Getting your work out there. The festival vs the online release


I met Danny Lacey the day before we shot the just released short film “Host” which you can see below. It was out first of two collaborations  so far with hopefully many more to come. I asked Danny to follow up his orignal guest post about deciding to become a filmmaker 4 years ago with this catch up and see how he got on with the festival circuit and how he is doing his online release schedule.

Host (a Danny Lacey short film) from Danny Lacey on Vimeo.



by Danny Lacey

It’s almost four years since I started the filmmaker’s journey. Picking up a camera for the first time and learning how to make films, everything self-taught. It’s brought me to this pivotal point in my filmmaking career, a moment where I need to choose my next film projects wisely as I set out my stall as a director.

The last three film projects (Love Like Hers, Host and That Day) have been opportunities to gain valuable experience and fine tune ones filmmaking skills. I wasn’t expecting to make anything ground breaking or Oscar winning, that wasn’t the point for making them. It’s with the next few projects that I hope to turn a few heads.

It’s one of the essential aspects of a new filmaker’s journey, to just grab a camera, get out there and shoot short films. For me, the only way to learn.

One of the key aspects of my work, at this stage, is building an audience, some might call it a tribe. I think it’s essential for the modern day indie filmmaker. The unique way in which I’m doing this is by sharing absolutely everything I am going through as a filmmaker online. Through my film website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.  Note, building up an audience takes time, often years and it’s a great way of attracting talent to your projects as they can see quite clearly just how serious and professional you are.

How did we get on with Love Like Hers, Host and That Day?

Love Like Hers was shot in September 2010, Host in October 2011 and That Day in February 2012. All three films were finished at the same time, August 2012 and Premiered at Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds.

It was always my intention to submit to a handful of film festivals, just for the experience, anything else would have been a bonus. I didn’t really give too much thought to the fact that I’ll have THREE short films and that submitting to film festivals can be costly. I must have spent over £400 submitting all three films to a handful of festivals. I have since come to regret this move. I should have submitted less, I just got carried away. I don’t think these three films were ready for some of the festivals I were submitting to. Lesson learned. We didn’t get accepted by any, but I knew there was a 99.9% chance this would happen, yet I still went ahead without caution. Expensive mistake for sure. Be warned, the film festival world is a money making machine, they take and more than often you’ll get nothing in return.

The next step was the DVD/Blu-Ray and eventual online release of the three films. I was going to approach this in the more traditional way, DVD and Blu-Ray release first before releasing online for free. The DVD/Blu-Ray were for Love Like Hers only, with Host and That Day added as a bonus track. I wanted to give people a really good reason to want to buy physical copies of the film and so decided to pack the discs with hours of extra features. To give you an idea, here’s the extras that were on the Blu-Ray’s (over 4 hours worth)

– HD version of Love Like hers

– Director commentary

– Director and DP commentary

– NEW 70 minute making of documentary

– Compiling the shooting schedule (video)

– Making the film poster (video)

– Budget breakdown (video)

– Camera set-ups (video)

– First ever edit of the film

– Behind the scenes photography

– Love Like Hers music video

– All of the offline rushes (75 minutes)

– BONUS: Angel of the Night (short film)

– BONUS: Host (short film)

– BONUS: That Day (short film)

– BONUS: Making of That Day

– and more!

A good example of why it is so important to film lots of behind the scenes stuff and to get a good photographer on board.

I had more success with this form of release with all of the DVDs and Blu-Rays completely selling out. This was 100 DVDs and 200 Blu-Rays, selling all over the world. The extra features on the discs I believe played a huge role in the sales figures, giving people a lot of basng for their buck. The extra features will eventually appear on my YouTube channel and Vimeo.

The next stage was preparing for the imminent online release of all three films. I’d decided that each film would be released in one month intervals. Releasing all three in one go might have diluted the impact and interest.

It’s important for people to be able to find information on your work quickly and easily and so my personal film site was to be the hub for online release. I set up the Screening Room with 4 screens (links) to all four of my films. On each of the links was the release dates. Having this page set-up made it a lot easier to promote the online release, a single space to direct people and then making sure there were other useful bits of information and links for anyone wanting to find out more.

I wanted to release Love Like Hers last and have Host as the first, leaving That Day in the number two slot. A date for the first release was decided, midnight on 4th March. Thirty days prior to Host’s release, it was time to start pointing people in the direction of the Screening Room, generating more interest and building up a little excitement. I was incredibly nervous about releasing online for everyone to see. I really don’t mind constructive criticism and feedback, in fact I welcome it. I’m just mindful of how negative and cruel the online world can be in parts (trolls). I can’t forget, this film was a hobby project, another learning experience. It’s part of my development as a filmmaker and absolutely not a statement of what I’m capable of achieving. That’s yet to come.

The film was viewed over 2,000 times in just 12 hours and at the time of writing this, just two days later, it currently has over 6,000 views. The feedback has been incredible with a very high majority of people really enjoying the film. Huge sigh of relief, it means we’re heading in the right direction.

That Day will be released next (8th April), followed by Love Like Hers on my birthday (3rd May) and all via the Screening Room over at

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 01.33

How have I grown as a filmmaker?

I think I’ve become a much better, all round film maker since shooting Angel of the Night back in 2009. I have a good grasp and experience on most aspects of the filmmaking process including screenwriting, producing, cinematography, casting, directing and editing. I think it’s really important for filmmaker’s to have a good knowledge of all parts of the process.

Given a bigger budget I’m incredibly confident I could deliver a very high standard of film. Confidence plays a huge part, especially when you’re dealing with and working with seasoned professionals and they’re looking to you for answers during production. You have to be convincing, a good blagger – but also have the talent to back that up with!

One of the key factors in my development is the standards to which I aspire to. I mean, I want all of my films to look like ‘proper’ films. It’s not about what we shot it on, it’s about the story, the production value, the acting.

The other thing that has helped is watching MANY hours of making of videos on DVDs and Blu-Rays. And I mean many, many hours! I’ll sometimes be in the office working with the making of The Social Network (David Fincher) or the King Kong Production Diaries (Peter Jackson) and many others on in the background. I’ve learned so much from just watching these guys in action. I think it’s a great way to learn.

Some pointers I’ve learned along the way:

1. Write with the edit in mind and less is always more.

2. Only work with the best actors you can get your hands on. Be ruthless!

3. Location is key. Always find somewhere interesting to film, something with bags of character. The messiest locations are often the best.

4. Surround yourself with talented and enthusiastic people.

5. Share and talk about your projects on Social Media. People really do find that kind of thing interesting.

6. Listen to feedback and constructive criticism, but remain selfish and focused when it comes to your ideas and ambitions.

7. Be professional at all times.

8. A ‘no’ always means ‘maybe’, with a little extra persuasion.

9. Have goals and aim very high

10. Be loyal and helpful to those that have helped you in the past.

 What’s next?

Doors have started opening as a result of my work and contacts over the last few years and this year I will be directing a major feature length documentary. I’m so incredibly excited about this project and I’m more than sure you’ll be seeing and reading more about it in the coming months. It could be a biggie.

I’m also working on the screenplay for my next short film Walk Away and a feature length version of my short film Host.

All this and trying to run a video production business to help pay the bills.

If you’d like to find out more about the filmmaking process through the eyes of as new indie filmmaker then please do take a look around my website and I’m always Tweeting about my filmmaking journey at

Thanks for reading!


Danny Lacey Director Showreel 2013 from Danny Lacey on Vimeo.

Making ‘That Day’ (Behind the Scenes) from Danny Lacey on Vimeo.

NOTE: The film is currently available with all of my other short films on Blu-Ray and DVD, packed with many hours of exclusive extras! Go to to see the promo.

A fly-on-the-wall style look at how we made That Day, a short sci-fi film shot over 3 days on an incredibly low budget.

10 actors, 15+ crew, 3 locations, 11 page screenplay

Written, produced and directed by Danny Lacey

Making of videography by Tom Chapman








  1. Great guest post! Interesting experiences with the Festival Vs Online debate Danny. I’m going through a similar situation myself now, straddling the line of my short being available online for free whilst narrowing down what festivals I can submit to without it’s online presence causing an issue. (It’s a complete deal breaker for a large amount of the best ones as most of you are no doubt aware). But nevertheless there does exists a grey area!

    It’s had some success though, winning BFI Future Film Festival Short Fiction Award just last month and being included in the Official Selection for the New York International Children’s Film Festival, in fact they contacted us purely thanks to the fact it was released online! So in my brief experience dabbling with festivals it’s been a mostly positive affair. However this project of ours was, like many people reading this blog, a Zero budget production. So submitting to festivals is straight out of cast and crew pockets. And like the blog post says, this can mount up quickly unless your careful!

    Worth it? I’d say yes but not at the restriction of online release. It’s fantastic to put on a CV or in the description of your video online. And it’s fantastic to get that official acknowledgment for your work. But online, at least for me in this moment in time, is king.

    Shameless plug, If anyone would like to check it out it’s available here (I was DP & Editor) :


  2. Thank you for sharing your experience as an independent film maker. I am a BIG fan of self releasing a project. Having worked on a independent film that was sent to so many festivals , then be denied entry can be maddening.

    Its a real roll of the dice when submitting to a festival!

    Not that film festivals are a bad thing,but they too have or are becoming kind of mainstream just like the big studios of days past!

    Now with the internet being more of a player from a viewers perspective, I see independent releasing as a fantastic way to share with the world a project you are proud of. I actually have friends who now have their film on NETFLIX here in the states.

    Though I love film making, I am also a realist. At the end of the day,this is a business. In order to thrive and continue on this film making journey,one must seriously understand a career move like this is for all practical purposes going to define who you are and how you will make a living for the rest of your life!

    To be paid AND continue of that journey is one wonderful ride, so good luck with your future projects.

  3. Danny,

    Thanks for your advice on film festival submissions. We are working on an independent film now and will be releasing it soon. This post will definitely make us think twice before going into submission overload on the festival end.

    Thanks for saving us some money spending.

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