Independent Film Makers Thrilled That People 'Pirated' Their Movie

from the understanding-buzz dept

On the same day that the guy who was caught filming the Simpson’s movie with his mobile phone (which still doesn’t make sense to us) was fined in Australia, some independent film makers are talking up how wonderful it is that people are “pirating” their film. The website reviewed their film, The Man from Earth, and pointed out the many places online where it could be downloaded. It turned out that people really seemed to love the movie. Thousands downloaded it… and they started promoting it to others. The movie’s ranking on IMDB shot up and it’s getting attention from all over the place. The producer of the movie wrote to rslog to thank them for promoting the movie, noting that next time he’ll probably upload his next movie to various torrent sites himself.

The director of the movie also chimed in with his support. He notes that they definitely view this a bit as “doing a Radiohead,” but that’s perfectly reasonable. They’re hoping many people do decide to buy the DVD or donate money to the project, which seems like a reasonable request. However, what may be more likely is that they can use this groundswell to push for both theater showings of the movie and a distribution deal for their followup. And while this shows an example of moviemakers using the Radiohead example — there’s a big difference here as well. Many critics have been falsely dismissing the Radiohead experiment by saying that only big, well known bands can pull it off. However, what the folks behind this movie are doing is exactly the opposite. They’re smaller names, who are generating tremendous publicity and opportunity for themselves by not treating their fans as criminals — even those who clearly are downloading unauthorized versions. Instead, they’re embracing them for the free publicity they’re providing the movie and helping to turn it into a hit. Once again, the old saying is true: obscurity is a much bigger threat to creative works than piracy.

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Comments on “Independent Film Makers Thrilled That People 'Pirated' Their Movie”

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Max Powers at (user link) says:

Producer has the final choice

This worked out great according the the Producer and Director. Of course they didn’t have a big name studio behind them so creativity came into play.

I’m not in the movie business but it seems to me that it might deter a studio from picking up the film for distribution now. Has this ever been done before?

Sure it has some publicity but I want to see if a studio would distribute a movie that has already been shown so much online.

Of course the producer of the movie has the final say of how he wants his work distributed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You’re that type of person who when Techdirt clearly show a “big” name person making money using this method, you say “what about the unknown little person” then when they show you an unknown person making money using this method you start touting the exact opposite.

You clearly don’t seem to understand the way this type of promotion works.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

condoning piracy here as always..

Actually, no. We’re not. We’re pointing out how yet another artist has learned to embrace it. That doesn’t condone it for others. It shows more artists that they can embrace it. Quite different…

while it may be good for publicity for unknowns, eventually people have to make real money, and if you think it’s going to come from donations you need a reality check.

Um. Did I ever say that it was *all* going to come from donations? Nope. In fact, I said something quite different. I said it should help them sell more DVDs and also line up theater showing — as well as more interest from studios the next time they want to make a movie.

In other words, it’s opening up many different new business models that have nothing to do with donations.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re #3

And if you think that donations won’t account for large sums over time, you need a reality check. You must not pay any attention to anything that goes on in this realm. If these donations didn’t account for anything, why would artists such as Radiohead, Trent Reznor (hasn’t yet because contract just ended, but can guarentee he will since he helped develop it for ..), Saul Williams be using models such as these. Granted I admit I never heard of Saul Williams until I received an email from The Spiral, so I have no real clue how big he is, but I know Radiohead and NIN are pretty dang big. Why would they be using donations as a method of income if it didn’t account for anything? Also, note that they ADD value to buying it, not making it just the same old you can get for free (if you choose not to download). There are a great many more ways to earn money. Embrace one or two of them in addition to donations, or all of them if you so choose (selling merchandise, offering higher quality downloads for paying but good quality if no donation, touring, etc.). Your short comment that is off base seems to expose what appears to be ignorace. Oh, and just a thought, since the Producer and Director also said it was great, it was in no way piracy. The term piracy really doesn’t fit to begin with. It is just a word the major MAFIAA use to try to get people to sympathize with them. Used very poorly.

DCX2 says:


next time he’ll probably upload his next movie to various torrent sites himself.

Does someone finally get it?

The only person who needs a reality check is someone who thinks they can eliminate piracy. The closest you can get is minimizing the impact of it, and if using pirate distribution channels to offload distribution costs benefits you, I do not see how this is “piracy”.

atomatom says:

You know, I’m always surprised that people neglect a whole segment of web business that already survives based on donations. Webcomics! There are plenty of webcomics where the author(s) have quit their day job and trusted their fans to keep them in the black, and guess what? It’s worked. The most obvious examples are Penny Arcade and PvP, but smaller strips like Schlock Mercenary have done it too. It’s an ideal business model because the reward is so immediate: donate and you’ll keep getting strips every day or every couple days, don’t and you won’t. Note of course that the author invariably supplements with sales of branded items and book collections.

that guy says:

I can understand how this would work for big names like Radiohead. They are popular enough that people are willing to “donate” whatever they want for the album because they know it’s good.

I can also see how it works for unknowns. They get free publicity, no problem there.

What I don’t know about is the majority of artists in between these two categories. But apparently the rest of you are very knowledgable in this. You extrapolate a nice linear line from being unknown, getting little donations and a lot of publicity, all the way to being really well known and getting lots of donations; but, I doubt it’s that simple. I would imagine after the artist’s initial publicity boom they would start to decline, and lose money. Unless they had a lot of capital to keep them alive during those “in-between” times, they probably wouldn’t make it.

Besides, this “Radiohead” thing is still fairly new. You are not accounting for the novelty of it and therefore the increased donations just because it’s new and different and people want to support business like this. If everyone did this, twenty years later would they receive money proportionally? No one knows, but I would venture to say no. I’m not saying it won’t work, but please think about things like this before you make definitive conclusions that free music or art will work for everyone forever.

atomatom says:

that guy: you just don’t get it. The business model works because it is based on the relationship between fans and artists instead of artists and corporations. Fans understand that for an artist to continue producing the stuff they are fans of, the artist needs money. That’s what these “donations” are for. It’s like the guy on the street playing a guitar while people toss coins in the hat, but on a huge scale. If that guy can get by, I’m sure anyone can do just fine, provided they’re offering what people want.

Besides, in this model, you aren’t giving money for something unknown. You aren’t buying a CD that contains songs you haven’t heard. You can listen to it or watch the movie or whatever and THEN decide to pay. Are people willing to pay for something after they already have it for free? Absolutely, the whole idea of “tipping” is based on that and tips account for huge portions of many people’s revenue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So artists are now suppose to work off of tips. Awesome. After you steal their music don’t forget to tip. Also, I don’t hear about a lot of people making an effort to tip after they have stole someone’s music. Anyone one on techdirt ever try to send a tip to an artist after you stole their music. Where is the relationship between the fans and artist?

Danny says:

Re: Re: Re:

Frankly considering the alternative of paying $20 for an album of 16 and hoping that at least 5 of them are worth listening to (and 5 is a serious stretch) I think having it out there for people to listen to with the option to buy is a good idea. It forces artists to actually bring their A game instead of writing 10 spectacular tracks and then spreading them across 5-6 albums of filler.

And considering that the cost of music production is dropping I don’t see why artists should expect to make money hand over fist anyway. If one were to base salary on the vitality of their work then garbage collectors would be some of the richest people on earth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

AC #12, The reason most of us cannot pay the artists directly is because there is no channel to do so. If they had a site that we can submit paypal or CC contributions, I would be glad to do so.

I have a pot of money waiting for the artists. Since RIAA is not worthy of the payment, they get none.

Trust me… I am just as pissed about all this, if not more. I used to be a DJ and I had to pay to play. ASCAP and BMI are leaches. I had to pay a percentage of my income to them every month. Imagine making 10k on a rave and then having to pay out almost half to IRS and then another 20% to the industry. What a farce. Again… if I had a direct route to the artist, I would have paid them.

that guy says:

atomatom: I understand the business model. You still didn’t address the main point of my comment, that you don’t know what happens in-between “this is fun I’m getting free publicity and a few donations” and “I’m famous now I can get lots of donations”. The money that the guy playing guitar on the street makes is barely enough to get by. You just assume that they will get enough donations to continue making music.

But I suppose the key point is “provided they’re offering what people want”. Maybe this means only the most super-popular music can survive? Otherwise, you assume that if an artist’s music is good, then people will respond and donate proportionally. Well, it’s been my experience that people go and buy what they see on MTV. So, good luck artists!

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with a movie director doing this is that no one wants to go to the movies anymore. People like going to see live shows of they’re favorite band but “the movies” as we know them are no longer entertaining. I have to deal with 22 minutes of commercials and previews at my last count before the movie starts then I have people talking while i’m in an uncomfortable seat. I’m bound by their times and locations. It’s really just easier and better to watch a movie at home. The only reason these independent film makers want their films distributed is so that they can make a name for themselves. It’s not for the money… yet. They want the credit first then they can make big budget pictures in wide release and I will bet dollars to donunts that they will be singing a different tune when they’re income depends on DVD sales. Pardon the idioms and pleas don’t start whining about improving business models as it’s not the film makers business model that is failing… they’ll be fine as long as someone is willing to pay them to do their job.

alizard says:

funny story ...

you know, back in the day, i remember Michael Moore really wanted the Fahrenheit 9/11 film to be released to broadcast before the election. His distributor, of course, shut him down. I found the download on Kazaa, with the highest bandwidth numbers I’d ever seen, multiple copies, all claiming “Advance DVD Rip!!!1!1” and things of that nature. The quality of the download (which finished up in under 40 minutes) was just amazing.

It was almost like some folks who really, really knew their way around video encoding and had bandwidth out the wazoo, had gotten their piratey little hands on some real quality booty with that pre-release version, and oh my were they ever sharing.

And Michael Moore had just been out on a speaking tour of Universities across the country.

I’m just sayin’.

Now, I’m sure Mr. Moore would never subvert his film’s distributor’s rights to get rich or anything, just to get his message out to a wider public audience before an election. Heavens no. But whatever did happen, that was indeed the result. Didn’t save us, but hey, someone was at least trying.

atomatom says:

that guy: “that you don’t know what happens in-between “this is fun I’m getting free publicity and a few donations” and “I’m famous now I can get lots of donations”.”

Yes, I do know. Look at my first post, where I offered the example of webcomics. It is possible to survive on donations even when your fanbase is not very large. To make 40k a year you need to make $110 a day. If you have 1000 fans and they each donate $0.10 a day ($36.50 a year), you make that 40k. If 10 000 people download your movie but only 1000 people pay $10 for it, you still made $10 000. That is peanuts to a big studio, but it covers the cost of production of an indie film. And we’re only talking about 1000 people paying! There are millions of people on the internet, and you only need to grab the attention of a fraction of them.

It’s easier for musicians than filmmakers, of course, since they can survive on concert proceedings.

Donations! says:


Yes, all artists need a web page and a paypal account. I don’t like buying CDs or DVDs, but I download a ton of stuff. Lots of it is crap, but some is worth paying for. Usually I’m put off by the hoops I have to jump through to buy the non-mainstream entertainment I enjoy, but I’m always sending a few bucks through paypal when I can find where to send it.

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