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When Finnish filmmaker Timo Vuorensola came up with the idea for his movie Star Wreck, a parody of Star Trek, he knew that looking for conventional distribution would be futile. An amateur, science-fiction comedy with a miniscule budget — and in Finnish, to boot — would hardly be attractive to mainstream studios. So Vuorensola took matters into his own hands: he used a Finnish social networking site to build up an online fan base who contributed to the storyline, made props and even offered their acting skills. In return for the help, Vuorensola released Star Wreck in 2005 online for free. Seven hundred thousand copies were downloaded in the first week alone; to date, the total has now reached 9 million.
"Releasing it for free is just good marketing," he says. "Whether it's through piracy or distribution your film is out there on the Internet, so we decided to harness this." And he has managed to make quite a bit of money out of it. Online sales of merchandise — including T-shirts and collector's editions of the DVD — have generated $430,000 on a film that only cost $21,500 to make, Vuorensola says. He and his team have also now secured a proper distribution deal with Revolver Entertainment in the U.S. and Britain.
Thanks to Legionnaire Jim Henshaw for spotting this.