Filmmakers, Here is What You Need to Know About Selling Your Short Film by Henry Hewes, CoFounder of Hewes Pictures

Henry Hewes of Hewes Pictures Short Film Sales Agency (right)

 

Film Courage:  Why did you begin Hewes Pictures? 

Mr. Hewes:  I have always been interested in the movie distribution end. I have a lot of respect for distribution because that really determines what product gets in the hands of consumers. I have experience with that in other industries, so really the strength of American industry and commerce is our capacity to distribute and I’ve felt like for a long time that the distribution process for movie and video products in the US is inadequate and does not give people the full range of video products that are available and that they want to consume.

 

 

Film Courage:   Did your initial plan for Hewes Pictures evolve into another business? 

Mr. Hewes:   When we started our goal was to enter into the business of distribution. We had a somewhat open ended concept of that, that included both short and feature films. We decided to concentrate on the short film end mainly because we soon discovered we were the only ones in the US doing it. We remain interested in other areas of video and movie distribution that include TV, feature length films and even micro films which is the new thing that has been coming up.

Film Courage:   How many titles have you distributed since the beginning?

Mr. Hewes:  I don’t have a number off the top of my head but there are a lot.

Film Courage:   Can you recall the most rewarding cinema experience as a child?  

Mr. Hewes:  Actually, I can, it’s the first movie I ever remember seeing. I was 6 or 7 years old and it was in the Memorial Hall for Veterans of WIII which was our local movie theater in Bermuda. It was an old building where they had a screen and showed movies on Saturday nights. And the movie I remember was The Alamo with John Wayne. I was with my brother who was 4. We walked half an hour in the dark home because the movie ended around 9 at night.

 

Any thing or person that is seen or heard in the film needs clearance from the filmmaker. This includes music, artwork, and video clips.”

 

Film Courage:   What do you see missing in many short films of today?

Mr. Hewes:  That’s a presumptuous question because some of the short films today are missing nothing, others are missing everything.

Film Courage:   What has improved in short films from just five years ago?

Mr. Hewes:  The most dramatic improvement is in the technology. The availability of editing and camera technology to people without a lot of economic resources has enabled people making short films to make products that are technologically very good.

Film Courage:  Much debate exists about short versus feature films.  Why do you think short films are crucial to directors, producers and actors?

Mr. Hewes:  First because short films don’t fall into the paradigm of requirements for a full-length film, a filmmaker with less resources can often make a short film where he or she would be challenged to make a full-length film. The short film gives people an opportunity to create an artistic product that can enter the market with greater flexibility. The second factor with shorts is that we are now in a world in which the attention span of people is declining. If you can get away from the straight jacket of your film needing to be at least an hour and a half, it gives you flexibility to make intellectual and artistic statements that are much shorter in length but equally as powerful. Sometimes that’s just 2 minutes.

Film Courage:  What is the best length of a short film? Does an ideal length depend on where a film will screen?

Mr. Hewes:  The appropriate length is how much time is required to say what he wants to say. We judge short films by how effective they are at communicating the artistic statement of the filmmaker. It depends on the intent of the filmmaker and how much time he or she needs to make the clearest statement and most cases brevity improves films instead of making them worse. That said, film festivals encourage shorter length films, while we have been successful with both shorter and longer form films. Length preferences from film festivals are nearly opposite those of TV.

 

Film Courage:  Any current titles at Hewes Pictures that you are especially excited about and why?

Mr. Hewes:  If I choose one title over another then I risk alienating 99% of our filmmakers. 

Film Courage:  What tips can you recommend to filmmakers seeking to submit their short film to Hewes Pictures for consideration? 

Mr. Hewes:  Be focused on your artistic statement because that’s how to make good films. Be true to your vision. Very hard to produce good product if you’re not being true to your vision.

Film Courage:  Best way to contact Hewes Pictures?

Mr. Hewes:  If you are trying to contact me personally you’d be doing it over the phone but the best way is by email. We are very diligent at responding to everyone who contacts us through our website. A specific staff person will be assigned and deal directly with the filmmaker.

Film Courage:   What types of films are Hewes Pictures looking for?

Mr. Hewes:  Our interest covers every kind of film. 

Film Courage:   How do you discover these titles?  

Mr. Hewes:  We go to all of the film markets and several festivals, as we are constantly talking to people in the industry, at schools, etc. It’s about making filmmakers aware that we’re at the festivals. We’re the premiere distributor of short films in America, so the logical place to go if you’re looking to distribute your short outside of just Youtube or Vimeo is with us.

Film Courage:  How do you work with film festivals? 

Mr. Hewes:  Most of them are gracious and inviting. Most of the time we show up and see the material being exhibited.

Film Courage:  Tell us about your recent partnership with the Latino Film Market in New York City and what this entails?

Mr. Hewes:  Basically, we’re constantly open to any kind of specific interest or genre of film. We’re fans of African American filmmakers, Latino filmmakers, Women filmmakers. The Latino culture is certainly becoming a very important one in the US film industry, and this particular market has been great to work with as far as making sure we see their best programs.

Film Courage:  How long does a filmmaker assign their film to Hewes Pictures (what is the typical contract length)?

Mr. Hewes:  Like most sales agents and distributors, our specific terms are not publicized. However we are looking to place films into a number of markets and distribution channels. Unlike other companies, we don’t stop a filmmaker from distributing elsewhere. Since it’s non-exclusive, the filmmaker has to opportunity to exploit their own film during their time with us however they’d like.

Film Courage:  Once Hewes Pictures agrees to a title, what do you need from filmmakers?

Mr. Hewes:  They just need to deliver the film to us on time and in the specs they agree to in the agreement.

Film Courage:  Is there an up-front cost to the filmmaker or any hidden fees?

Mr. Hewes:  We bare all the upfront costs; the filmmaker doesn’t pay any of that. Our process is attractive to filmmakers because they give us non-exclusive permission to market their films to TV stations. While the money available from short film exhibition isn’t a lot, in many cases, we’re probably the first people to actually send checks to filmmakers for their short work. So, if George Lucas was starting his career today, he’d probably make a short film, he’d have us distribute it, and he’d probably have a relatively small check mounted in a frame on his wall from Hewes Pictures (with a Hewes Pictures logo on it).

 

“The appropriate length is how much time is required to say what he wants to say. We judge short films by how effective they are at communicating the artistic statement of the filmmaker. It depends on the intent of the filmmaker and how much time he or she needs to make the clearest statement and most cases brevity improves films instead of making them worse.”

 

Film Courage:  How is the filmmaker paid?

Mr. Hewes:  We receive money from the various stations who air shorts. Then and only then, we deduct our fee, and as soon as the film is in the black, we send out a statement and a check to the filmmakers. As opposed to typical dubious accounting practices by most distributors, we send out checks to our filmmakers the minute our tiny expenses are covered and the station pays us. It does our accounting method no good to hold on to a filmmaker’s due revenue – its like a hot potato. The sooner we let it go, the better.

 Film Courage:  Where and on what platforms are some of the titles you acquire displayed?

Mr. Hewes:  Every single cable provider in the world you can think of, we have relationships with, and our titles are either already playing on it, or will be before year’s end.

 

Film Courage:  Does Hewes Pictures act as a sales rep for filmmakers?

Mr. Hewes:  No. 

Film Courage:  Do you provide an advance on titles you acquire?

Mr. Hewes:  We do not provide advances. Most short film distributors and agencies operate that way in that regard, and we’re no different.

Film Courage:  How important are release forms? Whom should the filmmaker make certain they have sign one?

Mr. Hewes:  Any thing or person that is seen or heard in the film needs clearance from the filmmaker. This includes music, artwork, and video clips.

Film Courage:  What is Hewes Pictures mission? 

Mr. Hewes:  Our mission is to promote great short works from filmmakers worldwide. It’s important because film is the way we tell stories in our society and that’s critical to the cultural health of any society. So that by helping people to have their voices heard and have a place where their statements are made, we increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our culture and its capacity to change people for the better. So that I feel like St. George out to slay the dragon, we’re doing good things, improving the culture, and improving communication between people. It’s something that’s good to do, it’s exciting and we feel great about it at.

Film Courage:  Anything new on the horizon for Hewes Pictures?

Mr. Hewes: 

There’s a lot of new stuff on the horizon. We’re currently trying to wrap our heads around the new Movie Pass app. Everyone is going to be going to the movies without paying for any of them. We certainly feel that the theater distribution and VOD distribution is not as effective as it could be for feature films and we look forward to being involved in feature distribution within the next year, and our shorts will play some part in that. We also have a pretty big partnership that’s nearing completion that will be announced really soon.

BIO:

As a real estate developer, Henry Hewes has developed and constructed a variety of real estate products. In New York City, he has developed, constructed, or reconstructed 37 different structures. These include over 1000 units of housing and commercial centers.

Through the European American Trust Corp he was active in the development business in Poland where his projects include the highly acclaimed Metropolitan Complex. In Ecuador he has worked through the U.S. Ecuador Development Corp., which is involved in five residential projects that have a total of 3000 residential units and commercial centers. The best known of these is the Satellite City of Los Angeles in Guayaquil.

In addition to his core business Mr. Hewes has been an active venture capitalist with investments in real estate, technology and communications. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Destination Hotel Partners; he is a Board Member of American Planning and Development Corp., Badillo Partners, Agrotropical of Ecuador, Ecuador Produce, U.S. Ecuador Development Corp., Self-made TV, Washington Chronicle Corp., CEG Corp. of Panama, and of several real estate investments corporations.

 

CHECK OUT HEWES PICTURES:

HewesPictures.com

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Check out the book How Not to Make a Short Film- Secrets from a Sundance Programmer by Author Roberta Munroe

 

 

Check out the book Making it Big in Shorts- Shorter, Faster, Cheaper- The Ultimate Filmmaker’s Guide to Short Films by Author Kim Adelman

 

 

 

 

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