Experiment Failed?

There was this theory that if you offer your product (software, film, music, etc.) for free online - you would get the word out about your product to many more people (especially if your advertising budget otherwise is nil) and thus might even increase your sales.

Let's be honest, the theory actually was: Yes, you really would increase your sales and make more money. People would know about it and use/watch/hear it and recommend it to others - those others might not have a fast Internet connection or prefer getting films or music the old-fashioned way: in physical form.

Did I mention the amount of people you could reach online? I mean it's a global network. Imagine that.

And let's not forget that if your work isn't one of the chosen few that gets a distribution deal or has a powerful producers rep, taking it online might be your only way to circumvent the gatekeepers (programmers of all sorts and the "open palms" of the pay-to-play places) and get your work out in front of a larger audience.

So pretty much as soon as we finished our documentary All God's Children, we knew we would at some point take our film online (maybe for bit-torrent download, probably for streaming). 


A quick recap of the film's story:
We did a tiny two-step on the festival circuit and quickly decided that it would be more efficient and beneficial to save the festival entry fees and to organize free public screenings directly where we could meet our target audience in person and discuss the film's subject. Generous donations from audience members, on-site DVD sales and the efforts of the local organizing partners made this amazing tour with All God's Children possible. And yes, it was a heck of a lot of work - but it was so worth it! 

After what we considered to be our best effort to try to get the film a distribution deal, TV airing (parts of it did air on Dutch TV last year) and selling DVDs (and downloads) through FilmBaby and amazon, the time had come this spring to finally release the documentary as a free online stream.

We were fully aware that this would be the end to any chances of getting it on television, but let's just be honest... In any case, by now DVD sales were declining, no one was organizing screenings anymore, we had moved to Berlin, I had finished a new film and frankly: it was time to get some closure. 

There are all kinds of websites that offer to host films, like Netflix or Snag Films. But because we're kind of web-savvy and have a relationship to blip.tv already and because this year I seriously embraced the ability of sharing work and communicating with audiences on YouTube, we decided to do this last step on our own as well.

Last but not least, I thought this would be a great test for the future release of All's Well and Fair, which I'm thinking of taking straight online. So building a community on YouTube seemed a good first step.

One last celebratory screening (and European premiere) on May 18th and on May 19th I pressed the "make public" button and our entire film, separated in 10 parts, appeared online - for anyone with an Internet connection to watch for free anytime, anywhere.

Some people and publications, like Backstage, Bob Felton and SIM Missionary Kid Survivors wrote about it. Others I thought would, unfortunately did not.

And then there were all the social networks and the awesome people who re-posted the film's link on Facebook, Twitter etc. Thank you everyone who did! I know who you are and I'm so grateful!

We had other great support, like Eric from blip.tv who put the first episode on their front page and Dark who suggested the film to Top Documentary Films who did embed the film, which is how it apparently reached thousands of people via their inbox, which is where Trixie and Sherry Austin saw it and decided to "make it go viral"...

Within two weeks over 5,000 people had watched the first part of the film - and over 1,500 had watched the entire film. And honestly, it's not an uplifting film to watch. By now the numbers are over 7,000 and over 2,000 respectively. 


If after this long post you still remember the theory posed at the beginning, you may be wondering how many more DVDs we sold since launching the film online. The answer is 2 (two).

Kind of seems like a no brainer to most. Well, you're giving it away for free, so why would people buy it?

Well, there was this theory...

But maybe things have changed enough since this theory began circling. Maybe by now enough people have fast Internet connections and they don't mind watching a commercial every 10 minutes and they don't care anymore about having the physical DVD on their shelf to watch anytime or lend a friend - they can just share the link via Facebook...

In writing about this experiment I shouldn't leave out the fact that we did make some theoretical money via revenue share from ads placed before the blip and before or next to the YouTube clips. How much? Um, see, people don't want you to talk about it, but let's just say we haven't reached the three-figures yet. I can tell you however that YouTube pays a lot less than blip does.

The other aspect: building an audience for the next film via YouTube subscriptions? Yeah... no. People watched, but they didn't subscribe. (Most people don't know about subscribing to YouTube channels, nor did they actually watch ON YouTube, but via embeds of the YouTube videos.)

So, experiment failed?

You know what? No, it didn't fail. Because thousands of people sat down and watched the story of the children of Mamou. They probably would not have known about it otherwise.

And it's not even the numbers - but it's about some of the reactions we have received. I think the one that I was most grateful to receive was from a woman who said her mother had attended such a school and the daughter finally understood what had been going on with her mother. That's who we made the film for - for that woman and her mother, so they could talk, so they could understand. How else would they have known about this film? How else would she have known to get this information back to me? How else would I have known that we reached this essential goal?

Rich Darr in All God's Children
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But I don't want to come across as pretentious, insincere, completely selfless or rich (although that last part would be nice). I want to be honest: making a film is a lot of work and organizing screenings and releasing a film online and promoting it and translating it and posting subtitles and all that, I'd also consider work. And it would be nice to get paid. Actually it's necessary to make money with this work to keep going and do more such work. For example I still need to make time to add the German subtitles.

Imagine 2,000 people would each have given 1 Dollar... 7,000 people each would have given a Quarter...

So I can see from this experiment that a different way of streaming films and music (the one where people pay for a subscription or for an online rental) would financially make more sense. And I'll put that into consideration when releasing All's Well and Fair.

But I will not regret that we released All God's Children this way!


If you've actually read this far, then maybe you care to support this film (and the next) and wonder how you could do that. Here are a few ideas. Thank you for considering. 

- Buy a DVD on FilmBaby or on amazon.com

- Do watch the film online. But preferably on blip.tv

- If you watch on YouTube, clicking on an ad makes a surprisingly big difference.
 
- Tell others about it. Send them this link:

- Write about the film on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Embed the blip.tv or YouTube videos.  Click on "share", then on "embed", copy + paste.

- Connect to the film on Facebook and Twitter - keep building the network.

- Subscribe to our GHWP YouTube channel (you have to have a YouTube account).

- Commenting on the videos on blip or YouTube might get other people to watch. Commenting on amazon might even encourage other people to purchase the DVD. 

- If you are a librarian, professor or work for a university or corporation, please be so kind and purchase the legally-authorized version for commercial public, educational or corporate use. By the way, we know which universities and libraries have purchased the home-use DVD. I'm just saying...

- Hold a public screening of the film (I know it's a long shot, but you know we have all these great discussion materials available for free and the film really is best watched when followed by a discussion).

- If for any reason you can and want to financially support the film you can make a tax-deductible donation (over $100) via the International Documentary Association. For All God's Children and for All's Well and Fair.

Comments

  1. I think you're on to something with this: "Imagine 2,000 people would each have given 1 Dollar.."
    Is there such thing as a site where you can watch films for €1 a pop? If it was a nice easy site, I'd so do that - and I love my free content as much as the next guy....

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  2. Thanks for your honesty and letting people know about your needs! I have to say that I bought your DVD on Amazon, before I knew you would be putting it online for free. I'm glad I have the DVD, but I also subscribe to "never pay for anything if you can get it for free." On the other hand, I (and many others) are willing to support a good cause. I also like the idea of asking for a dollar (as a donation) to view the movie. Many blogs that give away freebies have a paypal link that says "buy me a cup of coffee" or whatever, which makes it very easy for someone to donate. If you let people know about the need, and make it easy for them to donate, many will probably be happy to help support you.

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  3. For a short period of time, before I closed out my FB accounts, I was promoting the AGC page and the film. I discovered the film through an online documentary site, but soon suspected that promoting it that way was not advantageous to you all. I wrote and one of you explained it to me, but few people will bother to do what I did because most people don't truly understand what it is like to work hard to get a story out--one that desperately needs to be told--and then realize...what you've had to realize.

    The cat's out of the bag and none of us can direct, much less control, what we've created now. I have three published books and believe me, the notion that we ought to pay for material--even a $1--has gone. The importance of the message or the quality of the production--and I'm actually tearing up as I say this because both are SO true of your film--doesn't do much to propel it forward, the way things are today. Unless it's a book, film, fill-in-the-blank that everyone is reading/watching/buying, or unless some organized energy is behind, it just isn't going to reach nearly as many people as it should, in spite of the best efforts.

    Of course, there is much organized energy behind it--yours--but it is not enough. "Buy me a cup of coffee" and all those other gimmicks don't work. Here and there someone might buy a DVD, but the zeitgeist is against it. And as for people donating, or going out of their way on a consistent basis to promote, the subject of AGC makes it even more daunting because, like it or not, the people who would be most behind it--and we are a growing but still-small minority compared to "the church"--are people who have left the church--and sometimes faith itself, in large part because of the situation your work seeks to make known.

    I represent a growing number of people who believe very strongly that the protective fence built around matters of faith--IS ITSELF WHAT ENABLE THIS TRAGEDY AND OTHERS LIKE IT TO TAKE PLACE. Note: I'm not saying Jesus did it. Or that there aren't "a lot of good Christian people out there." I know. Been there, heard that. But the assumption that such as happened to the victims in this film just can't be true or if so, such things are SO rare in the body of Christ!--therein is the real tragedy. I know whereof I speak here, and am willing to stand behind it. That we can't question religious beliefs, that we have a "No! Not MISSIONARIES!!!" attitude--most of us, even those who have left the church--is the culprit. Sin or evil or our animal nature or whatever you want to call it might have been the impetus, but the aura around the church was the incubator.

    Therefore, the great mass of believers will look away--as I've noticed on the little bit of promotion I did--as will those who aren't in the church, but who want to be "tolerant." Whatever you think of the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, they are right about that much. Though I understand that even victims in the film still remain Christians, and we are all reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and there IS much in all faiths of value, the truth is, the attitude of assuming things are on the up and up because of the umbrella of the church is exactly what allowed the stories you document to happen, and also the pedophile priests, as well as the endless debacles of televangelists. It may happen in all quarters, yes, (in fact, in secular philanthropic organizations) but the taboo against lashing out against faith makes the church (and New Age type religions, too, not just the evangelical Christian church) the best clump of bushes for snakes to hide.

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  4. My gosh, what is the matter with me? How could I have read the whole blog post--I swear I did!--and yet just now saw the reference to Sherry and Trixie! Or maybe you added it later. Anyway, I'm thinking about what I can do that might have some real effect!

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  5. We've been offline a while but are coming back on to help out in this cause.

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  6. I wonder if it's possible to set up blogger so that people can comment on other people's comments. That would be nice.

    But since I can't, I'll just make several response posts and hope that they will be discovered by the addressed.

    - Luci

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  7. Dear James, Elizabeth and Sherry.
    I'm not sure if you'll check back here to read a response from me. In the future I'll set up a different comment system on this blog - but when I tried, it deleted all your comments. Fortunately I was able to get them back.

    James,
    I'm not sure if there is such a website. There are YouTube rentals, which kind of work like that. Thank you again for purchasing the DVD!

    Elizabeth,
    Thank you also for purchasing the DVD and for your suggestions. We're considering something like that.

    Sherry,
    Thank you so much for EVERYTHING you have done. I'd like to talk to you more directly but am not sure how to get in touch with you.
    Yes, I did mention you in the blog post originally. I also wanted to add more information, but realized that you had deleted your post on Facebook. Now I understand why you did that. Please drop me an email via info@allgodschildrenthefilm.com. I'd really like to talk to you more.

    Thanks everyone for your support and input.
    Luci

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