Zenith, an online short film platform that – take it from us – is the future of short film showcasing, recently launched itself upon the world. If you haven’t managed to check it out yet, we strongly recommend that you sort yourself out in that regard as soon as possible. Here’s the website. ReelGood was lucky enough to attend the Zenith launch a few weeks ago and we were blown away by the quality of the content. We decided that we had to chat to the Zenith founder, Becky Strong, about her new platform, the world of short film and the potential of her brand new enterprise.
What first got you interested in filmmaking?
I first became interested in filmmaking after I studied a year of International Relations and realised that I probably wasn’t going to be able to make an impact in the world through traditional political systems. I then thought maybe filmmaking could be a good avenue in which to express my ideas… I became interested in the idea for Zenith a couple of years ago when living in Paris whilst I was searching for inspiration for a script.
What do you think makes a great short film?
I find a film successful when I walk away having learnt something new, or I’ve formed a deep connection with its characters or I have been challenged to view a subject in a way I wouldn’t normally. I also appreciate a film where the filmmaker leaves the film relatively open to interpretation and the audience is free to put their own meaning into the piece.
Along with above, I’ve found specifically with great shorts, that the first two minutes of these films are incredibly strong. I’ve discovered that if your story hasn’t developed enough in those first two minutes then you are most likely going to loose your audience, and this is also especially evident with a VOD audience.
What can you tell us about Zenith?
Zenith is a recently launched subscription based VOD platform that is purely for short films. We showcase indie & art house films whilst focusing on films with a strong social conscience. Unlike other platforms, Zenith carefully curates its cinémathequè adding 2 – 4 new shorts per week. For this reason it is a significant achievement to have a film programmed, and we aim for Zenith to hold the same credibility as a major festival. To access the films on Zenith users pay just $5 USD a month for a membership and of course there is a free 30-day trial period.
Do you think the appeal of short films is different to the appeal of features?
Yes absolutely, they are such different mediums. Features often take 10 to 15 minutes to set up their story whereas within that same time frame, the majority of shorts would already be finished. For this reason shorts appeal to a very different audience, typically an audience that is short on time and has a shorter attention span. They also appeal to an audience that may not typically define themselves as film buffs, I’ve had a few people say to me that they had no idea they would enjoy watching shorts so much.
How do you go about finding and selecting films for Zenith?
At the moment, Zenith acquires the majority of its films through many hours of scouring the Internet. We look at the major festival selections and winners, but also have a strong focus to discover films outside of the festival circuit. We also encourage filmmakers to submit their film to Zenith for free through our website.
How has the reception from the filmmakers been?
The majority of the responses have been very positive, most filmmakers are excited to learn about Zenith and think the platform is a great idea. International distributors have also welcomed the platform and see it as a great new avenue for short film distribution.
What has been one of the bigger hurdles in establishing Zenith?
The biggest problem has been to convince filmmakers that it’s ok to put their films online. Many filmmakers are reluctant to put their film online, which seems to have been ingrained from the old/current distribution system. A lot of filmmakers think that if their film is online it won’t be eligible to get into major festivals, which is partly true. Some major festivals don’t allow your film to be available online but others such as Sundance, BFI, SXSW and Clermont-Ferrand do. I also don’t think that people realise that their chance of getting into a major festival is under 1% and that they should be looking for alternative avenues.
You recently held a launch for Zenith at Bella Union in Carlton. Was the launch a success? How did you go about selecting which films played?
Yes the launch was a great success; it exceeded all of my expectations. I tried to create a balanced program of shorts and included a few docos, dramas, an experimental film and a comedy. Most of the films had been selected in major festivals such as Cannes or the Academy Awards and some had won major awards. I wanted to make sure people left feeling like they had learnt something but also that they had had an enjoyable, entertaining night.
What is your main aim for Zenith?
We have two main goals at Zenith. The first is to provide our audience with entertaining, social conscience shorts and secondly to support and promote our filmmakers. As we are filmmakers ourselves, we really understand how hard it is to establish a career in the film industry, and we want to help others as much as possible. We do this in two ways: Firstly, unlike many other platforms and most festivals, all filmmakers featured on Zenith receive a payment and we currently operate on a 50/50 revenue split. And secondly, Zenith’s platform has been specifically designed to encourage and facilitate communication between filmmakers and industry professionals (producers, distributors, sales agents etc).
What’s on the horizon?
Just you wait and see.