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?