"7 Reasons To Release Your Film For Free"

guest post by Todd Sklar

A few weeks ago, my good friend Dean Peterson emailed me about releasing his film Incredibly Small for free on the internet. In full disclosure; he was emailing me not because I know a great deal about releasing movies on the interner (I don't), but because I was a producer on the film, and had been assisting with the film's release over the past year.

Flashing forward for a second; we went through with it, and thanks to the kind folks at Vimeo, you can now watch Incredibly Small on-line for free at the following link -- www.vimeo.com/40112752 -- As of this posting, the film has been viewed by over 31,000 people in less than a week. And at no cost to them, as well as no cost to us.

Back to Dean's original email -- my initial response was "YES! Let's definitely put it on the internet for free", which was quickly followed by; "But once we do that, it's like, on the Internet and shit, so we should make sure that's what you really wanna do. Cause that's essentially putting the curtains down so to speak on any other release plans we might have."

He said that it was, and my final email said; "I love it. Let's do it. But just for posterity's sake, gimme one good reason as to why we're doing this. So that we have something to put on the epitaph if for no other reason."

This was his reply;

You want one good reason? How 'bout 7...

1. I'm supremely bored by most of the traditional routes people have taken when distributing smaller movies. I'm really not interested in selling the rights to the movie to somebody for no money and then at best, getting a bullshit release, but more than likely, not getting one at all. We set out to make an interesting movie because we were excited about making movies, and I think we should take the same approach in the release and do it in an interesting way that we're excited about. Let's rattle the cage a bit even if it means we don't make back quite as much money.The opportunity to shake things up is worth whatever the shortfall is. That's the cost of doing it the right way -- you taught me that on the first Range Life tour, and just like with those films, creating exposure and getting the movie to a wider audience is our only priority right now. What better way to accomplish that than making it free and making it accessible to literally anyone with an internet connection.

2. Speaking of the internet, it's awesome. I spend most of my time on the internet and it's where I learned much of what I know about filmmaking, and I know for a fact that's even truer of you, and it's where both of us have connected with the majority of our audiences.It's where we both live, and I think that's true of a lot of people, especially ones that will like this film. You took your movie to college campuses because that was your wheelhouse and that's where your target audience was. Same goes for this one and the internet. Quite simply, this is where my movie belongs, we just took a roundabout way of getting here.

3. And if we agree that it should be on-line, then I know we both agree it should be free. Cause that's what the internet is all about. And I think the fact that this movie didn't cost us a ton to make puts us in a unique position that we have a bit more freedom to be adventurous when rolling this out. We've made back enough of the money that even if we don't make another dollar on it and none of the people who watch it on-line buy a DVD, or make a donation, or give us their money in some other way, it won't be much of a loss.

4. This movie is the product of the crowd sourced, internet 2.0, 'other buzz word' culture of the internet through and through. We raised money on Kickstarter, garnered an audience and fan base on Tumblr and Reddit connected with fans on tour through Twitter and Facebook, and if Google+ made any sense, I'm sure we'd find a way to utilize that too. Now it seems fitting to stay true to that spirit and bring it all back full circle and put this motherfucker on Vimeo or YouTube right?

5. One of the other major benefits of putting it online is that we can reach people all over as opposed to a traditional release of a smaller film like this, which would in a best case scenario play 3-5 markets? If that? We probably wouldn't do any screenings in Scottsdale, AZ but the residents there are crying out to see this movie (Maybe)(Probably not)(THEY COULD BE THOUGH). And even if we continued touring, how many colleges can we hit before it's not worth the work anymore? Let's buck the trend and not just focus on major cities. OR college campuses. OR both. Let's get EVERYONE

6. We can have the option for people to donate money if they so feel inclined. We can't do that at Target, or on Comcast, or at the multiplex. I know we're both big fans of bands that have done this and I don't see why it's not more prevalent in film. It should be as unobtrusive and nag-free as possible, just a button somewhere below the video that's quietly sitting there. I really think that if we give the movie away for free that people will respond to it and if they like the movie maybe they'll chip in a few bucks or whatever they feel it's worth. Did you read the Chris Anderson book "Free" that I told you about? He outlines pretty eloquently how in the past when artists have given their product away for free that it's worked out fantastically.

7. Torrents. Piracy is viewed as a huge problem in the film industry but what if we turn it into a boon? If you go on Pirate Bay there are over 10,000 people who are currently downloading The Hunger Games, who I'm sure the studios view as villains but we should view them as potential audience members. They're our friends! This is a huge untapped group that I think it would be a mistake to ignore. They're going to download movies no matter what we do, so we should at least provide them with OUR movie to download and watch versus one of the other ones. Let's put a super hi res version of the movie on torrent sites and try to get something from them. An email address, a donation, a DVD sale or them blogging or tweeting about it or using that X-Box headset thingy to tell their Halo friends about it. That's better than nothing.

That's all I got for now.I don't think nearly enough filmmakers have explored this option and it would be exciting to try it out. Let's talk about it more at the batting cages.

P.S. Let's start going to the batting cages.

Please watch Incredibly Small for free on Vimeo

And please share it with other is if you enjoy it.

And please help us find some batting cages.

INCREDIBLY SMALL - Free Independent Feature Film from Dean Peterson on Vimeo.


Dean Peterson grew up in Minneapolis, MN and has studied film in New York, Paris, and Chicago, where he received his BA from Columbia College. He was an official participant at the Berlinale Talent Campus as well as the Adobe Reel Ideas Studio at the Cannes Film Festival. His short films have played in festivals around the U.S as well as in France. His interests include but are not limited to: black coffee, Siberian Huskies and twirling pens on his finger. Incredibly Small is his first feature.

Todd Sklar loves coffee. In 1994, Sklar won Best Blocked Shots in his youth basketball league. In 2007, he wrote & directed his feature length debut, BOX ELDER, which developed a cult following after Sklar & his comrades toured the film across the country throughout 2008 & 2009. Afterwards, Sklar founded Range Life Entertainment, a privately held marketing company that tours independent films to college campuses on a quarterly basis. His latest short film, '92 SKYBOX ALONZO MOURNING ROOKIE CARD premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and serves as a prologue to the upcoming feature, AWFUL NICE, which recently finished filming.