How to make 75 bucks off a free film

How to make 75 bucks off a free film

A lot has been said about the best way to distribute independent films now. Some say new, independent filmmakers should concern themselves first and foremost with getting the most eyes on their work and should embrace piracy. Platforms like Eggup seek to leverage our natural tendency to share yet still provide a way of monetization for filmmakers. For others like Nina Paley of Sita Sings the Blues it’s a matter of principle: content should be free, the container shouldn’t. So how does one make money from a free film? Read on.

Photo credit: AMagill


I don’t recall now what I was doing when I decided I wanted to watch something. I typically watch streaming films when I am multitasking, like styling my hair. This is also why there is a plethora of still to be watched foreign films in my Netflix queue, I can’t multitask and watch those.

I had heard about The Yes Men Fix the World being released on BitTorrent many moons prior, most recently at the Open Video Conference and decided I would watch it. A BitTorrent virgin, I had no issues accessing the film. 87 minutes later I went to the movie’s website as I do for most documentaries that I watch. I don’t recall whether or not there was an explicit call to action at the end of the film, but that never hurts. Once there I was delighted to see all the related products I could purchase. This film is really good for related products because you don’t actually have to have seen the film to appreciate them. That’s when I saw the perfect holiday gifts: the New York Times Dream Edition featured the movie.

At 10 for $7.50 each for 10 fabulous friends (don’t be mad if you don’t get one, they are after all, between $7.50 and $15 each) my $75 and me parted ways. Note: I did not purchase a special $75 edition of the movie nor did I watch 2 premium on demand versions. But that’s me.

For more on Better than Free see this talk by Brian Newman.