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?


The Self-Distribution Methods of TRANSCENDENT MAN

For an interesting read on the distribution journey of TRANSCENDENT MAN and how a combination of disruptive technologies and traditional marketing techniques can result in successful distribution, check out this case study at Having a fascination for Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity, I watched the documentary film on Netflix streaming last summer. In reading the case study, I learned a few lessons, logged a few distribution techniques in my toolkit, and came to appreciate how the film managed to find it’s way to my MacBook Pro.

After completing the film in 2009, the filmmakers had no luck securing distribution. So they began to distribute themselves, starting with a special event tour where they arranged screenings and live Q and A’s with Ray and Barry, using Eventbrite for ticketing and Square for credit card purchases.

The tour generated press headed by publicist Celia Black. Anyone remember seeing the Singularity inspired cover of Time Magazine on February, 21 2011? Yep, that was because of the film. Press was all over the place by then, and this wouldn’t have happened for just any documentary… Ray Kurzweil’s views are larger-than-life, and his genius knows no bounds. It’s Ray that makes this documentary interesting, press worthy, and current.

In tandem with the tour, the film was distributed on March 1, 2011 on Movies-on-demand (VOD), iTunes, direct-to-consumer on the film’s website using Dynamo Player, and through DVD sales on the film’s web-site. The film jumped to the top 20 of all films on iTunes in its first week and remained the number 2 documentary for 13 weeks.

Not too shabby.

In the next phase (starting on May 24, 2011), Barry and team partnered with New Video to create a retail DVD and distribute it to,, Barnes and Noble, Target, and Best Buy. Press was churning by then, and with Ray’s appearances on late night TV talk shows, DVD sales increased. At the same time, the film was available for viewing online on Amazon, Netflix, Wal-Mart, YouTube, and Hulu, which also helped increase DVD sales. 100,000 people rated the film on Netflix in the first 90 days that it was available.


Other avenues of distribution included an app for the iPhone and iPad created by MoPix. The app includes the full-length movie and special features. The filmmakers also sought the help of Fathom Events to produce and broadcast a live event from Lincoln Center New York to over 500 theaters in 49 states. The event included appearances by Ray and Barry, Steve Wozniak, Deepak Chopra, Quincy Jones, and more. Other techniques noted in the article are four-walling, using Google Analytics, partnering with an agency (WME, in this case), bundling the DVD with t-shirts and books, and maintaining a Facebook page.

Lots to chew on here and lots of questions – like who negotiated all of these distribution channels and how much did they cost? I think you can point to the star of the film as a main driver for its popularity. Not just any film will be able to follow these exact methods of distribution, and see this kind of popularity, but the case study certainly provides several methods distribution; and even a few tools for those with a micro-budget.

I realize that many of us are not going to have a publicist that went to Harvard (Cellia Black did) and representation from WME, but the methods used to self-distribute TRANSCENDENT MAN are, for me, inspiring. Read the full article over at to learn more. And feel free to share your thoughts on self-distribution below.