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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

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By Andrew L. Urban
One of America’s most daring indie filmmakers, David Lynch, has donated a unique self portrait (see image) to the production team of a new doco about his life, limited edition copies of which will be sent to fans in return for a donation of $50 towards the film’s budget. (Either it’s a very low budget film or it won’t be a very limited edition ...)

Australian filmmakers – like their indie counterparts the world over - have always had two giant mountains to cross: raising the money and finding distribution. The internet has offered an opportunity for the latter, which has yet to be harnessed by Australian filmmakers – and now one indie production group is trying to climb both mountains at once.

"avoiding the traditional movie release model"

Australian thriller, The Tunnel, commences filming this month (July 2010), with producers Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey avoiding the traditional movie release model. They will distribute through internet piracy networks (the bit-Torrents) in a controversial bid to reach out to the increasingly dominant online audience. And financed at a frame at a time, online.

Set in and amongst Sydney’s underground tunnels, The Tunnel follows a news film crews’ journey into Sydney’s underground hunting for a story, until the story starts hunting them. It is the feature debut of Award-winning director Carlo Ledesma and starring recent Tropfest Best Actress award-winner Bel Deliá and Black Water’s Andy Rodoreda.

It’s being called the 135K Project: 1 frame = $1, 135,000 frames = 90 minutes = 1 movie. They say: “The Internet was meant to be a tool to connect us. It was meant to break down borders and liberate. Now we have an entire generation who are being labelled criminals for using that tool. But perhaps rather than wasting millions of dollars fighting a losing battle against internet piracy, we should try and find a way to embrace the possibilities that this new world brings…”

"money raised on the internet"

In other words, this team is making their movie with money raised on the internet and then releasing it on the internet for what normally would constitute illegal downloading – but as it is with their consent, it won’t be. “Buy a frame or two, blog about it, follow us on twitter, seed and embed the finished film when it’s released. Whatever you can do. It will all help and show the world there might just be another way. Who knows where that might lead?”

In both these cases, potential consumers are pre-buying ‘tickets’ to the movie. That notion could be taken further, with presales for the DVDs, for example. The ‘old world’ model of releasing a movie into cinemas has been broken for a long time as far as indie filmmakers are concerned, and there has been little support and no appetite for finding alternatives.

These two examples (and there are others, like the filmmakers who offered producer credits to anyone who worked for nothing, with a back-end profit deal) should help encourage the inventive minds of our creative film community to explore new paths to funding and distribution.

"Some thoughts at random"

Some thoughts at random: sell exclusive DVD rights to a supermarket chain and launch your film on DVD; reverse sell the book rights to the screenplay; build-in a significant product placement element: look what Tom Hanks (producer and star) did with Fed Ex in Cast Away (2000): the whole story was a giant Fed Ex ad - but it was a great story. Commercially popular films don’t have to be crap. Not all of them are.

Australian filmmakers can and should reinvent the indie moviemaking system, instead of trying to copy the studio system.

Published July 22, 2010

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David Lynch self portrait. Would you buy into a movie about this man?

Innovative financing & distribution workshops by John Reiss in Sydney & Melbourne.

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