A couple of Australian filmmakers are learning all about the pitfalls of movie release schedules and piracy as their debut film heads up internet “most torrented” lists.
Together, Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner wrote, produced and directed Wyrmwood, a horror comedy flick described as “Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead”.
Last Wednesday, it cracked the top spot as the most popular trailer on iTunes and when the feature length version was released Friday, it went straight to the top… of a few global charts as Pirate Bay’s Most Torrented.
“There’s American Sniper, some other film with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and there’s Wyrmwood,” Kiah said.
That’s great publicity for a debut filmmaker, but the problem for Roache-Turner is he’s got about $1 million from four years’ worth of production costs to pay. Yesterday, he launched this plea on Facebook (Strong language warning):
“It’s a double edged sword for filmmakers,” Kiah said. “It’s a really exciting time, because you can pretty much become a global sensation overnight and nobody has had access to that in the history of cinema. You can have a million people watch your film in under a week, which is amazing.”
“The problem is the monetisation is almost zero. You’re lucky if you break even and it shouldn’t be that way.”
The film grossed about $85,000 from a one-off, Friday the 13th showing in 75 Australian cinemas last week and is approaching $125,000 – well short of breaking even.
They’re hoping what they lose in leaking thousands of free copies to pirates, they’ll make up in the publicity their story brings.
It’s an issue that dogs every artist these days, but Wyrmwood is in the uniquely unfortunate position of being a popular cult release that was given just a single night in cinemas to make money before the pirates jumped on it.
“For two months we’ll be watching money fly out of our hands,” Kiah said.
“Honestly, we’ve got bills to pay and we’ve got to buy food. It’s really hard to find work in this country as an actor and really hard to find money as a filmmaker.”
“Torrent, go ahead, but if you like it you should think in this case you owe it to people who worked for four years straight to give it some cashflow.”
Kiah said he doesn’t want to make loads of money, just enough to cover his costs and for the cast and crew to get paid.
And hopefully, for he and his brother to keep making films people want to watch.
He’s looking at a ghost flick next (“We just like making genre films”) and plans to make a sequel to Wyrmwood sometime down the track.
Ideally, the interest in Wyrmwood so far will attract enough investment for a sequel that Kiah and his brother won’t have to risk theirs and others’ livelihoods to make it.
But not too much interest, he said.
“The higher you go with the budget, the less say you have on the script,” Kiah said. “You want some artistic control.
“When there’s a big, bloated budget, you risk being told let’s go for the middle ground and saturate it across all the key demos that you can hit.
“You’re left with… the Diet Coke of filmmaking, I think. And no one’s going to give us a 40m budget to make strange feature films.”