Right now I’m in the process of developing an online distribution plan for my first feature film ‘Footsteps’, and it’s led me to discover a completely new platform called BitTorrent Bundles. Up until now I’ve primarily been looking at the major players as options – iTunes, Netflix, Vimeo On Demand, Hulu, etc. And while all of these platforms are excellent, they’re also fairly similar to each other in their approach (with the exception of how revenue is generated). But BitTorrent Bundles is offering a very different way of distributing content that is completely unmatched by anyone else in terms of it’s concept and potential.
Many of you I’m sure have used BitTorrent in the past to download music, movies, software (or all sorts of other legal content!), but have likely never considered it as a platform to share your work on, possibly because you question the legitimacy of BitTorrent and weren’t aware of it’s capabilities. But let’s set the record straight, BitTorrent is and always has been a very legitimate operation. While many users did use the platform the pirate content, BitTorrent themselves were only trying to develop software to allow for a global sharing platform between users. Keep that in mind as you read on.
So what exactly is BitTorrent’s new model and how can we as filmmakers utilize it?
The full name of the service is ‘BitTorrent Bundles’, and it’s an exceptionally powerful way for content creators to share their work with a massive audience either for free, for profit, or for any number of other benefits. A ‘Bundle’ is a downloadable package that you create that can consist of just about any files that you’d like to make available. So if you have a feature film for example, you might create a downloadable bundle with the film, the trailer, a copy of the script, some behind the scenes videos, or any other special features.
Here’s where the idea gets really powerful though. BitTorrent users are able to easily preview a file in your bundle (let’s say the trailer), but in order to download the entire package, they need to unlock it by performing an ‘action’. And you have the choice of what they need to do to unlock it. Common options include having the user: Share the download link on Facebook/Twitter, enter their e-mail address, re-direct to a physical store or other online platform (iTunes), or ask for a set amount of money.
If your primary goal as a filmmaker is to sell your film and make money off of it, then having the ability to charge money for it on a platform with hundreds of millions of users is pretty remarkable. Or alternatively, maybe you’re less concerned about the profit and more concerned about getting your name out there. If this is the case, then you can give it away for free, but request the link is tweeted or shared on Facebook, which will immediately start to help spread the word. There are any number of options here, but the great thing is that they are fully customizable and unique to each project’s needs.
In general I think BitTorrent is really onto something for a number of reasons. First off, their idea is different. No other major online platform allows filmmakers the flexibility that BitTorrent Bundles does, and this alone will be enough to entice just about any content creator. Secondly, since this is a peer to peer system, download speeds with be exceptionally fast. This is relevant not only as a convenience, but also given the fact that 4K content will be able to be delivered more easily on BitTorrent than on sites like Netflix as the speeds are far superior. And finally, the system is completely decentralized. It is all about getting your content from you to your audience without any fluff in between. BitTorrent will not take any cut of your profit if you’re selling the film through their site, and it seems they simply want to continue to drive up the user base and add more and more quality content to their library.
So this is all great news and an excellent option for the future of on-line distribution, but the downside is that right now it isn’t available to just anyone. Unlike sites like Vimeo On Demand, you can’t just upload your file and start selling it. In order to get your film on BitTorrent as a Bundle, you’ll actually need to submit your film to BitTorrent directly and if they see it as a good fit for their platform you’ll be notified. Eventually I would predict that this service will become much more inclusive and accessible for every film maker, but as of now things are still developing. For now though, some high profile films are already making their rounds on the site including a new short film co-directed by Madonna, but hopefully soon we will start to see more and more indie features popping up. If you want to be notified by BitTorrent as this platform starts to grow and evolve, be sure to join their ‘BitTorrent Bundles For Publishers’ waiting list here.
Speaking for myself, all of this was enough to convince me to submit my film to BitTorrent as to me the system represents one of the most powerful and fair approaches to online distribution. What do you think? Is BitTorrent Bundles the way of the future for online distribution?
If you’re reading this but are still developing your film, be sure to check out my article – 5 Tips For Writing Better Characters Into Your Screenplay. After all, no matter what path you go down to distribute, ultimately the quality of your content will be the deciding factor in the success of your film.