
- Color Correction Comparison
- Visual Effects Breakdowns
- Title Sequence Breakdown
- Visual Effects in Indie Short Film
- Cinematography in Indie Short Film
- Sound Design/Composing in Indie Short Film
Indie Film Marketing:
- After the Short: The Making of BROKEN
- Marketing: Promoting a Short Film
- How to Design a Film Website
- Breaking Down the Marketing: BROKEN
- Breaking Down the Marketing: CYN
- Breaking Down the Marketing: Red Princess Blues
10 Filmmaking Commentary Tracks Covering:
- Visual Effects
- Music Score/Sound Design
- Cast and Crew
- Film Geeks Unite
I also include a ton of other bonus goodies as well. Click here to check it out: Filmmaking Hacks: How to Shoot and Market Your Indie Film
With today’s technology being sooooo cheap and accessible, indie filmmakers have a better chance than ever to make a living creating content and making indie films.
Next year I’ll be creating a course on Indie Film Marketing and Self Distribution which will go over some of the following topics:
- How to build an image for your indie feature or short film
- Understanding your marketplace
- Does your indie film have an audience?
- Making your indie film look bigger than it is
- How to make money with your film
- How to use Social Media to blow up sales of your indie film
- How to package your indie film online to maximize your income
- How to automate the process of selling your project
…and much more. Sign up for my list below and you’ll get a HUGE DISCOUNT on upcoming IFH Courses. Take a listen to the podcast for the whole story and a HUGE DISCOUNT for the Filmmaking Hacks: How to Shoot and Market Your Indie Film.
Until then keep filming, keep that hustle going and don’t give up!
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE.
- Filmmaking Hacks: How to Shoot and Market Your Indie Film
- Twitter Hacks: 10,000 True Fans in 10 Weeks
- Film Festival Hacks: How to Submit to Film Festivals Like a Pro
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
- BROKEN (Watch it on Indie Film Hustle TV).
If you like this show on crowdfunding then watch:
How to Build an Indie Film Empire with Robert Rodriguez
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Transcription – Indie Film Hustle Podcast Episode #24.
How I Made $90,000 Selling my Short Film
Welcome to the Indie Film Hustle Podcast Episode Number 24.
“A film is or should be more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick
Broadcasting from the back alley in Hollywood. It’s the Indie Film Hustle Podcast where we show you how to survive and thrive as an Indie Filmmaker in the jungles of the film business and here’s your host Alex Ferrari.
Thank you guys so much for tuning in. I am your humble host Alex Ferrari. Don’t forget to head over to freefilmbook.com that’s freefilmbook.com to download your free audio book from audible.com . So this episode today I wanted to talk about a question that I get asked a ton. It’s something that I did almost ten years ago now almost eleven, almost eleven years ago at this point and I talk a lot about this little short film I think its the most talked about short film in history. But my film that I did ten years ago called ‘BROKEN’.
I was able to do something very special with that film back then and continue to do stuff with that film and my other works today and I wanted to share with you guys a little bit of how was able to generate a substantial amount of money selling and self distributing Broken and now my other works as well. So when I created Broken it was a short. I’ll give you a quick story about it if I haven’t mentioned it already on the show but the quick story of BROKEN is that it was a shot as a small short film. Shot for about eight thousand dollars. Shot in mini DV back in two thousand four. There was no high end technology. So I was editing our final cut shot on a mini DV.
But what I did do was create a look for the film because of my post-production experience and I took the format of mini DV and did something really cool with it that a lot of people hadn’t seen before. So what I did was did a lot of color grading it made it look you know very filmic in the way it was and a lot of filmmakers started asking me how I was doing it and how I did it. So when when I released the trailer like when I first started the movie I had no plans on selling it I don’t think. I didn’t understand what I was going to do with it.
I just wanted to try to get it out there and see what would happen with it but as I started posting in a place I suppose in the trailer. In places people kept asking me how did you do those visual effects which by the way we did over one hundred visual effects in this little short film. So people ask me how to do the visual effects, how did you do make that camera look like that. I have that camera which was the DVX100A the work horse of its day. I still love that little camera. They were asking me how are you able to do it. I can’t do it. I have that camera. What are your techniques. So that started giving me the idea when I first was about to start doing BROKEN.
I looked everywhere for some sort of resources to be able to make BROKEN as far as DVD tutorial something to show me how to make a mini DV movie editing on Final Cut Pro. Just something to teach you how to make independent film and believe it or not. Back in two thousand and four there wasn’t a whole lot. There was actually nothing. I couldn’t find a thing about how to make movies for that kind of budget, with that kind of technology. YouTube was just it’s infancy. It was just getting started and it definitely wasn’t owned by Google at the time. So the quality was really horrible as well. It just. There was nothing there. So I saw that there was a a hole in the marketplace. So I was like well you know what I’m going to do this. I’m going to learn a whole bunch of stuff on how I did it along the way and I documented everything.
I had two documentary crews following us through the entire five day shoot. Documentary crew being my friends and we shot just hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of behind the scenes footage of how we made this movie. So then I went on and spent about six weeks I would imagine to create over three hours or so of behind the scenes, tutorials kind of like a Guerrilla film school and put it on DVD. Now while this was going on. I was creating a buzz about the movie.
For about six months I was creating a lot of buzz about the movie it was getting into film festivals. We were winning awards. We were getting written up. We went to Sundance Film Festival. Now I know this. Now I was like I was doing a product launch. A lot of people talk about doing a product launch online. There’s a sequence that you go by and I was doing it and I didn’t even know what I was doing at the time but I was actually creating a product launch sequence. Creating anticipation for the product. So when I started release, everybody was very excited about the movie and then when I announced that I was creating this DVD about how to make the movie and how I made it and all the tricks and tips of how I did it and it was so full of information, so full of rich content the Indie Film Community at the time really really just embraced it and went crazy for and started sharing and started talking about it.
People are already getting excited for I don’t even do any preorders. I should have done preorders. I didn’t do any preorders. All I did was like hey if you want to know when it comes out. Just sign up for my email list and I was even getting email list at the time and I was something in vogue back in two thousand four. So I was doing all this kind of instinctually. I can’t say there was a master plan that I was doing this back. But so anyway the day opens that I launch it all of a sudden I just hear. All my emails keep coming in from Pay Pal and we sold over two hundred fifty DVD’s in the first day which was about five grand. Because we were selling the DVD’s at wwenty bucks a pop. Right partner and I had to run to the post office. I had to handwrite.
All of the addresses, handstamp all the addresses. We didn’t have any infrastructure laid out, any printing postage. Nothing. So it was pretty crazy and then it just kept building and kept selling and kept selling, it kept building and building. But I was able to create a tremendous amount of press and a tremendous amount of energy around the product but it was all about creating a piece of a product if you will that had content for people. Like I know I would have been able to sell the short film by itself. It just didn’t make any sense. It has no stars in it. Yet an action genre and you know there’s a lot of visual effects and things like that in it but there was just no way someone was going to pay five ten twenty bucks to buy this on a DVD.
There was no digital downloads, no beauty at the time that was at least accessible to any filmmakers like myself. So when I was able to do this I was able to create this product that had a tremendous amount of content. People just went crazy for it and then start talking about it and start sharing it. And what I was able to do is generate or sold. We ended up selling over five thousand DVD’s over the course of the years have gone by and it was all because I was able to identify a hole in the marketplace and understand what they wanted and fed. My marketplace fed my audience what they wanted and what they were asking for. It was pretty humbling.
Honestly the whole process of what happened with BROKEN so I try to do something similar later on with my next film SIN where I was able to do some stuff with some digital downloads to iTunes but that was a kind of walky way of doing it. I didn’t create a bunch of content like I did with BROKEN was just wasn’t as big of a movie. And then years later I created my movie Red Prince’s Genesis which is the animated prequel to Red Prince’s Blues which is the live action short for my feature film that I hope to make one day. And I create a whole bunch of content around that.
So what I decided to do recently is to create a new course that I call filmmaking hacks. How to shoot and market your independent film encompassing all of my movies and giving you almost seven hours of how to do stuff like how to everything from pre-production, production, post-production, how to market your film. I do brand new content on how I marketed the films, how I went through it, how I built the websites. What techniques I used as far as theories and the concepts that I used why I was doing certain things still hold very true today. So if you guys are interested in getting a hold of this brand new course which has almost nine hours and it’s growing because it’s a living course.
I would constantly be adding things to it as we move forward over the months and years. You can go to filmmakinghacks.com that’s filmmakinghacks.com and if you just go to that website you’re going to automatically get a discount or from the ninety seven dollars. It’s actually go up to one hundred forty seven dollars soon and you’ll get it for twenty five bucks. So I think that’s an insane deal for nine hours of what it’s amazing content that I’ve put together.
So again head over to filmmakinghacks.com. And I’ll also leave a link in the show notes at www.indiefilmhustle.com/024 . So to wrap it up guys. Create, how I was able to create this kind of amount of money with a short film is these key elements you have to remember. Now write these down. Understand your audience. Understand where your audience is go to that area where they are where they’re hanging out whether that be on Facebook groups whether that be in forums, at film festivals wherever they might be hanging out. Example but if their vegan chefs don’t go to the food blogs. There are so many different places you can go just find out who your audience is OK.
Once you find out who the audience is then start crowdsourcing them, start interacting with them. Start you know asking them what they want. When you find that information out then build a product that you can sell to them through your movie. So whatever that movie is and I’m using the word product. But it’s really your movie. So write the movie around it around what they want. Build a product based about what they want. Whether that be hats, T. shirts, extra materials of film schools whatever. Whatever they want if it’s you’re doing a movie about vegan chefs or rom com about vegan chefs my God. You’d be a fool not to create a whole series of videos on how to make vegan like you know a vegan chef a vegan recipes and show them how to do it because that’s what they want.
You know that’s something that they would want to do. If you’re making a horror movie. It would be awesome to do tutorials about how you’re making you know the heads explode. How are you doing it you know how you making the fake blood recipes. Stuff like that. Believe it or not people who really really love especially if you’re focusing on other filmmakers or other people who are trying to do what you’re doing. Once you do that then you sell the product to them and how you do. How you sell the product them. In two thousand four two thousand five DVD.’s were the answer. There were no other options. Today I would not suggest you do a DVD.
It’s not a great place. It’s a lot of up front costs and time and all that stuff. I wouldn’t do blu ray either. What I would do is strictly a video on demand through companies like VHX, Vimeo, Amazon Video Direct any of those guys just do it directly to your consumer and cut out the middleman as much as you can with your project and again this is a case by case basis. Some projects have budgets that you know that. This is a much longer conversation about. Which project
makes sense to do VOD and do this for a short film and what I was doing it made perfect sense. I spent eight thousand dollars. You know I was able to recoup my money and then some with what I was able to do. If you were doing one hundred thousand dollar movie you better have a heck of a marketing plan and a heck of a business plan on how are you going to be able to recoup your money.
And that goes into crowdsourcing, crowd building, crowd funding all those kind of different topics but that’s how I was able to do you know generate a tremendous amount of money. Close over ninety thousand dollars over the years. Selling BROKEN on DVD and now I’m continuing to sell not only some of the the hand picked stuff from BROKEN that is still very relevant. I’m not going to give you tutorial on mini DV. But a lot of the cool stuff that was still very very relevant today I had picked that by creating and also created a bunch of stuff for Red Princess Blues, Red Princess Blues Genesis and then marketing materials on how to market all of a plus tons of commentary tracks on composing in visual effects and all that kind of stuff for Indie film. So I also include in filmmaking hacks my book ‘The Art of broken’.
I’ve always been a big fan of all the art of books like ‘Art of Matrix’, ‘Art of Sin City’ and so on and I can rock in and create and I put together this book with all of the artwork from not only BROKEN but for the defunct feature film version of BROKEN but there was so much artwork and you can kind of see as an example of what can be done with a short film for God’s sakes. But it’s another product line and we did sell it hard copies of it during the days of BROKEN when it came out. We sold a handful of them but I wanted to give this to you guys not only as an example of what can be done with a project but also just for fun for people who just want to see all those cool amazing artwork all the artists did.
I also include all the marketing materials of the four movies that I did. So all the poster work, all the kind of extras I did on the websites and things like that. So you can kind of see the progression of how I was able to market all of our films and how we were able to get into over five hundred film festivals and so on and on top of that you also get my e-book on how to get into a film festivals for cheap or free. And that gives you a complete detail explanation of how I was able to get into over five hundred film festivals after the first thirty or so film festivals. I spent. I spent over a thousand dollars and submission fees for BROKEN. It was ridiculous but after a certain time I was like you know what
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to like at this point a game any film festivals I get into after this. How much more they’re going to like boost my career boost the film. So it’s like you know what at this point a game I will be more unwilling to pay a submission fee if I’m able to play in the movie but just have to pay to submit and just maybe I’ll get into it. I wasn’t playing that anymore so I decided to create these techniques that worked very very well. So you also get that in this package as well. It’s a hell of a package it really really is a hell of a package. I would have killed to have it and for the price honestly it’s awesome. And you get to watch it as much as you want whenever you want to watch it.
On a side note guys I wanted to thank you again for making this podcast the number one film making podcast on iTunes. I am humbled beyond beyond all recognition. It’s amazing that within a three month period. This little show has been able to rank all the way as to the number one spot for filmmaking in iTunes. So I humbly humbly thank all my listeners all my all the all the tribe all the Indie Film Hustle tribe for doing that. Thank you again. So so much for helping us get to that point. And please if you love the show.
Or if you want to give us an honest review head over to iTunes. Give us a review. Give us a good rating and that will help us even get more and more people to listen to the show and help more and more filmmakers. So thanks again guys for listening. I really hope this helps you guys out a lot inspired to a little bit that it can be done. So keep that gym alive. Keep that hustle going. I’ll talk to you guys soon.
Thanks for listening to the Indie Film Hustle Podcast at indiefilmhustle.com.