HUNGRY FOR CHANGE Streamed for Free, Raked in Over $1 Million

Peter Broderick posted an interesting article in April 2012 on how the documentary HUNGRY FOR CHANGE became a success after husband-and-wife team James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch (directors) made the film available to view on their website for free. Broderick says the film “illustrates how “free” can be used to achieve broad awareness, generate revenue quickly, and build a worldwide audience.”

The numbers are impressive. The film was free to view for 10 days. In the first 14 days, the film generated $1.02 million thanks to DVD and recipe book sales. A key component to the success was the directors’ existing fan base. The fan base was built by their preexisting website, and a previous combo documentary and recipe book – FOOD MATTERS. I believe that both films (HUNGRY FOR CHANGE and FOOD MATTERS) show how, in addition to offering a film for free, creating content across platforms and media (website content, streaming video, DVD, recipe book, etc.) for a specific audience can influence the success of a film.

In analyzing HUNGRY FOR CHANGE, it’s evident that it’s more than a documentary – it’s a lifestyle. The filmmakers are using the documentary as a platform to bring people to their website and buy their products in order to support the lifestyle. While the trailer is compelling, the film itself feels like a infomercial in a documentary’s clothing. The filmmakers attempt to convince the viewer that it’s time for a change in the food industry and in their diet, and that the best way to implement that change is to buy HUNGRY FOR CHANGE related products (recipe book, DVD, etc.), access the information on their website, subscribe to their e-newsletter for updates, and tell their friends all about it.

The impact of the social media aspect of this film cannot be ignored. Testimonials in support of HUNGRY FOR CHANGE on Facebook abound. The film and its use of social media is an example of how targeting a specific demographic can payoff.

Take note of this approach. Do you have a product or a lifestyle to sell? This approach could work for you. This approach could also work for “movements” and “causes” that resonate with people (e.g., KONY 2012).

Could an approach like this be used for narrative films? For example, could a supplemental book be offered? A graphic novel? A soundtrack? A website that helps people get involved in some aspect or cause related to the film? Perhaps something of “substance” – something that would inspire people to tell their friends because the film was so life-changing, impactful, engaging, FILL-IN-THE-BLANK? What do you think? Have you seen films that have used a similar approach and have seen success?


Festival Winner THE NEW YEAR on iTunes with help of TubeFilter and GoDigital

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about digital distribution lately and one thing is clear – it’s tough out there for filmmakers, folks. I’m not convinced there’s an approach that works in general for all films, and getting your film on iTunes, Amazon VOD, etc. doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make a profit (or that people will watch it), but we can all learn something from those who have gone before us in this brave new digital world.

According to this article on TubeFilter, indie film THE NEW YEAR (director Brett Haley’s feature debut) was released on iTunes on May 22nd. At the end of the article, the fine print states that the film is being distributed through the TubeFilter Indie Film Network, a partnership with GoDigital Media Group that “aims to give independent content creators – and their works – greater exposure” (GoDigital Media Group’s press release about THE NEW YEAR was posted on May 24th and can be found here). GoDigital is a full service Digital and Video on Demand (VOD) distribution company. They have an arsenal of over 1,000 films including the Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium Series” (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.). It turns out that it’s pretty difficult to get a feature film distributed through iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon VOD, etc., and companies like GoDigital exist to make it easier.

Having followed TubeFilter for a while, this is the first I’ve heard of their indie film network, and a Google search for “TubeFilter Indie Film Network” only turns up a couple of related articles, but for those interested in learning more, TubeFilter says to contact them. It you have a feature film under your belt with some bragging rights, who knows, maybe they could help.

THE NEW YEAR (which I have not seen yet) was reportedly made for $8,000 (some sources say $5,000) in 12 days. It was an official selection of the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival, won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2010 Sarasota Film Festival, and received some good reviews from the New York Times, IFC, and others. It just so happened that Allison Loring, an employee of GoDigital, saw the film at LAFF 2010 and wrote this glowing review for Gordon and the Whale. I’m not sure how her love of the film played into the distribution agreement between GoDigital and THE NEW YEAR, but it’s an interesting note.

I’m glad to see no-budget indie films get digital distribution. I wish the the team the best of luck as they try to get THE NEW YEAR in front as many people as possible. Getting the film online is just the start. Now comes the work of directing people to it and getting them to watch it. Here’s a link to the film on iTunes. The film currently has 4 out of 5 stars from 9 ratings on iTunes, and 100% on the tomatometer from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m think I’m gonna go watch it.

Have you seen THE NEW YEAR? What did you think? Can you offer any digital distribution woes or praises?