Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Model Needs Changing

I just read this article over at Slate.com titled Please Pirate My Sundance Film. In the article, Tim Wu writes about all of the anti-piracy measures that the Sundance Film Festival is using to prevent bootlegging of the films shown. However, Wu points out that the measures are mostly unnecessary since the more obscure the film, the less likely it is to be pirated. In fact, he could find no 2008 Sundance film on any BitTorrent search, nor could he find more than a scant few of the 2007 films.

Checking out his claim, I did a search for what had to have been the most notorious of last year’s films, Teeth. (See the trailer here.) This is the film about a teen girl with the mythical condition of vagina dentata. It seemed as if the film was doomed to never find distribution until it recently got picked up for theatrical release later this year. I couldn’t find one copy of Teeth anywhere.

Unfortunately, for every film like Teeth or even the sweet-but-kitschy Fido that gets a distribution deal, there are a number of well made and good films that will never be seen outside of the festival circuit, if at all. This leaves the filmmaker in a predicament: they want the film to be seen, but they also want to make back some of the exorbitant costs from the production.

As Wu points out in his article, “[Allowing piracy of your film] isn’t likely to happen. For that would mean accepting that your film isn’t going anywhere, and at Sundance that kind of pessimism is strictly verboten.”

Besides, if you let your flick get pirated over BitTorrent, you’d kill any chance of ever getting it distributed. I mean, if the film is already easily available for free, who’d pay to see it? Right?

Well, releasing a free version of the film over Torrent shares may not be as crazy as one would think. According to a report at Torrentfreak.com, author Paulo Coelho has pirated his books over Torrent sites and the result has been a huge increase in the sales of his books. While there is a huge difference between books and films, the article definitely shows that there could be gains for the feature filmmaker gutsy enough to leak their film onto the web.

In these times where the majors aren’t willing to take as many risks as they used to with independent film, maybe it’s time to change the model used to get a movie out into the pop culture. I personally would love to see someone try this and be successful with it.

What do you guys think? Feel free to comment and discuss.

One Last Note: According to Billboard.com, Radiohead's In Rainbows album is the top selling independent CD right now. You may remember when this was released months ago on the web for a "pay-what-you-feel-is-right" price. Their CD sales seem to not have taken a hit, eh?