Film Week: Festival or online hosting – What’s the best way to get your short film seen?

By Mark Sinclair

Luke Taylor and Christopher Barrett’s short film Cautionary Tales has notched up nearly 54k views on Vimeo since it was posted there three weeks ago. It’s a superb piece of work that offers a brief glimpse into the life of Aaron, a young man with a strange facial condition.

Surreal and yet heartwarming, it has already won over a legion of fans – but how did the pair go about getting the film in front of an audience? Is submitting work to film festivals worth the trouble if a video-hosting site can distribute your work to a potential audience of millions?

We talked to Us about taking the traditional festival route (Cautionary Tales has been awarded ‘Best Film’ at Liechtenstein Film Festival, ‘Best Script’ at Maniatic Film Festival and received a special mention for ‘Outstanding UK Short’ at Manchester Film Festival) and how they worked with Vimeo to ensure even more people could enjoy their work.

CR: Could you briefly outline the experience you’ve had with Cautionary Tales to date at both festivals and online?

Us: Well this was our first experience with the festival circuit. For a first-timer it proved an absolute minefield. You have to decide what it is you want to get out of it early on. Decide when you are going to enter as it works almost a year ahead and finally be OK that you aren’t going to be able to release the film until the festivals have finished. We decided we wanted to enter the festivals because it can have a huge impact on the exposure of your film. What happened with ours was we ended up not getting into the major festivals but got into lots and lots of medium to smaller festivals. It’s an amazing experience seeing your film play around the world in different cinemas/screenings.

Then when it came time to us releasing the film online we had two choices really, Vimeo or YouTube. We decided to go with Vimeo for a couple of reasons. The first is we have a good following through their community, we’ve had a few Staff Picks in the past and hoped that the film would get picked up too. We ended up contacting Vimeo as when we first uploaded a trailer they showed an interest. They liked the film and we launched it with a Staff Pick. We’ve had an unbelievable response since the film has come out online, I think that immediate attention helped it to seed, we also felt that the visual and concept was sharable as its quite a universal theme. Its crazy that you can release a film online now and have the entire world as your audience. The film has been watched on Vimeo in over 50 countries, which is incredible.

CR: What are the main benefits of having your film screened at a festival? And conversely what does Vimeo offer you? Had you always planned to do both?

Us: We had always planned to do both. I think every filmmaker making a short film hopes to enter the festivals and get into one of the big ones. That’s where the benefits of the festival lie, the potential reach is massive.

The festivals I think also give the online release weight and importance. For instance when it came to us marketing the online release. Saying Cautionary Tales featured in over 40 festivals worldwide, Jury Prize best film at Liechtenstein film festival etc, gives people a reason to click and watch. I think it would be much harder for us to just release a new short film and say “here it is”.

CR: Is there anything you learned from you experience of the festival circuit – and also of dealing with Vimeo – that you think would be useful for other filmmakers who perhaps haven’t gone down these routes as yet?

Us: Our advice would be to think about what is right for the film you are making or plan to make. If you decide to enter into the festivals decide which festivals are right for your film. Most of the big festivals certainly have a style of film they look for. If we were to enter again I think we would be much more organised and prepared for it. In terms of Vimeo or getting anything noticed online, there sadly isn’t a magic answer. We were lucky in that we had a relationship with Vimeo and could contact them.

CR: Being awarded at a festival must help things along; with Vimeo, how does a Staff Pick nomination help get your film to more people?

Us: In some ways they are very similar. I look at it as a badge of approval, this is worth a watch/click. I think the Staff Pick features you on their home page, there are over 747K users following the Staff Pick. It’s exposure that hopefully leads to more exposure. It has the ability to be viewed by people that would be so hard to reach otherwise.

CR: Finally, in terms of creating a visual campaign for the film (posters etc), how do these aspects get used at the festivals and online? (See a selection of images of the campaign work, here.)

Us: It really depends on the festival. Some festivals will ask for a press pack from you, posters, flyers etc. These will be featured at screenings and festivals. Personally we loved creating an all encompassing identity with Fieldwork Facility. We didn’t want it to just be a short film, we wanted to create a full campaign. We have used these online on our own social media platforms and they also feature on our micro site of the film. It was important for our concept that it had these other elements, it strengthened the storytelling and the bigger idea. It also allows sites that feature the film or do interviews to have more collateral.

Us are represented by Academy in the UK and Reset in the US. See and

The making-of film is below.

Written & directed by: Us. Production company: Academy Films. Producer: Medb Riordan. Executive producer: Lizie Gower, Simon Cooper. Director Of Photography: Sebastian Winterø. Production Designer: Francesca Di Mottola. Casting: Hammond Cox Casting. Editor: Sam Rice-edwards. Music By Half Moon Run. Sound Designer: Jonny Platt. Costume Designer: Rebecca Hale. Head Of Prosthetics: Matthew Smith. Grade: Jason Wallis. Post Production: Electric Theatre. Design & Art Direction: Fieldwork Facility. Illustrator: Giulia Ghigni

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