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I have never uploaded or downloaded any torrent, so it is strange for me to be in a position where both of my independent feature documentaries have been so positively effected by torrents, both in very different ways. One was an already released film, the other an unreleased film.TorrentFreak asked I that I consider my fifteen years navigating the film industry as a struggling filmmaker and these torrent experiences to write up an opinion of how file-sharing will affect the film industry, in hopes that my opinions may benefit both the torrent and film communities. In a nutshell, I believe the only films that are hurt by torrent sharing are mediocre and bad films. In contrast, the good films of any genre only benefit from file-sharing. Due to this, I feel the current file-sharing trend is a catalyst for a true evolution in filmmaking and attempt to explain my theory in this article. Readers of TorrentFreak may remember when my already released documentary “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” was leaked. Initially I reacted as most independent film producers do, enraged and terrified I would never make my money back from my film due to this ‘breach’. Thankfully, I have some very good hacker friends who talked me into viewing the situation in a positive light, which I did.I contacted the uploader of my film and asked she spread a message of support with the torrent, asking for donations if a viewer likes the film and explaining that was a self-financed endeavor. The result? I received many donations and emails of support from those who downloaded the film, but I furthermore believe that viewers spread the word of the film to their non-torrent-downloading friends and that DVD sales increased due to the leak. For me, the torrent leak was ultimately “free advertising”, and I am the only truly independent documentary filmmaker I know making his money back this year.
Yet anyone I know on Netflix’s Watch Instantly platform, including me, is thrilled to be there. Why? The exposure. The more people who see the film, the more will likely love it and want to buy it for their collection. When you invite a group of friends to your house to watch a DVD, do you charge them? One person bought one DVD, and ten watch it free, but if the film is good, hopefully a few of them will buy a DVD for themselves, or at least spread positive word. Torrents should be viewed the same. But why aren’t they? The difference is the quality of the film being produced. Because I believe in the product I create, I want as many people exposed to it as possible, for free if needed, as I believe my films will create fans and grow a wider audience. I’ve had college students change their majors to environmental studies because of seeing “Blue Gold”, and an activist with terminal cancer using his last months of life organizing hundreds of free worldwide screenings. Why would I want to hide a film that creates such a reaction in an audience? How would that benefit me? Good filmmakers are not afraid to have their films seen, they fight to have them seen. They pay thousands of dollars for the ‘honor’ of screening them for free at film festivals, so why not embrace screening them for free online with no ’submission fee’ required?