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What I Learned from My Independent Film Being Illegally Pirated

In today’s new film economy it is getting tougher and tougher for independent filmmakers to make a living with their films. The entire industry is changing faster than anyone can keep track of. Even film distribution companies are struggling to make sense of the new world. The traditional golden gooses of DVD, Blu-Ray, foreign sales, and big upfront guarantees are dying a slow and miserable death.

And if that wasn’t tough enough internet pirates are bootlegging indie films as fast as they are released. My latest film On the Corner of Ego and Desire was on the pirate boards within hours of its release. I didn’t even think of looking for this because I never thought in a million years pirates would be interested in an indie film that cost $3000, was extremely niche and had no star power at all. I was very wrong.

On the Corner of Ego and Desire is about three hapless independent filmmakers who make the trek to the Sundance Film Festival and go through absolute hell in search of an elusive producer who is supposedly going to buy their independent feature film, all within 24 hours. Ignorance, foolishness and above all ego, drive the team to implosion as they struggle to realize their filmmaking dreams.

If you want to learn more about the making of On the Corner of Ego and Desire read Filmtrepreneur Breakdown: On the Corner of Ego and Desire.

As you can see from the images below my little indie film was available around the world within hours.

I only found out about this because someone looking for a pirated copy of my film landed on my site by mistake and I saw the google search term in my analytics. I typed in this search term and found website after website that supposedly had copies of my film. So do I go down the rabbit hole? If you know me you know the answer to that.

I started to investigate and here is what I found. A handful of the pirate sites did, in fact, have a digital copy of On the Corner of Ego and Desire. Either you could stream the film right on their site, which is insane to me, or you can download a file that would allow you to download the film to your hard drive.

The majority of the pirate sites were set up for you to think you were going to get access but the second you clicked you would be taken to another page with the same promise while another page loaded in the background. These sites are making their money off of advertising. Each time you click or load up a page they get paid.

A few actually started to spam my computer with ads. Most of these sites want you to “sign up” for a free membership to gain access. Once they get your email they can sell it to other black market internet scumbags that will begin to spam you like there is no tomorrow. There is an entire black market economy based on access or the promise of access to pirated films and music. This is nothing new as the 80’s masterpiece Amazon Women from the Moon so beautifully showed us.

Ever since the invention of Betamax and VHS, an entire underground industry was born. Film piracy is a fact of life. You can complain about it. Get angry. Try to fight it or you can just accept that piracy isn’t going anywhere.

“You can’t fight piracy, you can only compete with it.” – Steve Jobs

So what is an indie filmmaker to do? You have to start thinking like a Filmtrepreneur! I’ve been preaching this for a while now and wrote an entire book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Film into a Moneymaking Business, not only warning filmmakers of the new film economy but showed them how to turn their indie films into moneymaking businesses.

If you rely completely on revenue from the exploitation of your film you will not make it. The studios figured that out years ago. That is why all the major studios are focusing on tentpole, event style films. That way they can generate money from ancillary product lines.  Disney made much more money on ancillary products and services from their film Frozen and Frozen 2 than the billion-dollar-plus box office receipts.

If you want to do a deep dive into where the studios are actually making their money read The New Film Marketplace: Why Your Indie Film Isn’t Worth What You Think It Is. 

If you think like a Filmtrepreneur then pirates can possibly help you. What? Help you? Yes, think about it. Season 7 of Game of Thrones was pirated over a billion times. HBO executive Jeff Bewkes said

“We’ve been dealing with this for 20, 30 years – people sharing subs, running wires down the backs of apartment buildings. Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you’re right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world and that’s better than an Emmy.”

The reason they didn’t care as much is that they had a service they were selling. The more people that saw and were exposed to Game of Thrones the more people wanted to keep watching, which led to more subscribers.

If you design your film as a marketing lead generator that brings potential customers into your eco-system of ancillary products and services then the pirates are helping you distribute your lead generator to the world. If you are relying solely on making money from the exploitation of your film then you are going to have a rough time. That is why film distributors are having such a tough time generating revenue from their catalogs of films.

If it isn’t piracy then its people expecting to watch films as part of a subscription plan like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The times they are a-changing. If you want to learn how to become a Filmtrepreneur read Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Film into a Moneymaking Business. You can even listen to the first two chapters of the audiobook for free. Take a listen.

Because of the low budget and how I designed On the Corner of Ego and Desire with the Filmtrepreneur Method in mind, I’m not too worried about piracy, in fact, I’m embracing it. The more people see my film, the more people will be exposed to Indie Film Hustle and my other works.

We are in a new age for independent filmmaking and if you want to survive you need to let go of old and out of date ideas and embrace the new reality. The music industry fought mp3’s and lost, Blockbuster fought Netflix’s new ideas on how consumers wanted to watch their films and lost. Again and again, throughout history, the old guard almost always fights new technology and new ideas.

The people and companies that are stuck in the status quo will die on the vine. Film distributors will need to change if they expect to survive. Indie filmmakers need to change their mindsets on how indie films are made, marketed, and sold. If they don’t change their filmmaking dreams will be crushed.

This is an exciting time if you are looking forward and a terrifying time if you are holding on to old ideas. Privacy is here to stay. Use it to your advantage and make it part of your marketing plan. In the same way, Steve Jobs used the piracy mp3 format to bring Apple back from oblivion.

If you want to legally watch my film On the Corner of Ego and Desire you can by clicking any of the links below. The film is my love letter to the struggles and insanity that is being an indie filmmaker. Keep on hustling and become a FILMTREPRENEUR!

If you want to watch just go to www.egoanddesirefilm.com

Right-click here to download the MP3
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LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

SPONSORS

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REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION

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