Christy Grosz is Editor of AwardsLine
Although short films have been a part of the Oscars since 1931, the live-action, animation, and documentary shorts categories are getting more time in the spotlight than ever before. Voting on the winners in each category will be open to the entire Academy membership for the first time this year, and the Academy is sending DVDs of the nominees to every member — two changes that Jon Bloom, who chairs the short films and feature animation branch, says were important to the executive committee.
“It is, for us, a bit of an experiment”, Bloom explains. “Everything within the Academy about the awards is a work in progress from the standpoint that we’re all always trying to make things better”.
Nevertheless, it’s all about visibility when making voters and viewers take notice of these small yet powerful categories. And Bloom points to the theatrical and video-on-demand program, Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013, that DirecTV’s ShortsHD short-movie channel began offering to consumers eight years ago as helping elevate the profile of short films.
“The huge breakthrough was to think of the shorts as a collection, meaning being feature length and being available in a way that fits”, Bloom says of the program, which packages each category of film into a theatrical, iTunes, and VOD presentation. “By having the Academy’s seal of approval on a handful of shorts that are being touted as special, then having audiences respond to those, has been very gratifying for us”.
It has also been a relatively successful venture for ShortsHD, its distribution partner Magnolia Films, and the nominated filmmakers. Theatrical receipts have increased 800% since the program’s 2005 debut, and 2012’s package ranked in the top 50 grossing independent releases, earning $1.7 million nationwide.
“Last year, we made a 5% return on the release. We consider it marketing, rather than something we’re trying to make money on”, ShortsHD CEO Carter Pilcher says, adding that each nominated filmmaker receives a $5,000 flat-fee advance. “After we recover the costs of the release — we work very hard not to make them very expensive — we then do a 50/50 split on all the receipts”.