Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rethink UNTHINKABLE and Make Some Lemonade

Well, it happened (again).  Pirates acquired a copy of the movie UNTHINKABLE and posted it on the web for all to see. Now producer Cotty Chub is asking around for ideas on how to make the downloading model work for his $11M film.

You can read details here at the LA Times Blog The Big Picture.

So I asked myself, "What would you do if someone posted your $11m flick online without your knowledge, you Bastard?"

And as I read through the  Patrick Goldstein piece outlining what happened, I found myself thinking, "Well, quite a lot actually!"

I can understand why the studios and most producers are flummoxed by piracy and the digital arena as a whole.  To be honest they aren't nimble enough to come up with lightning-fast strategies to deal with the lemons they're dealt.  Their organizations are too big, too bureaucratized to function that way. 

Don't get me wrong - when a decision is finally made, the studios bring a lot of resources to bear (meaning firepower) to tackle the problem.  The rub is that by the time they act - the pirates have already moved on to the next thing.  They are grains of sand slipping through fingers - they can't really be caught effectively.

But back to the situation: UNTHINKABLE the $11m thriller has been pirated and is out on the web.  What do we do to make money on the DVD release (because there was no theatrical), and get a worldwide retrun on investment?

Here's my list of top things to do:

- It's already out on the web, so do the better thing and publicize the fact that the DVD has bonus features discussing the issues surrounding the story.  You already have an audience that is interested (they're chatting away on the IMDB Pro Boards) so start to leverage them.

- Put your own version of the film out on the web... with advertising for upcoming releases and a special promotion code for a discount if you purchase the DVD through Amazon. This is legit. Not a way to trap email addresses or get revenge on people who streamed your movie on their computer.  This is a way to get your audience to buy your movie(s).

- Stream the movie on Sony's Crackle.com site (or Hulu) ... with advertising.

- Bring the movie to SXSW or some other festival or event and screen it with the persons involved in the making of the movie. Bring in experts on torture.  Tie in to local political groups and get their support (and their email lists).

- Yes, put the movie on Itunes anyway - even though it's already on the web for free. A lot of people will only buy from reputable sites like ITunes / Netflix / Amazon.  You have these massive organizations / infrastructure that want to sell your movie. Use them.

- Create an email marketing campaign to get people discussing the subject of torture.  Email and web marketing strategies work well for this company.

- Sell the screenplay with extensive notes from all involved - writer, producers, director, actors, etc... put it on Kindle, Epub and print.

There's a lot of things to do. I'm just thinking of these off the top of my head.

But bottom line is you can make some tasty lemonade out of this situation and give your film a longer life than you initially thought.

I leave you with this from Goldstein's blog post:

"The responses have been fascinating, though I suspect they might also be profoundly disturbing to studio executives bent on protecting the windows model of releasing a film first in theaters and then on home video, all long before copies are available for downloading. Some viewers said they use downloading as a screening process to determine which movies they are willing to buy. Others suggested that studios embrace an iTunes model, with movies costing $2 or $3 to download. But everyone wanted the movies right away, not long after their theatrical release. And hardly anyone had any qualms about watching a pirated copy of the movie on the Web. It was certainly hard to find any enthusiastic supporters of the DVD model, since many consumers resent having to sit through the endless piracy warnings and trailer-ads that crowd the front of every new DVD."
If there's any moral to this story, it's that a new day is coming to the movie business, regardless of whether it's prepared for it. "We've got to come up with a new model, because the old one just isn't working anymore," says Chubb. "You just can't fight against a model where the movie is available for free. People clearly want to download movies online, so it's time we figured out how to get some money out of it." 


Deka Black said...

Bonus features are a good idea. but... which type of bonus?

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Anonymous said...

Bonus features on an independent film should always include an audio commentary.

Beyond that I'd consider alternate endings as a helpful feature in getting people to look at your copy.

Another thing is I would avoid the million hoops required to start up the feature. A lot of Studio DVDs force the owner to watch a dozen trailers before the movie starts. Pirates don't do that. Perhaps respecting the audience will have create positive karma.

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