Tag Archives: crowd funding

Funding new Creative Commons films

I’m currently trying to find as many Creative Commons films as possible now, both non-commercial and share-alike. The non-commercially licensed films are interesting because one can have open screenings – but there’s a lot of confusion as to what “commercial” means, so there are always risks of legal battles. The free CC license “attribution share-alike” peaks my funding interest however, as it really liberates culture (to the extent possible whilst current copyright laws exist).

My latest support was for The Cosmonaut, from whom I bought the “New Kolibri Programme” present. This gave them a small contribution and I got a letter in my mailbox saying I’ve contributed (see below). Nice. And I know that the material will be freely distributed later on, giving me some comfort rather than the emptiness left behind after paying for a strictly copyrighted film.

Also I just found another free (short) movie project that hasn’t been shown much attention at all yet, even though being in post production. Vodo.net has it posted on their website, and there’s a Kickstarter project – but unfortunately they’ve only raised $5000 out of $15000 desired so far with a deadline of October 28th. The film is called A City to Make Me, an independent sci-fi noir film currently in post-production, and will be released under a Creative Commons by-sa license according to the FAQ on Kickstarter.

So the question is how much I am able to donate – and how many others who will notice it before the deadline. I’m writing about it here and now to gather support because it would be nice to see the film released and contribute to the ranks of free culture. Maybe it has to get up on The Pirate Bay to become successful? The Cosmonaut didn’t have to, but are there any other ways of quickly gathering the much needed support from pirates and other free culture supporters?

The future of financing film

Sorry to be a bit late with this info, but I hope people have caught on to the news in some other way, but to state the fact: The Tunnel has been released. On both DVD and – of course – the internet via Bittorrent.

One of the frames I got, namely number 71468

I mentioned this film already last year, noting that I had donated to the production – in the way of buying 25 frames out of the total 135000. The production crew called it the “135K project”, noting that if every frame was bought for one dollar, they could produce the same amount of frames and produce a feature film. At the time of release (19th of May 2011), they hadn’t yet reached their goal, however there is steady support growing for the project now that it’s proven to be real.

So how does one finance a movie without already having a huge herd of sheep at your doorstep, ready to pay $10-15 for a visit to the cinema and then $20 for the DVD? I’m not entirely sure how they did it, but the production of The Tunnel might provide that answer. I just “bought” 25 frames – one second – of that movie, meaning I donated $25 to the project. That’s more than I’ve paid for Hollywood crap-flicks the last 10 years. And this movie will be free to redistribute at no cost.

Currently they have only gathered about one third of the required purchased frames. This during a period of pre-production and only about 10 days of availability. During pre-production the skepticism is of course huge, who knows they’ll ever be able to finish the film? But they still managed to raise more than $30,000 during that period – and since release the smaller donations around $1 have been falling in steadily. Given a global potential fan-base, 135000 single-dollar donations is not far-fetched. In fact, I’m sure they’ve managed to cover their costs by the end of the year in donations alone – not counting DVD sales and possible movie festival incomes.

The movie itself is distributed with a Creative Commons by-nc-nd license, which sort of disappointed me. At the least, I’d wish for the non-derivative part to be removed, because it otherwise won’t let people produce remixed work of any kind. This is rather unfortunate, but something I can definitely see how they argue. Also, one may hope that once 135K has been collected, the movie is distributed under a more free license. (such as CC:by-sa which Wikipedia uses)

When the authorities say "you can't do that, it's impossible", the right action to take is doing it anyway.

While seeding the movie to more watchers (my cap is set on 10 peers, and I’m maxing out the bandwidth), I also read on The Tunnel’s blog that another Creative Commons movie is having trouble financing. A recent drop of an investor’s money has caused The Cosmonaut to lose 40.000€ – almost $60.000 USD. Two days ago when I checked, they had already raised more than 38.000€ (about 98%) of these… Today when I checked back, they were up to 75.250€ (188%)… The mail I sent asking a couple of questions didn’t even have time to be answered before they almost doubled their enquiry.

Now, of course all future films can’t be financed this way. The once that are being buzzed about right now have very good promotional abilities. Using the Internet, they can reach far more investors than any Hollywood film. And by not wasting everything on drug-addicted, overpaid actors, special effects and rebuilding stuff from scratch (sharing and remixing), the budget can get much, much smaller for each film. Imagine the future where extensive 3D models, landscapes, sound effects, particle generators and the like are shared amongst filmmakers. What a much cheaper, more agile and much more vivid movie environment the world would have.

Having started on the computer generated graphics part of this is the Blender Foundation, which supports and releases material using Creative Commons licenses for the world to use – royalty free. Short films you may have seen related to this project are Big Buck Bunny as well as Sintel.

There is really not much more to this post, except the entire future of the film industry, being able to archiving culture legally with respect to our future historians (which is virtually impossible with today’s copyright laws). As well as encouraging people to support free culture rather than restricted, locked down culture. Merely adding to the download statistics may very well support the means to produce more free culture – so go get yourself a copy of The Tunnel (and watch it). It was in fact very well made, and not as much “Blairwitch Project” as I had anticipated.

Tomorrow I will have a meeting with Tomas Svedgård at Region Västerbotten, the coordinator for Umeå’s film festival which will take place this fall. I am representing Common Culture of Umeå, a local organisation dedicated to promoting freely licensed culture of all sorts – and we hope to take part in the festival. We hope to make use of that opportunity to shine more light on free culture and present the idea as well as recent success stories to curious visitors.

Paying for a movie (or supporting Creative Commons)

Being an active promoter of filesharing, people ask me “how will the artists/filmmakers get paid?” every once in a while. Usually I respond with either of these alternatives:

  • The same way they always have gotten paid: delivering an experience, not copies.
  • Artists/filmmakers don’t get paid today nor have they ever gotten paid.

Both statements are correct, though they differ in context, depending on the definition of “artist/filmmaker”. Either you speak of established filmmakers – those who produce for your everyday cinema – in which the first statement is correct. For these people a movie itself doesn’t mean money – they have to make it “sellable” in the sense of adapted to every possible viewer. Through the centralized and narrow-minded Hollywood, however, there are few enough films made to cash in this way using the big herd of movie watchers who don’t bother choosing movies.

By choosing movies I speak in the sense of actually discovering other sources than what’s force-fed through your standard media monglomerate monstrosity. Alternative distribution styles, independent labels/studios or maybe even just older movies in general – perhaps produced before the viewer was even born. Going to the cinema (or using most pay-per-view services) and looking at the schedule is not choosing.

The second statement, that creative people don’t get money, is correct in the sense of independents and those who haven’t already established themselves in the industry. The people who create because they want to and not because they signed a deal to write 15 songs in a year or deliver 3 identical movies featuring Tom Hanks. I’m talking about the films you previously never got to see because it was too expensive to create, distribute and reach out to an audience.

So how does one finance a movie without already having a huge herd of sheep at your doorstep, ready to pay $10-15 for a visit to the cinema and then $20 for the DVD? I’m not entirely sure how they did it, but the production of The Tunnel might provide that answer. I just “bought” 25 frames – one second – of that movie, meaning I donated $25 to the project. That’s more than I’ve paid for Hollywood crap-flicks the last 10 years. And this movie will be free to redistribute at no cost.

For more information on the phenomenon called “the Long Tail” and probabilistic distribution I’d definitely recommend starting with the book by Chris Anderson.
Go to your local library and borrow it for free.

Previously I have promoted and helped raise attention to Creative Commons-licensed films such as Nasty Old People, though I did not support it financially. That specific production however, as well as other free films, seem to have made it fine anyway thanks to other people supporting it. As with any film production it requires taking a risk, but from what I can see there have been relatively small problems for actually good, well-produced films to finance themselves in order to gain a profit. Star Wreck (2005) is a marvellous example of a €15,000 budget movie catching attention and eventually making it possible to finance a €6,500,000 production called Iron Sky – set to be released in 2011.

But let’s return to The Tunnel, set to be released on torrent trackers in late 2010. It was denied an IMDb listing (until they release it) due to not using an “official” distribution channel, they also somehow mark the dawn of a new age in filmmaking and project funding. IMDb notes that they do feature films distributed via BitTorrent, not explicitly saying – but giving the impression – that they don’t want to give the film possible credits required to “be serious”. Who knows, The Tunnel may very well be a trick to collect $135,000 and close the project?

My hopes however are in the finalization and distribution of the movie before December 2010. This in order to show it as part of the 2010 edition of Common Culture of Umeå, a short festival promoting free culture such as that which is licensed Creative Commons.

Having donated $25 I count it as no more than 2 ordinary cinema visits (only one if you count the overpriced popcorn). $25 also counts to approximately one newly released DVD. Though neither of those alternatives give you any right to redistribute the film to anyone else – ever. Keep in mind that you can’t (legally) invite your friends for a movie night using an ordinary DVD release. That sucks and is why I never pay for anything non-Free.

Creative Commons however gives you social freedom, free culture and the right to redistribute.