Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sequel To 'Man From Earth' Released On Pirate Sites By Its Creators

from the lessons-learned dept

While we cover much here in terms of content creators actually embracing what the internet can do for them rather than fighting what is essentially mere reality, some stories truly do stand out more than others. If you aren't familiar with the story of the film The Man From Earth, you should read up on it because it's plainly fascinating. The sci-fi film was directed by Richard Schenkman on a fairly barebones budget and set for the sort of release that these types of independent films tend to get.
And then somebody put a screener DVD up on The Pirate Bay and the film became known in a way it never would have otherwise.
“Originally, somebody got hold of a promotional screener DVD of ‘Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth’, ripped the file and posted the movie online before we knew what was even happening,” Man from Earth director Richard Schenkman informs TorrentFreak.
“A week or two before the DVD’s ‘street date’, we jumped 11,000% on the IMDb ‘Moviemeter’ and we were shocked.”
Suddenly there was very real public buzz and interest in this small, independent film. No advertising budget for the film had been planned. Marketing was non-existent. And, yet, all of that work was essentially done by an internet that truly appreciated the film for what it was. Still, this was an unauthorized placement of a creative work put up on torrent sites. It would be quite understandable if the producers of the film lashed out at these sites.
Instead, Eric Wilkinson, a producer for the film, reached out to those sites to thank them. Schenkman is on the record stating that filesharing was key to the success of the film as a whole. And, because they were smart, those behind the film decided to try to monetize this fandom.
“Once we realized what was going on, we asked people to make donations to our PayPal page if they saw the movie for free and liked it, because we had all worked for nothing for two years to bring it to the screen, and the only chance we had of surviving financially was to ask people to support us and the project,” Schenkman explains.
“And, happily, many people around the world did donate, although of course only a tiny fraction of the millions and millions of people who downloaded pirated copies.”
Meanwhile, the film went on to win awards and still enjoys a healthy audience on modern platforms such as Netflix. Interestingly, the filmmakers and producers don't appear to be thinking of the piracy experience as some kind of one-off, nor do they see how well it turned out for them as being a function of being initially unknown. Indeed, they plan on making even more use of torrent sites this go around, no longer leaving it to chance that someone else will upload the film and instead choosing to simply do so themselves.
“It was going to get uploaded regardless of what we did or didn’t do, and we figured that as long as this was inevitable, we would do the uploading ourselves and explain why we were doing it,” Schenkman informs TF.
“And, we would once again reach out to the filesharing community and remind them that while movies may be free to watch, they are not free to make, and we need their support.”
The Pirate Bay upload is rife with information and notes on the movie, and even goes so far as to include helpful tips on how the movie can be even more widely shared to generate additional audiences. Schenkman goes on to call this something of an honor system, relying on the general goodness of people to compensate directly the makers of a film they have enjoyed for free. This is of course still counterintuitive, but we've made the argument for years that treating people well, and specifically treating piracy as an untapped market, can be a fantastic avenue for success.
And this isn't the only experiment in treating moviegoers like human beings that the makers of the film are undertaking.
Other partners include, where fans can pay to see the movie from January 19 but get a full refund if they don’t enjoy it. It’s also available on Vimeo (see below) but the version seen by pirates is slightly different, and for good reason, Schenkman says.
“This version of the movie includes a greeting from me at the beginning, pointing out that we did indeed upload the movie ourselves, and asking people to visit and make a donation if they can afford to, and if they enjoyed the film.
“The version we posted is very high-resolution, although we are also sharing some smaller files for those folks who have a slow Internet connection where they live,” he explains.
It's hard to imagine how they could have gotten this any more right than they have. Meanwhile, this undertaking is knocking down all kinds of strawmen that currently guard the MPAA offices. Bravo all around.