Wyrmwood, a postapocalyptic Australian mix of “Mad Max” and “Dawn of the Dead” is on the list of the most-torrented-movies of this year. This means: Wyrmwood is one of this year´s most pirated movies. What sounds like an interesting side note at first is a symptom of what could kill independent and guerilla movie making in the long run. Leaving those who watch and download films with films not even worth downloading. Check out this teaser which is from Wyrmwood’s crowdfunding campaign:
Don´t get me wrong. I love many of the mainstream movies. What´s better than watching The Rock fighting a horde of undead as Hercules or Vin Diesel sitting in a Porsche delivering a one-liner with his bear-voice? But the studio movies work in a different economic system and it would be too much trying to pack that into this post, so I will focus on indepedent and guerilla movies.
The difference between independent movies and guerilla films:
Independent movies are movies that are produced without the financial aid of a big studio such as 20th Century Fox or Universal Studios. Most movies from John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween, The Fog) are independent movies. Being independent gives the filmmaker more control over his cinematic vision and often therefore results in themes and movies that are way more daring than a studio could allow to be. Just imagine Michael Myers running around without a knife, because the movie needed a PG-13 rating if it was a studio film.
And guerilla filmmaking is characterized by low budgets, small crews, selfmade props, stunts and blood effects and using whatever is available. Guerilla filmmakers often invade locations without the owners’ permission (because they don´t have the money for that), shoot their scenes fast and get away before the police arrives. Examples for guerilla films are: Spike Lee´s She´s gotta have it, El Mariachi from Robert Rodriguez, Pi by Darren Aronofsky – among many others. Guerilla filmmakers are the underdogs of filmmaking, mostly driven by passion than by the wish to get rich.
So how did Wyrmwood get made?
Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner, the makers of Wyrmwood – Road of the Dead, had planned to spend $30,000 on their debut movie. They ended up spending $150,000. They were able to get together $37,275 USD from a crowdfunding campaign, the rest came out of their own pockets and from their friends and family. So they invested their private money to produce their movie. Of course, $150,000 is not enough to produce a decent film with real actors, crew, face blood, vehicle stunts, modified vehiles, more fake blood, eating, gasoline… oh, and have I mentioned the fake blood yet? So what you do as a filmmaker is: You promise those who believe in you, those who follow you on this road full of long shoots and bad meals, uncomfortable nights in sleeping bags (in short: your crew) that you will share the money you earn from the movie with them. That is called deferred payment.
The reality of living on the set
Shooting an independent movie usually takes between three and five weeks, depending on the kind of shoots the film needs and the relation of indoor and outdoor shoots. So those people who are helping the film to get made are not getting paid while they do so – or they get close to nothing. Could you afford to take a five week break from your job to work for free? Who will pay for your apartment, who will pay for your insurance and food while you are not getting paid? But this is what indie filmmakers and especially guerilla filmmakers very often do. They do it out of pure love for cinema. And, yes… this is stupid. …and they do it for you.
Now let´s get back to the makers of Wyrmwood, the brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner: They spent $150,000 and they still “owe” their crew $1,000,000 in deferred payments.
Wyrmwood made $125,000 in the box office. Then Wyrmwood got into torrents and from there on made nearly no money. The Roache-Turner brothers hope that the will at least get to the break even point (I guess they mean recouping the $ 150,000 that had been spent), but it is not very likely that the crew will get paid if things don´t change.
What does this mean for them as filmmakers… as artists?
They probably won´t be able to make more movies if things don´t change.
An artist needs success in order to be able to make his art (Picasso).
If a filmmaker is not able to pay back those who lent him money and is not able to pay his crew so they can pay their bills and buy food to put in the refrigerator, then he won´t stay in the business for very long. People won´t believe in him anymore, they won´t lent him their money for the next film, nor will they be runnig around for sixteen hours dragging cables on the next shoot. And therefore this filmmaker very probably won´t do other films anymore.
Ok, get to the point, what does this mean?
Times have changed. We can´t keep on just taking care of ourselves without looking to the right or the left. You have the choice. If people download independent movies those same movie makers won´t be able to make another movie and you won´t get to see any cool indie films from them any more. Pirating movies it is not some sign of rebeling against the establishment. It doesn´t hit the big studio bosses – those know how to make their cut. It hits the ground workers, the make up ladies, the drivers, those who carry the cables …and the indie filmmakers. Show that you care for independent films – if you want to watch it, just rent it on iTunes, Netflix.. or get the DVD or BlueRay. Or when was the last time your boss or your customer said the following to you: 🙂
I want you to work for free this month.
By the way, you can find Wyrmwood on iTunes here. (I´m not getting paid for this nor did I have anything to do with this film. I just think that this is a really entertaining postapocalyptic-zombie-gore-flick.)
Show that you care about independent movie making and please share this blog post. 🙂