Talented independent filmmakers are benefiting immensely from having their movies distributed for free on BitTorrent. Films that might never have been heard of before are now being watched by millions of people.
Today, several of the top movies on BitTorrent sites such as mininova are independent films produced by small movie studios. “The Man from Earth” and “Day Zero” are two recent examples of films that became known to a wide audience thanks to BitTorrent.
“The Man from Earth” in particular has become immensely popular due to its distribution on BitTorrent. After RLSlog reviewed the film and linked to a torrent of it and to the official site, the producer wrote to the blogger, thanking him for reviewing it. They had received some 23,000 hits in the days following the review and went from the being the 11,235th most popular movie on IMDB to being the 5th most popular one, and the most popular independent film in a matter of days. He said:
Our independent movie had next to no advertising budget and very little going for it until somebody ripped one of the DVD screeners and put the movie online for all to download. After that happened, people were watching it and started posting mostly all positive reviews on IMDb, Amazon and other places. Most of the feedback from everyone who has downloaded “The Man From Earth” has been overwhelmingly positive. People like our movie and are talking about it, all thanks to piracy on the net!
“Day Zero“, too, hasn’t even been released yet. But a leaked DVD screener of it has been making its way around the Internet. The movie premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival , but will only open in a few theaters in the US on the 18 of January ’08, which will be followed by a wider release in the weeks after. Despite mainstream audiences having practically no access to this film, it has become popular online and is the 5th most seeded movie in the Drama category on mininova.
Of course there are still several independent Film producers that would rather not see their creations up for grabs while they are still running in theaters. The following quote is taken from an email that was sent to a BitTorrent site by one of the producers of Cashback. The film in question was downloaded nearly a million times over the past few months, reaching a much broader audience online than in the movie theaters.
Is it possible to remove it from your site for say 6 months? At least then it gives the filmmakers a chance to see how popular viewers really think it is, and for us to make our living. I can’t really attack film piracy, because reality is, it’s inevitable.. but until we find a real solution that works for everyone is it possible that we could have a bit of compromise from your end?
The reaction from the producer is understandable, but I dare to argue that the popularity of independent films on BitTorrent does more good than harm. A pirated copy does not equal a visitor lost in the movie theater, similar to music, independent films might actually profit from filesharing. It generates a lot of word to mouth advertising.
More and more people start to recognize the potential BitTorrent has. Last year filmmaker Mark Achbar released a torrent of the award winning Canadian documentary ‘The Corporation’ here on TorrentFreak. He was one of the first to realise that filmmakers can profit from BitTorrent, even though the official distributors did not agree.
It isn’t hard to see why filmmakers are starting to look at “piracy” in a different light. The more hype their movie gets early on, the greater the chance of someone wanting to buy the DVD or go see it in the cinema. It’s really as simple as that. Independent filmmakers don’t have the same promotional and marketing budgets as Hollywood studios, and getting the word out about their film is really the biggest hurdle for them. We’ve seen producers of TV shows start to leak content to BitTorrent and embrace filesharing, so why not movie producers too?