By ben hicks, November 21st, 2009

After tweeting, facebooking and e-mailing everyone on my contact list I successfully reached my $10,000 goal on kickstarter that I needed to finish up post production and to manufacture our first run of DVD’s. (which we pre-sold 250 copies of)

Once the film was completed we uploaded the film onto The Pirate Bay and a few other torrent sites and in its first year had been downloaded over half a million times. These downloads also had the VODO icon at the end of the film that links to our online store and provides fans an easy way to donate or support us by buying DVD’s, tee-shirts etc. You can also stream the film for free from our website, youtube, vimeo and a host of other channels which has resulted in additional exposure which helped get our film into over 200 film festivals and even helped us pick up some rewards.

Our openindie account helped us out at getting our film booked in 16 states throughout the U.S. and we were able to conduct live Q and A sessions after many of the screenings through Skype to connect with our newfound fans. The press we received from our theatrical run also got the attention of HBO which we had a cable exclusive deal that paid us a few grand and helped boost our exposure and DVD sales.

Thanks to our fans on xvoom and Donkey our film has been translated into 12 languages and our overseas sales roughly account for 35% of our business. We also have used an affiliate program with our fans and share profits with those who direct traffic to our sites with our widgets and banners that they post on their sites and blogs. We were late in the game to try this but once we did we noticed a decent bump in sales as fans helped spread the word to thousands of new people.

To date our film has been seen over 6 million times (to our knowledge) and our little film has grossed $200K.

We are currently producing our second feature film independently of any studio system and are funding the entire $100K budget from our first films profits. But first we’re going to try and raise an extra $30K on kickstarter to get Billy Bob Thornton to star in it.

This is independent filmmaking.

Of course this is an overly optimistic view of things but these are just a few of the tools available to us to get our films seen and many of these have been developed in less than 3 years!

The tools are available to us to make this situation above a reality, right? Are there any more tools that we need? Why aren’t we hearing more success stories like the one above? Do you think that as soon as people catch up with technology that this will become the new route of the independent film?

Curious what you all think.

ben

p.s. We need help on our kickstarter campaign. If you have time please check us out and spread the word here.

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ben hicks

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  • Ben, great post.
    While i was reading, i could not believe it... i was impressed... guess that was for a reason.
    But the subject is spot on. As Independent filmmakers today, we have many tools at our disposal.
    How to use them in the best way, now that can spur some debate...

  • crazy love this post!!! Let's make it happen!

  • Ben Hicks

    Hi Mark,

    Even though my story was made up I feel it reflects things that are going on. I don't think there is any doubt that torrent exposure leads to more sales and more value, NO DOUBT. The more that people know about your film the more valuable it becomes. Check out http://powertothepixel.com/... and scroll down to: A ‘Free’ Distribution Case Study: Sita Sings The Blues – Nina Paley, Filmmaker

    Other films that have benefited from torrents or by being online for free are: Steal this Film, The Tribe and recently the film INK which was downloaded half a million times in five days! http://filmmakermagazine.co...

    I made up the film was seen 6 million times and made $200K, which I think is an attainable number in the near future for films (good films) to make once all these tools are in place for us.

    Now there are two ways of looking at those numbers. You could either be frustrated because about 97% of the people viewing didn't pay a single penny for your film and imagine that IF THEY DID you'd be rolling in piles of money.

    But I think the more realistic view is that if your movie wasn't available online for free, it's doubtful your film would have been seen even over 50K times. Sure a higher percentage of people paid for your film but it is still obscure and most people have no idea it exists. We also have to keep in mind that while $200K might not seem like a lot of profit off of 6 million views, the fact is 100% of that money is going to the filmmaker. If your film was picked up by a distributor it's highly unlikely you'd get a deal like that from any studio. So in my opinion, both in terms of exposure and financially, it makes the most sense to put your film on the internet for free and just let it go.

    hmmmm, you just inspired me to write a new post.

    more soon

    thanks Mark!

  • Do you have any way of knowing how much of the torrent exposure has translated into sales, or I guess value, by bringing people who may have never heard about you otherwise? Maybe that's impossible to know, but even anecdotally?

    Big arguments abound right now of the value of allowing people to "pirate" films, so curious about your experience.

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