How to Market a 10-Year-Old Short Film
In 2011, I completed producing a short film, and it was off to the film festival circuit. Premiered at Los Angeles International Shorts Festival (aka LA Shorts Fest), Summer with Mrs. Von Mausch is about a 13-year-old girl (Molly Learner) whose divorced father (David Pomes) is ill-prepared for his daughter’s New York City visit and for her developing an unlikely friendship with the eccentric next-door neighbor Mrs. Von Mausch (Annie McGreevey). While there are plenty of short film distribution companies, I decided to make it available to watch for free on Vimeo. Why? A reputable platform for filmmakers, Vimeo boasts 200 million members across more than 150 countries. Now that’s worldwide distribution!
Since releasing Summer with Mrs. Von Mausch on Vimeo, I’ve been amazed by its reception. In addition to being featured on Movie-Blogger, George White at IndieVisible called our movie “a stylish, charming little film with its heart in the right place,” and Alex Billington at FirstShowing called it “an amusing 14-minute watch with a fun Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe to it.” (You can’t do much better than to get compared to an iconic John Hughes movie!) Moreover, FilmandTVNow has interviewed me, and I have been invited to write an article for NoFilmSchool about my experience. Before I get into the nitty gritty of marketing a short film that is 10 years old, let’s watch the short itself:
Summer with Mrs. Von Mausch explores themes of loneliness and isolation, issues that have become ever more prevalent during the pandemic. For this reason, I decided the timing was right for its Internet premiere. With that in mind, I have taken the following six steps to generate interest and awareness:
1 – Create a Press Release
The press release is an invaluable tool, as it’s not unusual for a film critic to grab a sentence or two to include in their review. It’s even more common for websites aggregating content listings to do so. Positioning is vital. Just as when you present yourself, it should likely be how you would prefer others see you, so too does the language and messaging for a project matter in making that first impression. Put another way: when wording about your project is glimpsed in an Internet search, you want it to be accurate and on-brand. And those themes of loneliness and isolation I mentioned earlier? They’re quantified in the press release, but so too is the film’s humor and poignancy. My approved/preferred text reinforces all of that and more.
2 – Pitch Film Critics and Editors
In Google sheets, I have put together a list of film critics and editors who do short film coverage (e.g., reviews, articles, interviews). More often than not, their contact information can be found online. When I reach out to them I introduce myself, explaining the purpose of the e-mail (the ask) and sharing the story synopsis and the Vimeo link. I also attach the press release and a few still photos/images from the film—all while keeping my note brief. At the end of the day, I want to make the job as easy as possible for the film critic/editor.
The email I sent to Rebecca Cherry, Film Critic at Film Carnage, began this way:
“My name is Joanna Rudolph, and I made a 14-minute short film I produced available to watch for free on Vimeo about three months ago. It’s currently being featured on Movie-Blogger’s website. I’d love for Film Carnage to review it.”
After that, I provided a logline for the film (found in the first paragraph of this article), the name of the writer/director, and mentioned his previous movie (2008 SXSW Audience Winner Cook County). I then shared a link to the film and closed the email with “Please find attached the press release and a few stills from the short film. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.” The net result is Film Critic Rebecca Cherry’s review.
3 – Make News Newsworthy
When I reached out to Movie-Blogger asking for a review, they offered to spotlight Summer with Mrs. Von Mausch in their short film showcase. I took them up on their offer and saw an opportunity to make this news newsworthy. Specifically, I rewrote the press release, announcing that the film was debuting on Movie-Blogger. The first sentence of that press release now reads as follows: “Summer with Mrs. Von Mausch, a short film written and directed by award-winning filmmaker David Pomes on location in New York City, has been newly added to leading independent cinema website Movie-Blogger.com.” By adding that opening, the press release now has a sense of currency. The film may be 10 years old, but it is current again due to this new development in its trajectory.
4 – Promote on Social Media
Whenever I get any kind of coverage, I promote on social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook). I make sure to thank my cast and crew and (hash)tag them. I also like to give shout-outs to film critics and editors who have showcased me and the short film. It’s great to hype, but you also have to invite people along who have been part of the process. In addition, I have sought out ways to connect with mental health organizations. For example, I (hash)tagged #PeerMentalHealth, #BringChangeToMind, and #MentalHealthAmerica when I retweeted the TheMovieBuff review of the film: “it’s a sweet picture, centering on empathy and mental health acceptance along with coming of age.” As May is mental health awareness month, there was not a better time to highlight film critic Mark Ziobro’s review and the film’s message.
5 – Notify Filmmaking Communities
I’m a member of both New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) and NYC Women Filmmakers, which are wonderfully supportive organizations. I was initially introduced to NYWIFT by my cousin who was elected president of their board of directors from 2000-2001. I was working at USA Films (now Focus Features) at the time, and she thought it was an organization I’d be interested in joining (and she was right!). NYC Women Filmmakers came to my attention via a filmmaker I met at a NYWIFT networking event. It’s now a formal organization, but when I joined, NYC Women Filmmakers was a private Facebook group for female-identifying filmmakers. I highly recommend getting involved with both organizations (e.g., NYWIFT is looking for volunteers on their various committees), as I have met wonderful people through them via their networking events. It’s also worth noting that both organizations are happy to amplify your work. For example, recently NYWIFT tweeted my NoFilmSchool article, then NoFilmSchool retweeted the NYWIFT post, which I thought was pretty cool, as well as referring us back to #3.
6 – Set Up Opportunities for Cross-Promotion
In this article, I have mentioned the film websites and critics who bolstered me and the short film. So, cycling through all five points above, I saw writing this article as an opportunity to do some cross-promotion on social media. While there are no guarantees, hopefully Movie-Blogger will retweet this article; who doesn’t like to promote a shout-out?