We've tested a lot of ways of making money from our short films. Some are better than others. Here are a few areas we have explored and the results:
1) Signing with a short film distributor like Ouat or Shorts International etc.
Results: If you can get a short film distributor on board, it's great for television or educational sales if your title appeals to the television and education market. This is not a lifetime solution. The work that a distributor does will only last a few years. You won't get rich off their licensing fees but every dollar counts. They are usually amenable to having non-exclusive rights so why wouldn't you do it?
2) Loading your film on Amazon through CreateSpace and offering it both as a DVD and a download.
Results: Amazon takes a large piece of your revenue but it has a wide audience that it serves so I find it's smart to have your title on it. You may get sales from random people searching on the topic of your film. Or you may not. But again, it's free to load your title so why not?
3) Loading your film on sites like DynamoPlayer or IndieReign.
Results: These sites take a piece of your revenue so no upfront fees, which is nice. And they allow anyone to embed their players anywhere on the Web. That way your audience doesn't have to leave the site they are on to watch your film. This is great for promoting your film through blogs. The film can be embedded in a blog entry and your audience can pay for it and watch immediately without much fuss. The downside is that these sites are relatively unknown to the masses so your title may perform poorly due to a lack of reaching a wide audience. These sites are good if you are making a strong social media/blog push of your film.
4) Loading your film on YouTube and collecting Google AdSense dollars.
Results: I have be honest that this may actually be the most lucrative for you if your video is very popular. The more viewers watch your video, the higher chance they will click on the ads that appear on your videos. This translates to advertising dollars that your title can earn. So even though an audience is watching your video for free, you may be making a nice chunk of change on it through advertising and perhaps much more than if you charged $2.99 per rental on another site. Case in point, our short film Gay Baby is over 30,000 views in less than 2 weeks.
5) Making DVDs and using a fulfillment company like FilmBaby.
Results: Fulfillment companies are great as you don't have to worry about handling the sales and sending out your DVDs. The downside is that you have to make the inventory that is being sold yourself, store most of it, and potentially be upside down on it should your title not perform well. As DVDs are phased out, there will be less of a need for fulfillment companies.
You could do all of the above. Again, why not?