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Indie Film Premieres On BitTorrent Before Cinema 93

Posted by timothy
from the do-y'-have-a-benediction-boyo? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The first part of A Lonely Place For Dying is available on VODO while the filmmakers are getting ready for a theatrical run in early 2012. Viewers are asked to donate if they like what they see and if enough cash is raised they will be able to watch the film again on the big screen. In return for their contributions, donors are receiving digital downloads or credits in the upcoming release, you can even become an Executive Producer and get your name listed on IMDB. This is a brave move challenging Hollywood and their traditional 'release windows.'" "Indie" in this case definitely does not mean a Grade Z student film; James Cromwell knows his crime drama. The movie is being released serially, and BitTorrent donations are to be used to "complete a theatrical mix of the motion picture, create a digital cinema package, and get everything else ready to position the film in U.S. movie theaters."
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Indie Film Premieres On BitTorrent Before Cinema

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  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday July 04, 2011 @04:39PM (#36655372) Homepage Journal

    The internet and cheap recording (relatively cheap; the biggest cost of a professionally produced, recorded, and pressed CD is the cost of the musical instruments) has rendered the RIAA labels entirely obsolete. RIAA lables are of no use to anyone in the 21st century.

    I can see the same thing happening to movies. Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning is certainly fat better than any B-movies I've ever seen. The South Park movie could have easily been "shot" for practically nothing. As of now, the big money the MPAA provides is still a prerequisite for a blockbuster action flick; smashing three dozen cars ain't cheap. But with improved CGI even that cost will be brought to effectively zero.

    Bye Bye, M.A.F.I.A.A.. and good riddance.

    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday July 04, 2011 @04:51PM (#36655462) Homepage
      I've seen a couple of the productions on this VODO site, namely Pioneer One [vodo.net], and The Tunnel [vodo.net]. Both were watchable, but I would say they are both not quite as good as a Hollywood production. The acting seems to be noticeably worse. I'm not sure what it is, but it seems that in these low budget movies, they seem to just keep the shot as long as the lines are correct as per the script, and don't seem to worry about whether or not they are delivered properly. At lot of the dialog seems really unnatural. Whereas in hollywood they would make the actors redo the scene until it was perfect, it seems that in indie films this just doesn't happen. Overall, I think that indie movies have their place, but that big budget movies aren't going anywhere. Although they may change their distribution model a little bit.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Considering this has an Academy Award nominated actor maybe it's worth judging this movie on its own merit.

        There was a time when HBO made crap. That's where all new distributors start out. Now, they make the best "TV" on TV. How about judging this for itself rather than someone else's movie?

        • by hedwards (940851)

          HBO has the advantage of being able to put plot points anywhere in the episode that it wants. TV shows for networks with ads are constrained by placing them in places which maximize the ad revenue. On top of that by virtue of being a pay station, they're bound by significantly fewer restrictions in terms of what they're able to show without censoring it.

          Not that it negates the success they've had, it's just important to keep in mind that most channels don't have that luxury.

        • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday July 04, 2011 @05:45PM (#36655780)

          Now, they make the best "TV" on TV.

          And that's because they are attracting and using very large chunks of Eeeeevil Corporate Money. You know, the sort of financing that makes large scale, professionally produced and acted works possible. People have no idea what it takes to put together something HBO's Game Of Thrones episodes, for example. The set construction and horse wrangling alone costs more, for legitimate reasons, than most bad "indie" productions will ever muster. And it shows.

      • I found "A lonely place to Die" to be pretty well acted, Pioneer One seems like a good story, but the acting was too bad for me to watch more than 15 mins of it, and I really wanted to watch the whole thing.

        I donated to "A Lonely Place" because I found it so good and appreciated the method of distribution.

        I wish them all good luck and really appreciate their efforts.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        they seem to just keep the shot as long as the lines are correct as per the script, and don't seem to worry about whether or not they are delivered properly.

        That's a dead giveaway for a overly-short shooting schedule with little coverage. You see that in a lot of indies. The lower the budget, the faster the shooting schedule. And beyond a certain point, the movie does suffer. An experienced producer will start out pre-production by determining the minimum budget, based in large part on how many shooting days they will realistically need. So either the producer didn't do his job here or a foolish director thought he could cut corners and ignored his producer's r

    • by houghi (78078)

      Crashing CGI cars cheap? How much do you think the var crash in Transformers 3 costs? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7kcqB3thJM [youtube.com]

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        CGI is still expensive now, but computing costs keep dropping. I'd say in ten years anybody with the talent will be able to do a movie exactly like that on a laptop.

        • Blender 3D isn't the ugly duckling it used to be. It seems to have really picked up some good winds with its UI revamp, and there's a new internal rendering engine on the way. There are also nice tools for soft body deformation and other physics, a community render grid, and integrated teamware. But more importantly the user community produces a lot of video tutorials and they're friendly to newbies. With all the money to be saved through all of this, a small studio can buy beefy workstations and do GPU ren

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Actually I think you are partially correct and partially incorrect. while I believe that indie is the way to go (after seeing what kind of "contracts" the labels offer new bands I'm going DIY myself, digital recording and cheap powerful computers for editing make it pretty painless) I think it won't be standard CGI as much as game engines and machinima leading the way.

      Look up the video "Escape from City 17" for a video that sadly is better IMHO than a lot of the Hollywood crap, with decent looking effects

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        if the story is good you won't care about CGI

        That's very true. The only problem I see for the little guy is the insanely long copyright lengths. Art is like science and technology, in that what is here now was built on what has come before. There was that one guys, for example, that wrote a sequel to... I can't remember which book, Catcher in the Rye maybe? Any way, the original authou's heirs sued to stop publication, even though it was a completely different book, and the original should have been in the

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          That's very true. The only problem I see for the little guy is the insanely long copyright lengths. Art is like science and technology, in that what is here now was built on what has come before. There was that one guys, for example, that wrote a sequel to... I can't remember which book, Catcher in the Rye maybe? Any way, the original authou's heirs sued to stop publication, even though it was a completely different book, and the original should have been in the public domain anyway.

          Or you could just, you know, use your imagination a little bit and not blatantly copy someone else's work, It's not like you can't ever write another book about annoying fucking teenagers, for instance, you just can't piggyback on the original by calling it "Catcher in the Rye 2: the Holden Caulfield Ultimatum".

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            The problem is, you might come up with a line or an idea you saw or heard decades ago. ZZ Top was sued by Howlin' Wolf for La Grange (a how how how). George Harrison was sued for My Sweet Lord (similar chord progression). Eddie Money was sued for Baby hold one to me ("whatever will be will be"). Again, art is like science or engineering; there's no such thing as "completely original". Hell, Douglas Adam's heirs could concievably sue me for today's journal, because I have a cloaked asteroid destroying the ea

    • by geniice (1336589)

      RIAA labels offer marketing. The general failure of myspace bands to ah "make it" suggests this is important.

      • by wrook (134116)

        It is possible that RIAA marketing is necessary to become obscenely rich making music, but there are a lot of artists who make a decent living doing nothing but playing gigs. What are the odds of "making it big" with the RIAA? One in a hundred thousand? I have a fair number of friends who are musicians who have recordings released by RIAA companies. They aren't superstars, but a couple of them are internationally well known in their area. None of them make any money at all from their recordings. The re

        • exactly what I was going to post. For comparison I work in software (like most people here, I suspect) and I'm very happy being a developer with no managerial responsibility. Is this "making it" in software or is it mandatory to strive to be the next Linus?

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I know a couple of guys who were offered RIAA contracts, read them, and told the label to go fuck themselves. Cory Doctorow credits his status as a New York Times best selling author to the fact that he gives his ebooks away for free on boingboing. As he says, nobody ever went broke from piracy, but many artists have starved from obscurity.

          I agree with you that "making it" shouldn't entail any more than making a decent living. I know I'm happy as long as I have food, transportation, beer, a roof over my hea

          • I credit Cory Doctorow's succes with the good publicity associated with giving away his work for free. What i've read so far appears to be more like "let me see how many neat ideas I can cram in here under story lines that are written to be painfully obvious predictions of society's future" than actual stories.

            Then again,I have precisely zero published books (and if I keep crafting sentences like the one above I never will) -- and it's easy to be a critic ;)

            • by tehcyder (746570)
              One thing I will say about Cory Doctorow, once you've read one of his stories, there's no mistaking it when you read another.

              Take that as you will.
              • by mcgrew (92797) *

                You could say the same of Terry Pratchett (and I need more Pratchett books, damn it!)

        • by tehcyder (746570)
          Nobody's saying you have to make zillions of dollars to be happy or a great musician, it's just that you can't say the RIAA/music industry don't do anything for artists. They make a few of them rich. I couldn't give a flying toss, but it's silly to pretend that it doesn't happen.

          I don't like multi-millionnaire rockstars any more or less than multi-millionnaire electronic gadget manufacturers or multi-millionnaire footballers or multi-millionnaire oil company executives just because they are multi-millio
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Depends what you mean by "make it". If you mean become a superstar and get the record label very rich then yes, they still control radio and TV playlists well enough to suppress anything else. If you mean "can make a good living" from it then that is certainly possible to do without a major label. In fact indie labels do it all the time, but now you don't even need one of those.

        I can think of a few people who were doing okay pretty much on their own, such as the aptly named Example.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Yet only one in twenty RIAA artists ever make any money at all on their recording, so their marketing is pretty poor. The RIAA's strength is that they have radio.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Yet only one in twenty RIAA artists ever make any money at all on their recording, so their marketing is pretty poor. The RIAA's strength is that they have radio.

          Commercial music is effectively a closed marketplace, in that if there are currently (say) 100 popular acts, you can't just keep adding 25 more each week and making money off all of them at the same rate.

    • by jsfs (1329511)
      After taking an animation class in film school, I will never consider animated features "cheap." There's a lot of work involved, and trained animators' time isn't free, either. If you're doing it all yourself in your spare time, then it's just the cost of the computer and the program you use. But that's not exactly the same thing as a full production.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Yes, it does take time. Back in the late '70s I did some animations on onion skin paper so I know how long it takes and how much work. Sadly, they were lost before computers and scanners came about or I'd have them up on youtube.

    • As of now, the big money the MPAA provides is still a prerequisite for a blockbuster action flick; smashing three dozen cars ain't cheap. But with improved CGI even that cost will be brought to effectively zero.

      On the one hand you have a point here, but on the other hand there is a large visual difference between a practical effects with a little touch up and straight CGI.

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Yes, anyone can make a movie because they've got Final Cut Pro in the same way that anyone can write a song if they've got Garageband or write a novel if they've Word.
  • by imunfair (877689) on Monday July 04, 2011 @04:40PM (#36655384) Homepage

    Length: 27m

    Looks like a short film to me. Do theaters even show something that short? Maybe they could replace all those trailers with that, because it seems like they show half an hour of those before each movie now.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      That's just the first installment. "To be continued" was the worst part of the second MATRIX movie.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by reeno49 (1558221)

        There was a second Matrix movie?! Why didn't I know about this?!?

        When's the 3rd due out?

        • by Simon80 (874052)
          Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com]
        • by lennier (44736)

          There was a second Matrix movie?! Why didn't I know about this?!?

          When's the 3rd due out?

          See that black cat that just walked by past? That was the Matrix rebooting itself from a horrible error.

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          There was a second Matrix movie?! Why didn't I know about this?!?

          No one had the heart to break it to you after you awoke from the coma. We all thought it best for you not to know.

  • Open-source is where it's at... Who's to say a _film couldn't be open-sourced? The initial developer would post digital of her cut, maybe even zip archives of scenes, sound effects, and alt versions -- then secondary directors could "have at it"..! But it would be like the GNU license -- if you screw with this free, raw film, you have to make _your version free also..! Basically, I'm thinking that the whole "copyright/piracy" system is dead in the water. With the Earth on the brink of being destroyed by
    • by hedwards (940851)

      The problem is that it's an extremely limited concept. I suppose you could offer up stock footage on that basis, but you'd still need an incredible amount of actual footage to go with. Probably the best bet would be to offer up Blender models for rendering with a permissive license.

      And stock footage rarely if ever looks good, I've seen it in all sorts of places over the years and probably the only place that it seemed to work was on the Muppet Babies.

      • I'm talking open source. What I mean by that, is that additional dialogue recording, music (and rights), alt cuts of scenes, raw footage, would all be available. It's a matter of link speed. If we could all have megabit links, downloading this stuff would be no problem. We could then mix and mash to our hearts' content... Down to the granularity of Pro Tools sessions all tracked out... Total control, total freedom. What if you had all the alt takes to The Matrix? Don't tell me it would add up to a Mup
        • by hedwards (940851)

          Sure, you can do remixes, but if you want to move much beyond parodies, it's not going to happen. As somebody that's apparently into movie making you ought to know better than to suggest that you can mix in clips from some other source and have it work. Sure you can do that, but the work necessary is hardly trivial and unlikely to be of sufficient value to justify the effort.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Baron Eekman (713784)
      The Blender showcase film Sintel [sintel.org] has all source needed to render it freely available.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Yes, the more differen auteurs that work on a movie, the better it always is.
  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Monday July 04, 2011 @04:53PM (#36655474)
    No, this isn't brave or any such nonsense. It's just a way to get publicity for a low-budget film that nobody would hear of otherwise. The odds of this succeeding are pretty close to zero. I'm a wannabe filmmaker, so I keep up with this world avidly. It might very well be a smart strategy that will attract the producer enough attention that he can leverage it into some financing. But it's not likely. Even if it worked, it would be a one-trick pony. I'm just surprised that some people are falling for something this obvious.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, this isn't brave or any such nonsense. It's just a way to get publicity for a low-budget film that nobody would hear of otherwise.

      Everywhere on /. you hear all these people harping on about file-sharing's potential as free advertising, here we have some artists experimenting with ways that can be exploited... and here you are, a

      wannabe filmmaker

      judging the choices of those who are out there trying new things and innovating. I'm sorry to say this, but until you are out there gambling with your own work, and can offer a better idea about how to leverage the internet (without passing censorship and surveillance laws), I suggest you keep quiet.

    • by m4ktub (2333996)
      Publicity, smart strategy, ... you can call it whatever you want but VODO is really interesting as a movie distribution platform. I've been following the Pionner One series and, from what I could read, they would not make the series without the support of platforms like VODO. I don't know the producers so I would never be in their living room watching the raw home edit of their idea for a series. Instead I'm in my living room watching the entire series, and kind of anxious for the 4th episode, ...

      In short

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Their plan is to release episodes and keep the finale back for a TV broadcast early next year. That sounds like a good plan and has worked before for shows like Sanctuary. Start off for free on the web and build up some interest, then when you have proven the viability of the show you can get a TV channel to pick it up. The biggest problem for TV shows is convincing the execs to air them because there is so much risk involved.

      It is the same technique that has worked for bands. Put out demo material, maybe a

  • by airfoobar (1853132) on Monday July 04, 2011 @05:05PM (#36655556)
    This is quite well made, and I recommend it. Note that it's not technically a film, as this appears to be the first episode of a mini-series, with the second episode coming in a few weeks. That said, my favourite movie on Vodo is still by far The Tunnel [vodo.net].
  • That is all.

  • He's not being brave and challenging Hollywood. He's being brave and challenging his audience to tolerate this method getting a film in front of them. He's being brave and running the risk that box office receipts, reduced in advance by the long availability of the work at no charge, won't be so reduced that it spells too much financial trouble. He's being brave in taking the chance that there are enough people both vain enough to want to see their name on IMDB for bankrolling three frames of the film, and
    • by Seumas (6865)

      He's being brave in taking the chance that there are enough people both vain enough to want to see their name on IMDB for bankrolling three frames of the film, and simultaneously able to hang onto the willing suspension of disbelief required to ignore the fact that dilution of production credit by large-scale credit-bloat will make that as silly as it sounds, on the face of it.

      Producer and production credits in this film are just as valid and meaningful as in any other production for any television show or movie. The credits who see for these roles are largely meaningless and are for vanity - whether in a little indie film or at the beginning of Lost on television.

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Monday July 04, 2011 @05:47PM (#36655796)
    A huge part of the film production chain is in distribution. It is so critical that, for non-major studio pictures, distributors must be found before the film is started. Independent films can get made, find no real distribution, and are never heard from again.

    So saying that you are distributing you film over bittorrent is like saying that you are self publishing a book. Good luck with that. You have about as much chance as success with no theatrical release as a self published book has of getting on the NY Times best seller list.

    • They actually refer to self-publishing, when books are concerned, as "vanity publishing"... But I think the net has opened this up a bit. In the past, writers had to _beg for their readerships. They had to pander to the reading public. No more. You can get your crap out there, and truly let it spread. Call this "vanity" -- or call it freedom? Publishers, like Harvard, have an interest in business-as-usual. A revolutionary author shouldn't get swept up in that.
    • by import (40570)

      Cursory search for "successful self published book" gives:

      "Supposedly......the most successful self-published book of all time would be "The Celestine Prophecy" by James Redfield. According to Publishing Trends, The Celestine Prophecy was the #1 international bestseller of 1996 (#2 in 1995). It spent over 3 years on the New York Times bestsellers list. As a completely self-published bppk it solf more than 100,000 by word of mouth, and was then picked up by Warner Brothers Books."

      ALso, wasn't Accelerando (St

    • by Seumas (6865)

      For now, maybe.

      Think of the level of involvement necessary to get someone to watch your film.

      I have to be willing to set aside an entire evening. Drive to the nearest theater. Pay $10+ per ticket to see the film. Deal with people, their kids, talking, cell phones, sometimes poor projection jobs, sit in uncomfortable theater seats, focus my attention on nothing else but the film, get back to the car and drive home.

      Or, I could turn on the laptop, desktop, iPad, home theater, etc. Watch at my leisure, pause wh

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      What about Dr.Horrible's Sing-along Blog? wasn't that initially distributed mostly via bittorrent?

      • by jnpcl (1929302)

        Dr. Horrible was streamed free, in its entirety, from the website. They also had a Torrent going. They made back all the money from donations via PayPal...

        Then they removed the free version, killed the Torrent, and made it available only through iTunes for whatever price.

        I'm glad I kept my downloaded copy, because I wanted to show it to friends and discovered that you couldn't just go and watch it anymore..

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          It would be interesting to see the revenue chart for when it was free vs after it became pay only.

          I kept my old downloaded copy too.

          Occurs to me to wonder if there's a business opportunity here ... dollar-a-seat theatres that are absolutely minimal, and show streamed free content such as Dr.Horrible, with revenue sharing to the filmmakers on a basis of how many fannies are in the seats for each showing. This would be suitable for small, old, otherwise-outdated venues, especially in small towns that can't su

  • Viewers are asked to donate if they like what they see and if enough cash is raised they will be able to watch the film again on the big screen.

    I'd be curious to know how many people who torrent movies have actually gone into a theater within the past year to watch a movie - or in the last five years.

    • by Kotiya (2340914)
      Everyone I know, myself included, who have utilized torrents will go watch a movie at the theater if it is an experience worth the time and money invested--there are a lot of movies I would not watch even for free, at least not silently. Something that has really reduced our downloading by quite a bit, however, is the improved selection available for immediately streaming through Netflix and Hulu.

      Getting something for free is only part of the reason people torrent. There are other prominent reasons, su
    • by Seumas (6865)

      I haven't seen a movie in the theater since X-Files, in 1998. If you want me to see your film, you need to stream it to my home theater as soon after theatrical release as possible and for a reasonable price. I'm not going to pay $5 to watch it once or $10 to own it (like I'm ever going to watch it again?) and if you wait too long (more than a month or two after release), I'm probably going to forget about it and never see it.

      I don't remember when Inception came out, but I wasn't going to pay $10 on iTunes

  • This is oh so similar to the Australian movie 'The Tunnel' which raised funds through a pre-release 'buy a frame from the movie' approach. Regardless of something similar being done before, it's still great to see people solving piracy without lawyers and punishing the consumer! Go FTW!
    • The Tunnel was/is on VODO as well. And it was a very good film, I really enjoyed it. Either way I really like what VODO has done and hope it drives a whole new indie industry. I also hope that people who enjoyed the film will actually donate.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm tired of reading about how everyone who goes into business for themselves is 'sticking it to the man', and challenging the very foundation of their business. This is just a low end indie flick trying to drum up some publicity. Is the local band selling CDs out of their trunk bravely challenging the record companies and threatening their business model? No...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    every movie first premiers on bit torrent!

  • by leamanc (961376) on Monday July 04, 2011 @08:04PM (#36656570) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, this is neat, but I already thought a lot of movies premiered on Bit Torrent before the cinema!

    In all seriousness, filmmakers have been working around Hollywood since there has been a Hollywood to work around. There have always been independent filmmakers getting their movies made, and then using non-traditional means to exhibit them. In the past, this may have meant selling directly to the home 16mm market, with hopes of getting enough money to strike some 35mm prints and distribute nationally. Or they could have taken it in on the college circuit, or the art-film circuit, first. Later on, public access and more traditional cable TV were outlets to get films noticed. Just a little more than 15 years ago, The Last Seduction premiered on HBO, and later became a cinema box office success.

    These developments just represent the latest technology coming in to play. But sorry, this is not going to dethrone the MPAA or any other part of the Hollywood machine in our lifetimes. It's just a way that will potentially mean more people can see the films than before. There may be access to more finances for the filmmakers, but do you seriously think that the Bit Torrent downloading community is going to cough up serious bucks? No, they want their stuff for free (read: they think they are entitled to free entertainment). The only people who are going to cough up tens of thousands of dollars just to see their name as an "Executive Producer" on screen are people who want to be in the film business anyway...just like the guy who funded Manos: The Hands of Fate 40-some years ago.

    So yeah, this is neat, but don't read too much into it. It's not a revolution. And if it were, Hollywood soon swallow it up, just like they did with Easy Rider and its progeny in the late '60s/early '70s, or like they did with Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino, and all the other Miramax filmmakers that broke indie filmmaking through to the mainstream in the late '80s/early '90s. The great thing about capitalism is that it eventually swallows up all threats to it.

    • Hollywood can do anything it wants. When you have millions of dollars, you are powerful in a way an indie can never be. Just the cameras alone are beyond the reach of normal people, and the film, and lights, and casts, and effects... But like you say, this is good..! We wouldn't _want our film-makers to be economically crippled... We are _glad they're multi-millionaires..! In "capitalism", who tends to succeed? -- > The best and the brightest. It's "social darwinism".. Yes, it's exclusive... A lot
    • Actually, it's interesting that you mention Soderbergh - he has a great method of working with Hollywood (Nolan seems to be taking this approach too) - where he makes a big blockbuster on behalf of hollywood one year, then because he's made them a bunch of cash they let him make whatever film he wants to make next. A kind of give and take setup, cunning way to work the system IMO

  • This is a slick indie production packing some great stylings. There's a little puzzlingly fast dialogue editing in the opening phone-call scene, but thereon-in the scripting's fun and compelling and the combination of minimally placed but well stylised CGI, expansive cinematographic moments and well-chosen location shooting make this worth following. I don't think it says anywhere on VODO that this method of distribution is meant to be a 'challenge to Hollywood' distribution, but there's no harm in framing

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