Piracy and Indie Filmmaking: Something Needs To Change [Editorial]

Piracy and Indie Filmmaking

If you're looking for a debate here, keep moving. I'm writing this in hopes that indie filmmakers will start to think outside the box and become active in fighting revenue loss. What I'm offering isn't a way to stop piracy but a way that you, the filmmaker, can make a living doing what you love and not lose all your money. Because, the fact is, no matter what you do your film is going to get pirated. It doesn't matter if it is right or wrong, it's going to happen. It doesn't matter if you are Disney or Blumhouse, it's going to happen. You remember that anti-piracy commercial, you wouldn't steal..., well people would steal a handbag, a car, a pet, a phone and they do do it quite often, so why would your art be any different? Now we can sit here and cry about it or we can get active and make it so that even if your film gets pirated, you will not lose money.

Lets face facts, money makes the world go around and when people steal your film, you lose money. Now most filmmakers I know aren't doing this for fame or fortune, but because of an overwhelming need to create. That doesn't mean they want to take a loss on everything, even though a lot of people like their stuff. No, at some point these creators need to pay their bills, buy food and, most importantly, have the means to continue bringing their stories to life. So the question shouldn't be "how do I stop piracy?", it should be "how do I not lose money to piracy?" and that is the question we are going to attack.

In this age we live in the ability to control your creation is easier than ever and why most people don't see that is beyond me. Filmmakers need no longer to adhere to the archaic rules of film distribution. You don't need to hand your baby off to multiple companies to handle foreign territories sales,VOD sales, hell you don't even need a big fancy distributor. You can control all aspects of your film, but only if YOU want to.

Lets say you have $700,00.00 (usd) and you make an indie film that costs $500,000.00 (usd). This is the total after production, post-production and anything in-between. You and your investors have a complete, polished film ready to go and you're exactly $500,000.00 (usd) in. Now you have $200,000.00 (usd) left in the budget that will go towards advertising (print, online, television), but don't underestimate 'word of mouth' it's free and useful. But before you go putting ads in Variety, how are you going to distribute the film, make back your $700,000.00 (usd) and make sure the film isn't pirated before you get that money back? Well, here is my shot at a solution.

You are going to handle the distribution on your own, you will setup a simple website that will let people purchase either a digital copy, a DVD or a Blu-ray. You will make this site accessible to the entire world, so anyone who wants this movie can buy it. The film will not be distributed on a set date, but only when you hit a set monetary benchmark (almost like a pre-order) and in this scenario it's $700,000.00 (usd). By setting the benchmark you are ensuring that you and your investors, at the very least, will not take a loss. Now you're probably asking "what about the cost of the physical media?", good question. You are not going to buy them outright, you are going to do a 'press on-demand' for all physical media, meaning if only 2,000 DVDS are ordered then only 2,000 will be produced. Same concept applies to the Blu-rays as well.

Now for fun, lets crunch some numbers. You get 25,000 digital orders at $15.99 (usd) each, 10,000  DVD orders at $15.99 (usd) each and 8,000 Blu-ray (has bonus features) orders at $24.99 each. This is worst case scenario, you'd pull in $399,750.00 (usd) from digital downloads, $159,900.00 (usd) in DVDS and $199,920.00 (usd) in Blu-ray sales. This brings you to a total of $759,570.00 (usd) leaving you with a profit of almost $60,000.00 (usd). You didn't loses money and you turned a mild profit. But let me be clear, this is worst case and I am being very conservative with my numbers. At least using this model you and your investors didn't take a loss.

On the off chance you're thinking "what about screeners?", let me address that right now. You will not send out screeners to every Tom, Dick and Harry. And you certainly will not let them view a digital file. You will press X amount of DVD screeners with a special code that pops up every few minutes in the center of the screen. Each code will, and must, be logged to a real person and if one of those DVDS gets ripped, you will know where it came from and you can pursue them for revenue lost.  Does it suck to have to do that? Yes, but these are now the steps that must be taken if you want to keep your film from being torrented early on.

Here is a different scenario. Maybe you mad a film or a short for a fraction, of a fraction, of 500,00.00 (usd) and you know getting that initial investment back is going to be impossible. So how can you take your product and see some revenue from it? It's possible and it's right under your nose.

Stop discounting Youtube. Yes I get it, you are a ''real artist'' and above youtube, but do you want to continue to be an artist and lose money or would you like to see some type of return on your product? Hopefully you want to see a return and all you need to do is setup a verified account with youtube. this will allow you to enable ads. Yes, ads. They are not the devil and if your film takes off you could actually see a return larger than your investment. "But what if someone steals my video?", that's one thing that Youtube is awesome with. You have two choices, you can let your video stay on their channel, but all ad revenue will still go to you or you can have it set so that the video gets instantly pulled. Either way you won't lose, but it wouldn't hurt to check on your IP every now-and-then to make sure no copiers have slipped through.  

I'm not claiming to have all the answers, nor am I saying this method will make you rich, but it will keep you from losing money. If you're in this business solely for the money, then you already lost. But if you want to live and continue to create then stop complaining, get active, use technology to your advantage and think outside the box. You know how the old way works and obviously it's not that great, so why not try something different?

(If you want to complain or say but....but.....but.....but, go ahead. BUT how is that helping you the filmmaker?)

  Rich Stile  @TheDevilsEyes1

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