Sequel To 'Man From Earth' Released On Pirate Sites By Its Creators

from the lessons-learned dept

While we cover much here in terms of content creators actually embracing what the internet can do for them rather than fighting what is essentially mere reality, some stories truly do stand out more than others. If you aren't familiar with the story of the film The Man From Earth, you should read up on it because it's plainly fascinating. The sci-fi film was directed by Richard Schenkman on a fairly barebones budget and set for the sort of release that these types of independent films tend to get.

And then somebody put a screener DVD up on The Pirate Bay and the film became known in a way it never would have otherwise.

“Originally, somebody got hold of a promotional screener DVD of ‘Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth’, ripped the file and posted the movie online before we knew what was even happening,” Man from Earth director Richard Schenkman informs TorrentFreak.

“A week or two before the DVD’s ‘street date’, we jumped 11,000% on the IMDb ‘Moviemeter’ and we were shocked.”

Suddenly there was very real public buzz and interest in this small, independent film. No advertising budget for the film had been planned. Marketing was non-existent. And, yet, all of that work was essentially done by an internet that truly appreciated the film for what it was. Still, this was an unauthorized placement of a creative work put up on torrent sites. It would be quite understandable if the producers of the film lashed out at these sites.

Instead, Eric Wilkinson, a producer for the film, reached out to those sites to thank them. Schenkman is on the record stating that filesharing was key to the success of the film as a whole. And, because they were smart, those behind the film decided to try to monetize this fandom.

“Once we realized what was going on, we asked people to make donations to our PayPal page if they saw the movie for free and liked it, because we had all worked for nothing for two years to bring it to the screen, and the only chance we had of surviving financially was to ask people to support us and the project,” Schenkman explains.

“And, happily, many people around the world did donate, although of course only a tiny fraction of the millions and millions of people who downloaded pirated copies.”

Meanwhile, the film went on to win awards and still enjoys a healthy audience on modern platforms such as Netflix. Interestingly, the filmmakers and producers don't appear to be thinking of the piracy experience as some kind of one-off, nor do they see how well it turned out for them as being a function of being initially unknown. Indeed, they plan on making even more use of torrent sites this go around, no longer leaving it to chance that someone else will upload the film and instead choosing to simply do so themselves.

“It was going to get uploaded regardless of what we did or didn’t do, and we figured that as long as this was inevitable, we would do the uploading ourselves and explain why we were doing it,” Schenkman informs TF.

“And, we would once again reach out to the filesharing community and remind them that while movies may be free to watch, they are not free to make, and we need their support.”

The Pirate Bay upload is rife with information and notes on the movie, and even goes so far as to include helpful tips on how the movie can be even more widely shared to generate additional audiences. Schenkman goes on to call this something of an honor system, relying on the general goodness of people to compensate directly the makers of a film they have enjoyed for free. This is of course still counterintuitive, but we've made the argument for years that treating people well, and specifically treating piracy as an untapped market, can be a fantastic avenue for success.

And this isn't the only experiment in treating moviegoers like human beings that the makers of the film are undertaking.

Other partners include MovieSaints.com, where fans can pay to see the movie from January 19 but get a full refund if they don’t enjoy it. It’s also available on Vimeo (see below) but the version seen by pirates is slightly different, and for good reason, Schenkman says.

“This version of the movie includes a greeting from me at the beginning, pointing out that we did indeed upload the movie ourselves, and asking people to visit manfromearth.com and make a donation if they can afford to, and if they enjoyed the film.

“The version we posted is very high-resolution, although we are also sharing some smaller files for those folks who have a slow Internet connection where they live,” he explains.

It's hard to imagine how they could have gotten this any more right than they have. Meanwhile, this undertaking is knocking down all kinds of strawmen that currently guard the MPAA offices. Bravo all around.


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2018 @ 7:59pm

    "fairly barebones budget" -- And yet, the latest Star Wars went with the out-dated direct pay!

    Odd.

    The rule seems to be: low-budget movies MIGHT be able to come out with a profit if pirated, and stupendous-budget ones can't. Anyway, that's the way I'd bet.

    Another key phrase is "DIDN'T HAVE A CHOICE"! They then tried BEGGING. We'll never know what it would have brought if not stolen.

    3rd key phrase is "a tiny fraction of the millions and millions of people who downloaded pirated copies.”

    Yeah, THIS is the new "business model" every producer has been looking for.

    Oh, and don't forget that THE MOVIE is the draw: if was a real stinker, this definitely wouldn't happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      radix (profile), 19 Jan 2018 @ 8:02pm

      Re: "fairly barebones budget" -- And yet, the latest Star Wars went with the out-dated direct pay!

      > Yeah, THIS is the new "business model" every producer has been looking for.

      Seems to have worked for every mobile game developer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2018 @ 8:36pm

        Re: Re: "fairly barebones budget" -- And yet, the latest Star Wars went with the out-dated direct pay!

        >>> Seems to have worked for every mobile game developer.

        You fanboys really do just read along, ignoring points you can't answer, besides the argument as a whole, until find some hook to use for a one-liner.

        Up there is stated a rule: works for LOW-BUDGET, NOT THE BIGGIES. You state a low-budget case. That's never been in dispute with anyone that I recall: garage bands with near zero costs may strike it big. Games are cheap to develop, may strike it big. -- But $100 million movies need certainty and direct pay from nearly everyone, NOT just "a tiny fraction of the millions and millions" who enjoy (or at least watch) the product.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jan 2018 @ 9:38pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          $100 million movies need certainty and direct pay from nearly everyone

          Or maybe the studios need to stop spending $100mm on every movie they make.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2018 @ 9:42pm

          Re: Re: Re: "fairly barebones budget" -- And yet, the latest Star Wars went with the out-dated direct pay!

          Triple A games cost in the 100 million dollar range you numpty.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2018 @ 10:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: "fairly barebones budget" -- And yet, the latest Star Wars went with the out-dated direct pay!

          I thought the "biggies" were the work of the corporations you love to complain about so much. You know, the ones that Techdirt supposedly supports (except for all the times they don't, which is usually).

          out_of_the_blue just hates it when brainpower is enforced.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 12:49am

          Re: Re: Re: "fairly barebones budget" -- And yet, the latest Star Wars went with the out-dated direct pay!

          "Games are cheap to develop"

          You know how I know you haven't got a clue about what you're spewing again?

          "But $100 million movies need certainty and direct pay from nearly everyone"

          It's also cute that you think that any recent blockbuster cost as little as $100 million to produce. That might explain why you're wrong all the time - you think it's still 1998.

          "NOT just "a tiny fraction of the millions and millions" who enjoy (or at least watch) the product."

          Funny. They used to be able to make plenty of money despite lots of people waiting for the TV broadcast, borrowing tapes from friends and the like. Lots of people never paid a penny upfront for the movies they watched, on a regular basis. What caused their recent incompetence and need to force everyone to pay them a premium rather than address the market that exists in reality?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jan 2018 @ 9:52pm

      Re:

      low-budget movies MIGHT be able to come out with a profit if pirated, and stupendous-budget ones can't

      Funny, then, how Marvel movies are pirated almost as soon as the first showing ends yet still make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. Why, it almost seems as if lots of people prefer to see movies in theatres if given the choice between high-quality-but-paid and low-quality-but-free.

      Another key phrase is "DIDN'T HAVE A CHOICE"! They then tried BEGGING. We'll never know what it would have brought if not stolen.

      Obscurity is the true enemy of any artist. If the film had languished in obscurity because no one had pirated it, the filmmakers would be, to use a colloquial term, absolutely fucked. The success of that film can be partially attributed to piracy and the way it grew the audience for that film.

      3rd key phrase is "a tiny fraction of the millions and millions of people who downloaded pirated copies.”

      Not everyone pays for all their media. Ignore this reality at your own peril.

      Yeah, THIS is the new "business model" every producer has been looking for.

      No one has a one-size-fits-all "magic bullet" business model. What works for one person/group may not work for another. That said: Anyone who takes piracy into account with their business model has a better chance of success than anyone who ignores it.

      don't forget that THE MOVIE is the draw: if was a real stinker, this definitely wouldn't happen

      Maybe it would not have been a financial success, but if you think a shitty movie would not have drawn the interest of a sizeable audience, you underestimate humanity. For Servo’s sake, Manos: The Hands of Fate has a remastered Blu-ray release because enough people Kickstarted a restoration of a long-lost Manos workprint.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 2:47am

      Re: "fairly barebones budget" -- And yet, the latest Star Wars went with the out-dated direct pay!

      It's amusing to see you foaming over what's clearly a success story that benefited both the creators and the people.

      I'd like to emphasize something the other comments didn't:

      "Oh, and don't forget that THE MOVIE is the draw: if was a real stinker, this definitely wouldn't happen."

      Remember that those $100 million movies may result in pretty crappy works and you can't get your money back as it would be fair in these cases. Sure it wouldn't happen but at the very least those smaller movies don't try to fool you into spending money in crap via tons of misleading advertisement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eric D. Wilkinson, 19 Jan 2018 @ 10:05pm

    To Be Released?

    The writer of this article needs to do a little fact checking. It's already "released"! Timothy if you read this I can be reached on twitter at @indeeproducer. DM me and I would be happy to give you an interview. You can also email me at dhyo@comcast.net I am the co-writer and the producer of The Man From Earth: Holocene and also the architect behind the TPB release.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 20 Jan 2018 @ 3:37am

      Re: To Be Released?

      Hi, Eric. Yes, the title of the post is a bit off. I'd be happy to change it to reflect that the release already occurred, but I did mention that in the body of the post as well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Eric D. Wilkinson, 20 Jan 2018 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re: To Be Released?

        That's up to you. Since your site "covers much here in terms of content creators actually embracing what the internet can do for them", I thought you might want to do an interview with the creator rather than just repeating Torrent Freak's article. If you are interested, you know where to find me. Really appreciate your posting this story none the less. A decade ago, after the first movie was pirated and I said in a post (that went viral) that I would upload the next one to the internet myself and that's exactly what I did! Thanks again.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2018 @ 7:57am

        Re: Re: To Be Released?

        I'm curious why the article didn't include a link to the official free torrent. Is it some sort of attempt at reporting news neutrally or not giving free advertising? Maybe you're just trying to encourage people to pay for it before seeing it? (I'd surely hope that's not the case given this site's focus on finding new business models in the internet age and engaging with fans directly)

        I'd link it here myself, but I fear the spam filter would eat this comment. I'll try in a separate comment in a few minutes to keep this one safe.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Valis (profile), 20 Jan 2018 @ 1:51am

    Proof peoole will watch anything.

    Well, I've just tried watching The Man From Earth, it is absolute crap! I got halfway through and I couldn't take it any more. It is just awful. I love low-budget indie movies but this one is unwatchable. Sorry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2018 @ 3:54am

      Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

      And that is exactly why it did so well in the first place. A certain percentage of people enjoyed it more than any other film of the last two decades. You clearly were not its intended audience. Too cerebral for you apparently.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Jan 2018 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

        Too cerebral for you apparently.

        Your comment would have been vastly better if you had left this sentence off. Just because someone dislikes a movie you liked does not make them stupid, and just because you may have a certain level of intelligence does not make you better than/superior to someone who does not. If you want to insult someone’s intelligence, we have plenty of actual trolls around here that are perfect targets for such condescension.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 5:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

          Someone intelligent wouldn't call it "absolute crap".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 4:50pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

            Someone intelligent would ask the person who made such a comment why they believe the film is “absolute crap” rather than judge that person to be of lesser intelligence because of the words they use to express an opinion.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PeterScott (profile), 20 Jan 2018 @ 7:09am

      Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

      @Valis

      Some of us like slower, thought provoking SciFi. TMFE has an 8.0 on IMDB.

      But you can stick to Michael Bay movies, if you want more action.

      I loved the original Man from Earth. Watched it with friends many years ago and thought it was a hidden gem we stumbled upon.

      I never heard the story of how it leveraged file sharing.

      Unfortunately TMFE:Holocene isn't getting great reviews, and it really seemed that TMFE, really was a movie that shouldn't have a sequel.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Jan 2018 @ 7:56am

        Re: Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

        Someone can dislike both The Man from Earth and Michael Bay movies, you know. Just because someone dislikes one does not mean they automatically like the other.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 6:34am

        Re: Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

        Unfortunately TMFE:Holocene isn't getting great reviews, and it really seemed that TMFE, really was a movie that shouldn't have a sequel.

        I liked the original and didn't really care for the sequel, which is totally different in tone. The original was mostly a conversation (almost a radio play more than a movie) in which people gradually come to accept John's story.

        In this one, it's a bunch of students who mostly start off believing it, then ambush him in an attempt to prove it. John denies it till nearly the end, then kind of confirms it, but there's none of the storytelling, discovery, or surprises that made the first film so good.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Eric D. Wilkinson, 20 Jan 2018 @ 7:22am

      Re: Proof peoole will watch anything.

      Well, at least you tried. It ain't for everyone. No need to apologize. Art is subjective.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    madasahatter (profile), 20 Jan 2018 @ 5:44am

    Guerrilla Marketing

    What the Internet does best is guerrilla marketing. They had no marketing budget but the torrents gave them the buzz to generate ticket sales and PayPal payments. It sounds like they made a little money also.

    For small budget films this can work reasonably well as the break even is fairly low. Another key is whether the film is worth watching. Something the studios have forgotten; make films worth watching and people might show up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2018 @ 6:23am

    Spoiler alert: don't read the sequel's plot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2018 @ 6:39am

    He Never Died

    A different movie with similiar plotline happens to star Henry Rollins. If you enjoyed Man from Earth, I recommend it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2018 @ 8:09am

    Here's a link to one of the official torrents (or at least with the official message from the director intact. It seems some groups ignored the message and did transcodes of their own anyway without the message) https://thepiratebay.org/torrent/19672640/The.Man.from.Earth.Holocene.2017.1080p.BluRay.x264-UNiVEAR TH

    Now to see if the spam filter eats a legal torrent... Not that I'd blame folks for setting it up that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Jan 2018 @ 1:10pm

    AND??

    Consider the COST..
    Advert..
    RENT/pay to get it published..
    Make ?? copies to each distributors..
    PRAY you get enough people to the theaters to get MONEY BACK...
    (Distribution system owned by the corps and costs TONS to use)

    end up paying MORE to get people to see it, and to the distribution system, then you would GIVING IT AWAY..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 10:41am

    "Piracy. It's a crime!" Yes, in the sea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kadmos1 (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 9:45pm

    Piracy/copyright infringement is usu. theft/close to it, if you look at it from a moral/ethical and sometimes legal standpoint. However, not all rights holders share this view. I would lean on more towards the indie movie studios that might share this view and not the bigger, copyright maximalist studios like the House of Mouse or the WB.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kadmos1 (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 9:54pm

    The rights holders of this movie could decide

    The rights holders of this movie could decide to make public notice saying something to the effect of "feel free to use our movie how you want but credit us and make sure it complies with your local and country laws". Unless they or you get a license for something like a public presentation at your college, you still might not to consult a lawyer regarding the applicability of fair use.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kadmos1 (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 10:06pm

    This is how rights holders and pirates/torrenters can work together.

    I frequent scanlation sites, so I am guilty of "piracy" if you consider loading each manga page to be downloading. However, I don't adhere to the profitable scanlation idea unless the rights holder gives the nod.

    What they did with this movie sequel is a fair balance: the movie staff is allowing people to download the film and in exchange they ask the consumers to not the film on a profit-making platform (like YT). Given it was on such a low-budget, I do stand with the rights holders needing to make a return on what was invested. This is how rights holders and pirates/torrenters can work together.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kadmos1 (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 5:06pm

    That will be the day that..

    That will be the day that the Walt Disney Empire* does something like this. Me watching a pirated House of Mouse movie is where I don't feel as guilty because it's a copyright maximalist organization. Doing the same thing for a movie from a smaller studio like the "Man From Earth" studio is where I have more sympathy.


    *who are basically a sworn enemy of copyright expiration and that's why they like lobbying/politically bribing Congress.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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