Digital piracy is a war with many sides, with each party standing firmly on their own side of a thick line in the sand. But a group of young Aussie filmmakers are hoping to blur those lines with the impending release of their upcoming horror film The Tunnel, which will launch simultaneously on DVD and on Bittorrent trackers around the world on May 19.
"From the very beginning, even from the very beginning of the concept, before we started pitching it to anyone or by going down this whole path of putting it out there in the world, [releasing the film on Bittorrent]was never negotiable and we've stayed true to that", writer and executive producer of the film, Julian Harvey told us during a phone interview.
The path from concept to impending release has been an interesting one for the filmmakers. Using the unique financing model of letting potential fans purchase frames from the movie, the film was created on a low budget and with the hard work of a small, passionate team. Despite the backing of Andrew Denton's production company Zapruder's Other Films, in September, the team faced another issue when the Amazon-owned IMDB refused to list the film in their database. That's been sorted now, and in an exciting development, the film's picked up DVD distribution from Paramount Home Entertainment.
"We were actually quite pleased and surprised at the reaction we got from [Paramount] . We took it in as a very casual, "tell us what you think" chat, and a lot of the drive forward actually came from their end. So we were quite surprised by that, to say the least, but also quite pleased with the fact that they could see a way to make [the digital distribution]work" says Enzo Tedeschi, one of the film's writers and executive producers.
Given that Paramount is a part of AFACT, the body that's spent the past few years battling iiNet in court over digital piracy, the move for them to actively support a local film that will be available to legally download for free on the Internet the same day the DVD goes on sale is a pretty big step forward. But from the sound of it, going straight to DVD was a much simpler option than having a theatrical release.
"The biggest challenge for a theatrical release is that that online releas is a big shift in perception for traditional distributors. So to try and convince someone to see a way to do a DVD release is a completely different thing to convincing somebody to do a theatrical release - there's a lot more logistics and money involved up front. We just found that people were hesitant - they liked the idea but they were hesitant - to make that commitment," Harvey admitted.
The question must be asked though - if you can't get your movies into the theatre, why would you continue to drive down the path of free, legal online distribution? Harvey tells us that the drive to release the film online comes down to exposure: "The idea and the attitude behind is that we're trying to create an audience for this film that may not otherwise have seen it, or may not have otherwise had the opportunity to see it. We're also trying to look at an audience at a global level."
It's an interesting approach, but one that has gained worldwide attention, "We know for a fact that there are some very interesting people keeping an eye on what we're doing and seeing how it plays out," Tedeschi tells us, although he wouldn't say who. But it's enough for the filmmakers to have confidence in the online distribution method, albeit potentially with a few tweaks in the future.
"There's definitely something here that is working, and we would be interested in continuing, but whether it's exactly the same or whether we develop it further or how that all plays out will really depend on the next couple of months and the release and how the audience responds", Harvey says. Tedeschi adds: "There's a couple of thousand people now who we can call fans of the film - it would be silly of us to not try and capitalise on that in some way for the next project."
The frame tally is currently at about 30,000 sold, with just over 100,000 frames still available. While there's still a couple of months before the film is released on both DVD and Bittorrent, it's worth applauding these young Aussie filmmakers for not only attempting to change the way films are distributed, but also sticking it out and pushing their approach past the anti-piracy Hollywood machine. If you haven't already bought a frame or two, and when you do see the film on Bittorrent, give it a watch and - if you enjoy it - go out and buy the DVD.