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Filmmakers bet on BitTorrent for a hit

Adam Fulton (SMH) | May 17, 2011
An Australian film that is challenging conventions on how to fund and distribute movies could be seen by tens of millions of people under a bold internet deal.

An Australian film that is challenging conventions on how to fund and distribute movies could be seen by tens of millions of people under a bold internet deal.

Through a partnership the Sydney filmmakers secured with BitTorrent, The Tunnel will become the first Australian film to be promoted through the US software-maker's internet platforms after the movie's release on Wednesday.

The internet company says its free software has more than 100 million users monthly. Promotions for The Tunnel, selected for the company's "artist spotlight" program, include a prominent link to a free viewing of the film for all new users installing the software - averaging about 450,000 a day, BitTorrent says. The push will continue for at least a fortnight after the film's release.

Underground film ... a scene from The Tunnel.

Underground film ... a scene from The Tunnel.

"The last few films that have gone out [this] way ... have racked up downloads in millions," says Enzo Tedeschi, the movie's co-producer and co-writer. He is "banking on" it leading people to buy a DVD of the film - with extras such as an alternative ending - being released at the same time under a strategy to mix "traditional and alternative" distribution. Andrew Denton is the film's executive producer.

The Tunnel, a horror-thriller mockumentary about a news crew that hunts for a story underground but finds itself hunted, was shot on a shoestring budget in derelict tunnels and bunkers under Sydney. But much of the buzz has come from the plan to release it for free viewing over file-sharing "torrent" networks, a bastion of piracy that is anathema to most filmmakers.

"There's a huge audience right here that everyone's ignoring," says Julian Harvey, the film's other producer and writer. "I think you can't be closed to the potential."

The two filmmakers, who comprise Distracted Media, funded the movie by selling single frames for $1 each. However, this raised only about $36,000, well short of the $135,000 target, so the pair had to devise "creative" ways to complete the film.

Viewer numbers and DVD sales will soon show whether the movie lives up to claims it is a potential game changer for film distribution - or at least smaller, lower-budget productions.

"I don't think James Cameron is going to release his next film on BitTorrent for free," Harvey, 29, says. "But I think for young filmmakers who are about getting their story out there and getting noticed, it could be a game changer in that small part of the industry."

 

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