'Film Festivals vs. The Web' - a Student Academy Award Winner's Perspective

When deciding how to release your short film, one of the more common questions in recent years has been whether to forego the festival circuit and go directly to the web.  With that in mind, animator Avner Geller, co-creator of the 2011 Student Academy Award winning animation short Defective Detective (which you can watch after the jump), shares his experience along with some tips now that he's gone through the process:

First, in case  you haven't watched it, here's the short:

Geller points out that there are a lot of benefits to going the festival route, especially for animation students who are trying to get into the industry and looking to network, but he also recognizes that:

"In a way, the Internet is the biggest festival in town these days. If you advertise right, there is a huge potential to reach thousands of people, and different kinds of crowds, ones that might never even consider to go to a film festival.

Just like in school, people in studios surf the web and you never know who will see your film.  I know that we, as well as many people from our class were approached by big magazines, festivals and other artists, all because they saw the film online."

But even better, these days, we often don't have to make an either or choice.  Many festivals have no problem with a short that has already been released on-line .  Just because something is on-line doesn't mean everyone has seen it, and just because someone has already seen it on-line doesn't mean they wouldn't want to see it on the big screen (for example, I would be thrilled to watch Solipsist on a big screen).  Of course, there are festivals that are still strict about these things (Geller points out that if you want to be considered for the Student Academy Awards, you can't premiere on-line beforehand), so it's best to do your research ahead of time.

For the full post and other advice, go here.  Have you gone either route exclusively?  Done a mix of both?  What do you think is the ideal path?

[via Cartoon Brew]



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I totally agree. We thought about that conflict as well for our upcoming short film Homophobia and we decided to release online and submit to festivals at the same time. I think that it can actually affect each other in a positive way. We already used social media to promote the short and build up some buzz and festivals already approach us asking to submit the movie to their festival although it's not even released yet - let alone a teaser or trailer and as you wrote the big screen experience is definitely a valid argument.

March 25, 2012 at 2:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Generally, there's something in me that gets a bit angry by the demands of festivals for 'premiere status'. I recognise the benefits of the festivals (exposure, prizes etc.) but festival entry is getting bloody expensive (as are the tickets to attend as an audience member), programming can be idiosyncratic (to say the least) and I hate the idea of finishing a short film and then having to wait ages before anybody can see it, just because you're doing the festival rounds. There's plenty of people out there with work of an incredible quality, but it's not anywhere online (even though it's a couple of years old) because it's still doing the circuit. I can't help thinking that many of them would've been better off (financially, and in career terms) giving things a big push online.

Add to this the fact that some (if not many) festival programmers watch submitted films on fast-forward, and I'm even less inclined to be excited by the whole festival thing. If you're going to win lots of big awards, then great - the exposure you get will open doors for you. But what really matters is what you do with that exposure. To me, the process is: Make the film; Find ways to get it in front of the people you want to see it. If you're polite and persistent you can get a long way by this method, without spending a fortune on festival entries, and a year or two without anyone seeing your stuff. It's just a short film, dammit - In that time you should make a half dozen more!

March 26, 2012 at 5:10AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Great article! I'm finishing prep on my short film "How Will We Cross the Seas?" and I've been wondering a lot of these same questions. Ultimately, I guess you really have to think about your goals for the film. If it's about using the short as a stepping ladder to pitch your feature idea to prospective funders and producers, then the festival route seems to make more sense. But what if you focus all your energy on online promotion and try to find your audience directly? People have done that, too, with great success and have then gotten the attention of potential investors and collaborators.

Thankfully festivals are a little more flexible with shorts in regards to premiere status.

March 26, 2012 at 7:33AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

You voted '-1'.

I find that many of the mid and low end film festivals lack in experienced judges. Much of the board consists of people who are from local committees that don't know much about original film. Their understanding of film is what they see in the cinema, and they're usually of an older age. So what many of the festivals end up showing are generic human-drama films with a complete lack of originality. Anything trying to be out of the box is usually thrown to the side to something that pulls on the "judges" heart-strings. So we're ending up with festivals that are starting to represent the local multiplex. Then, there's online: A sea of crap, with a slight chance of you having a floaty.

So at the end of the day, I say skip the festivals. Throw your shorts online, and label them as experience while not hoping for any popularity. Don't spend $50 000 on a single short (Many of the human-dramas that are winning have budgets like this!). Then work on an awesome original feature and try to get it into those high end festivals. Sure, the competition is tough but is it really tougher than a dozen small town festivals receiving hundreds of films and then judging them on the amount of cups they can fill with their tears? And on top of that, with a feature you have some commercial potential. Shorts can't make money on a large scale.

March 27, 2012 at 8:21AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Or you can go the route of a web/TV series. My show, Day Zero, won the 2011 California Film Awards Diamond Awards through the Television Productions Competition, but I already had the pilot episode online before that. It was an experiment of sorts to submit to festivals, and I'd do it again if I felt it worthy to do so. Perhaps I'll submit episode 2, but unlike most webseries, ours is 20+ minutes each, give or take a few, and I've got 10 of them already filmed for season 1.

March 29, 2012 at 5:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


In 2006, I had a short called "Airport" in the Sydney Film Festival, in a program called "Oz Digital Shorts". Sure, it was nice to be screened in a small cinema in the Sydney Opera House, but what it really meant is that about 150 people saw my movie. It was on my website the whole time — before and after — but (unsurprisingly) nobody noticed it.

A while after that, I got to show the sci-fi author and blogger Cory Doctorow around my home town, gave him my showreel, and he linked to my film from BoingBoing.net. Then people saw it, thousands per hour: I got hired by Microsoft to do more work, Airport was shown in the Portable Film Festival and Bitfilm, and more. It's on YouTube, but sadly someone screwed up when uploading, and the version that's been seen hundreds of thousands of times is broken, in the wrong aspect ratio, missing the ending, missing the Creative Commons license, and missing my credits.

So yeah, online can lead to much greater publicity, and if you're lucky, more work. But you have to get the "tastemakers" to promote you if you're going to succeed. And don't screw up the upload!

Here's the correct version for the curious:

March 30, 2012 at 5:26PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


every single comment is someone trying to promote their own film.

November 12, 2013 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM