Apr 092011

Films cost money. Big money belongs to big players. What if a film could amass lots of little bits of money to finance its production?  The Tunnel, a thriller filmed in the underground tunnels of Sydney looks set to achieve this. You can buy a ‘frame’ for a dollar. I am the proud owner of 25 such frames (and can now claim to be a film investor!).  The film will be released in mid May and will be BitTorrent friendly – that is, rather than fight so-called ‘piracy’, the producers have sought to harness the love of film to finance it. Cool stuff!

The producers (Enzo Tedeschi - of My Small Italian Wedding, 2003 – and Julian Harvey ), Director (Carlo Ledesma) and a young cast of actors have re-opened the pathway to ‘patronage’ (from those days when rich, established families could provide patronage to artists – like Mozart or Michelangelo).  The difference here lies in socialising the patronage – small dollar amounts from many, rather than a large amount from a few.

Some rudimentary calculations on fiscal returns based on this ‘crowd-sourced’ funding model get outlined at Laurence Timms‘s blog.  The bigger issue lies in this film breaking some ground. If the film proves watchable, perhaps even gripping, others will try this model out – of mobilizing a large base of support around some concept that appeals and some production in which people feel they can trust.

The other interesting feature of the funding model lies in its ‘lottery form’.  Buyers of movie frames go into a lottery where a small number will then be entitled to 1% of the revenue.  Of course besides the lucky winner of that (probably modest) income stream, frames owned, I am assuming get ‘framed’ so that I will be able to display the frames owned (a small array of 25 frames).  In addition merchandise for the film can be found on The Tunnel website.

An associated challenge lies with deploying this model with other kinds of creations – sculptures, books, paintings, performance.  The last of these implies this, as we go to a performance and ‘pay’ for it there and then.  These new models move the payment ahead of the creation, shifting cultural consumption from what are called ‘experience goods’ (buy to have an ‘experience’) to so-called ‘credence goods‘ (buy in the belief that what you will get will work – eg going to a doctor or a mechanic or donating to a charity are all ‘credence good’ transactions.

Could it be that a film made in the tunnels under the Sydney CBD comes to bury the so-called ‘block-buster’ movie?

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