TorrentFreak asked independent film director Sam Bozzo to comment on his experiences having his two most recent films leaked to BitTorrent. The stories in both cases were different. The first film, Blue Gold: World Water Wars was released normally, and then leaked online. The second, his documentary Hackers Wanted was shelved after internal disputes — but has now leaked to BitTorrent. Originally it was an old cut that was leaked, but now Bozzo’s “directors’ cut” has been leaked, and Bozzo seems fine with it. In fact, he claims that if you make a good film, having it leaked to BitTorrent can only help. It’s only bad if your film isn’t very good:
In a nutshell, I believe the only films that are hurt by torrent sharing are mediocre and bad films. In contrast, the good films of any genre only benefit from file-sharing. Due to this, I feel the current file-sharing trend is a catalyst for a true evolution in filmmaking…
That’s quite a statement, since so many in the movie industry disagree. But Bozzo does a good job backing it up by explaining his own experiences. In fact, he admits when he first found out that Blue Gold was available online he was “enraged and terrified I would never make my money back,” because of this. But he has since changed his mind, in part because he figured out how to embrace it:
I contacted the uploader of my film and asked she spread a message of support with the torrent, asking for donations if a viewer likes the film and explaining that was a self-financed endeavor. The result? I received many donations and emails of support from those who downloaded the film, but I furthermore believe that viewers spread the word of the film to their non-torrent-downloading friends and that DVD sales increased due to the leak. For me, the torrent leak was ultimately “free advertising”, and I am the only truly independent documentary filmmaker I know making his money back this year.
The needs and motivations of an independent filmmaker are different than a major studio. This example shows how free downloading of a film can enhance certain situations. Often giving people the ability to reward good work provides an incentive for more revenue.
I also like the mention that while this can enhance things for a good movie, it can harm revenue for a bad movie. I’d be interested to hear if this is true, although determining just what is a ‘bad’ movie could be hard.
What this does show is that the economics of major motion picture production make it very hard to allow any perceived loss of revenue to exist. It does not matter if there is really any loss. Just the perception is enough.
And marketing costs for a major Hollywood movie can actually prevent the release of a finished movie. The release of the remake of Red Dawn is apparently in doubt because MGM lacks the money to market it and is looking for a buyer.
But the economics of modern technology allows a wide range of new entrepreneurs to creative works that permit widespread copying, as this gives them greater marketing advantages than normal.
Perhaps MGM should just release parts of the movie to the web, asking people to send them money for a marketing campaign. If done well enough, perhaps they could get it into movie theaters.
Assuming it is a good movie, that is.