Releasing on bittorrent is the fastest way to get a new movie to the widest possible audience and generate the buzz and attention needed to move to a mass market release. Any lost profits from releasing it on bittorrent at the beginning are negligible for two reasons.
- As soon as a movie becomes popular and profitable, a copy is going to hit bittorrent anyways, whether the movie creator wants it to or not.
- The people who would seek out a nearly unknown independent film on bittorrent are the ones who will become that films fan base as it moves to a mass release. They'll want the experience of seeing it in a theater with others and want to own the DVD with the director's comments, extras, and outtakes.
- The old model is outdated. The current promotional model depends on taking the film on a limited release to film festivals and screening city by city trying to generate positive reviews. Reviews by critics just don't matter as much as they used to now, you need to get eyeballs on the film. The average moviegoer now can sit through maybe half a review before getting bored. Most word of mouth about a movie breaks down to, "Yea it was good, go see it," or "No, it wasn't worth it, don't bother."
Darkon is an independent documentary about a group of LARPers trying to escape feeling disempowered in real life. The movie has been completed for over a year now, and it's been on my "to watch" list for at least six months. Granted, I'm really bad at getting any of my "To X" lists done, but six months is excessive for a movie.
The fact that I haven't managed to get Darkon crossed off yet has nothing to do with me being bad at lists, it's that the movie has been in such a limited release, bouncing around from screening to screening to film festival, never in more than one place at a time, that I haven't come within a hundred miles of a showing yet. This seems to be a pretty standard way of promoting small independent films. Tour the country from city to city, and visit a few art and film festivals to preview the film to select audiences trying to build the buzz and demand for a mass market release. But this leaves a lot of people out.
Not everyone can make the commitment to go to a film festival, or lives in a city where a film festival or advance screenings of independent films exist. For example, me. Between my travel schedule, and Darkon's travel schedule, I am not going to get to see this movie. And I'm sure there are other people left in this lurch. From what I've seen, the movie looks really good. (The trailer looks good, the music is amazing).
And beyond just my own personal whining about not getting to see Darkon, this way of promoting movies just doesn't seem very effective either. It takes too long. I don't have the time to continually check to see if Darkon will be showing in Philadelphia. I could very well forget, and miss it entirely. Not enough eyeballs on the film. This is critical. Film critics just don't matter as much anymore. People want to see and judge for themselves.
So get to it! Film festivals are great, but if a movie wants to make it to the big times, it needs to be seen by as many people as possible.