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Don Hertzfeldt On Changing Our Relationships to Short Films, Misusing Crowdfunding and Releasing ‘World of Tomorrow’ on Vimeo

[pullquote]Most people will tell you there’s no market for shorts online. but if we continue to believe that without ever trying to do anything to challenge it nothing will change, right? – Don Hertzfeldt [/pullquote]

It’s not everyday that you see a short film getting more buzz and hype than a feature over several weeks, with people telling you to watch it over and over again, and to pay for it.

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m talking about ‘The World of Tomorrow‘, Don Hertzfeldt’s latest work that recently landed on Vimeo On Demand at the beginning of the month, after a very successful run in the Festivals Circuit.

To the risk of shocking many, I didn’t know who Don Hertzfeldt was, until I got bombarded with messages from very different profiles on my Twitter feed.

It started with Tony Zhou (target audience: filmmakers & cinephiles):

It continued with Austin Kleon (target audience: writers & visual artists) [Kleon posted before Zhou but I saw it later]:

And then with Tim Ferriss (target: creative entrepreneurs):


That’s a lot of influential people using their word of mouth power to push a story on a medium that is nowadays considered at best like an entry card to get a feature film deal, and should always be free.

That got me curious, so I finally watched ‘World of Tomorrow‘ and then started looking for more.

There’s plenty you can find about Hertzfeldt, from his inspiration to his writing process, but what interested me most here were his thoughts about making money out of short films, why it’s important to educate us -the audience- to take the habit of paying for short films, why creators shouldn’t use crowdfunding to ask for astronomical amount of money to make animated short films and why he picked Vimeo to release ‘World of Tomorrow’.

Below are the Q&As from the AMA covering those topics. But first, a little bit about Hertzfeldt with his own words:

“Just a few days ago we released my new animated short “world of tomorrow” on-demand. It’ll continue to play in theaters throughout the year, but as this was the first time i’ve animated anything digitally, after years of working on film, it made sense to extend the digital experiment to a digital release. It’s a bit of a risk, i’ve traditionally funded everything else through theatrical tours and dvds, and most people will tell you there’s no market for shorts online. but if we continue to believe that without ever trying to do anything to challenge it nothing will change, right?

You can find “world of tomorrow” here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/worldoftomorrow

If you like this sort of thing, please support it. maybe tell a friend. as an independent, each movie pays for the next one. think of it as a revolutionary new twist on kickstarter, in which a project is actually created first and then sold <3

OK let’s go!”

How well is Vimeo on Demand working for you in distribution/sales of your latest movie? Are you happy with it? Would you recommend it for other filmmakers? By nspacefire

“Vimeo gives the filmmakers a 90% share, which i think is unprecedented. they also seem to genuinely care about presentation. youtube gets more traffic than anybody, but they are sort of eating themselves alive with advertising.”

 

You often mentioned in interviews that you’ve been fortunate enough to be able to support yourself financially throughout your 20-year career as an independent animator. Now that there is a vast ocean of independent animated short films online, most of which are free to watch, do you think that aspiring animators will be able to support themselves the way you have? What advice would you give them? By stevenxdavis

[pullquote]I know everyone is used to the free youtube model but without a viable market for shorts online, it is really going to continue to hurt them. Right now these artists are basically being taught that their work has no value.[/pullquote]

“For the survival of young short filmmakers and aspiring animators today, we really need to begin training people to pay for short films. Theatrical tours and dvd sales and the old models that i relied on are not going to be realistic much longer for them (or even for me). I know everyone is used to the free youtube model but without a viable market for shorts online, it is really going to continue to hurt them. Right now these artists are basically being taught that their work has no value.

For a young animator, their short film is seen as a silly “personal project” that should be dumped online for free… and if they’re lucky it will attract an advertising gig to pay the bills. And maybe make one more “personal project” that they can do on the side again. It’s not a good cycle.

I was on the Sundance jury a couple of years ago and saw amazing short film after amazing short film. And many, if not most of them, are still not available online. These are wonderful films that are disappearing after a few festival screenings because many filmmakers aren’t even bothering with the internet… “getting exposure” doesn’t fund films.

[pullquote]When you pay to see a movie you are casting a vote. You are saying, hey please go make more of this sort of thing. It’s strange to see people bemoan current releases in theaters but then see them go line up for them on opening weekend anyway. They seem to forget they have a choice.[/pullquote]

When you pay to see a movie you are casting a vote. You are saying, hey please go make more of this sort of thing. It’s strange to see people bemoan current releases in theaters but then see them go line up for them on opening weekend anyway. They seem to forget they have a choice. Hollywood wants to make lots of money, they are not very complicated. If they can keep making lots of money from us by continually selling us junk, they have no motive to sell us anything else.

There’s even more at stake in the independent world. when you pay to see an independent movie, you are casting a vote that says, hey i’d like you to actually have the chance to go make another one.”

 

Note – The original question was deleted, but the answer remained and concerned crowdfunding campaigns and its pitfalls, which I feel very strong about. Worth an extra minute of your time:

[pullquote]Listen, in no universe should an independent animated short cost half a million dollars. If that is your budget, fire your producer because they are doing it wrong.[/pullquote]

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kickstarter but i think it’s frequently misused and fans taken for granted. I’ve seen animated shorts on there, with quite popular names attached to them, get kickstarted with budgets upwards of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars… I think one of them was around half a million dollars.

Listen, in no universe should an independent animated short cost half a million dollars. If that is your budget, fire your producer because they are doing it wrong. I think kickstarter to some people means “free money”…. and if you can get it funded anyway that’s all well and good, look, people can spend their money on whatever they want…. but it worries me that some student animator will see these embarrassing inflated budgets and think, jesus christ! it costs half a million dollars to make an animated short? and then not even bother.”

These are food for thoughts of course. I relate 100% to what Hertzfeldt said, especially regarding our often little used power of word of mouth, and how important it is to realize that we always have a choice to push or ignore a story, to back up or not a project, and to spread the word.

Pass it on.