In July, we posted an article about how to catch feature-length films that you missed during Telluride Mountainfilm 2014. Short and mid-length films are a different beast entirely.
Until recently, the market for short films was practically nonexistent. Filmmakers could find audiences with a festival run (which usually costs money instead of earning it), and if they were lucky, one of the few companies that buys and sells short films, such as Wholphin, would be interested. A television deal was an option for only an even luckier few. When the Internet came along, the market for original content for television crashed without creating an instant online market.
The key word here is “market”: filmmakers can publish a short film online and get a few — or millions — of viewers, but viral success is short-lived and generally not lucrative. But the online market is starting to grow, and some sites are paying nominal fees for curated content (such as Outside Online), while others fund filmmakers up front to make videos for their audiences exclusively (such as EpicTV, which covered costs for the 2014 film Sufferfest). Many sites mix both approaches.
Perhaps this is part of what makes shorts so special. They’re somewhat elusive. Like small-batch seasonal beers, it’s best to find them while they’re fresh and to share the experience with friends. In that spirit, the best way to see Mountainfilm shorts outside of Telluride in May is to attend one of our many Mountainfilm on Tour shows that visit cities around the globe (or host a show if there isn’t one in your area). The Tour screens a selection of the best picks from the festival, including some mid-length tour features — such as Tashi and the Monk, which won both the Moving Mountains Prize and the Norman Vaughan Award at Mountainfilm 2014, and Mending the Line, a Mountainfilm Commitment Grant recipient in 2013 and a three-hankie audience favorite at the 2014 festival. Neither of these films are currently available any other way, although they both will be later down the line.
The Mountainfilm on Tour selection includes some films that you can watch online, but others you can’t see anywhere else and can only experience on a big screen at a Mountainfilm on Tour event. A short film is fine viewed solo on a small screen — just like a special craft beer tastes good at home alone — but fresh, on tap and surrounded by a happy crowd of fellow fans is really the way to go.