Piracy is fast reaching the point where it affects nearly every single Internet user in some way or another. Often the attempts to curb the illegal downloading of copyrighted materials threaten to spill over and affect other aspects of our online lives, much like the recent debate regarding SOPA and PIPA.
For film-makers the impact is often negative, but with a change of perspective the Internet can suddenly be the catalyst for success, spring-boarding a film from obscurity to fame in record time. Best of all, film-makers are actually able to make money by sharing their creations for free.
Welcome to VODO.
Magic People, VODO People
VODO works in a similar way to crowd-funding services like Kickstarter, except the funding process almost works entirely in reverse. For film-makers VODO appeals because once the film has been made it can be shared and distributed (via BitTorrent, nonetheless) and promoted by VODO. There are no physical distribution or packaging costs and the retailer doesn’t take a slice of the pie either.
Instead the film is presented to the Internet for free. Once a user has downloaded and enjoyed the film then the option to donate is heavily encouraged. Like many crowd-funding ventures, there are opportunities to donate larger amounts in exchange for extras like signed DVDs, audio commentary and so on.
The service turns the idea of piracy on its head, and places faith in the downloading public to donate. Donation amounts can be as little or as much as you like, and the film-makers are guaranteed to see more greenbacks than if you spent a similar amount on a physical DVD. Without further ado, let’s see what quality films reside on this excellent service.
The product of a group of German 70s and 80s grindhouse enthusiasts, Snowblind is a film for anyone who enjoys graphic novel adaptations, cowboys and motorbikes. Talent was sourced from the US, Britain, Australia, Ireland and South Africa to make this a truly international effort.
The film is highly stylized in typical graphic novel fashion, and takes the usual grainy visuals and atmosphere and does something a bit different with it. Snowblind was entirely privately funded on virtually no budget. It won “Best International Picture” at Belfast’s 2010 Yellow Fever International Film Festival.
The Tunnel (2011) [IMDB]
Shakey-cam films can either turn out tense, gripping and watchable (The Blair Witch Project) or cliched, boring and nausea-inducing (Cloverfield, anyone?). The Tunnel is yet another shakey-cam “found footage” film which, in my opinion, is worth the slog. Set in Sydney, Australia, a journalist and her team venture into a network of disused underground tunnels in search of a story only to discover that the story is coming for them.
The acting is a bit ropey in places, but the film does manage to pull some convincing characters and dialogue out of the hat when it matters. The Tunnel has won a variety of awards and is available in a selection of formats over at the.
Straight from the Eden Lake school of horror, Exhibit A tells the tale of a British family disintegrating under financial pressure through the eyes of the family video camera. That’s right, it’s technically another shakey-cam though this is certainly not your average horror film.
The camera eventually becomes “Exhibit A”, and captures the slow disintegration of a family unit that’s painful to watch, but impossible to look away. The film was shot in only 18 days and the actors did all of their own (convincing) camera work.
A Grain of Sand (2009) [IMDB]
In 1972 British-national Brendan Grimshaw gave up his successful career editing major African newspapers in order to buy Moyenne Island for £10,000. Since then he and his friend Rene Lafortune have planted 16,000 trees, built 4.8KM of nature trails and built up a population of 109 giant land tortoises.
Experience Brendan’s paradise in this documentary which uncovers his last 30 years of effort. Brendan is now in his 80s and concerned about the future of Moyenne Island which has accrued a value of around £28 million (€34m).
Gonzo journalism lives on in the form of The Yes Men who stop at nothing to get their point heard and message conveyed. This special P2P edition of the film contains additional footage of the duo impersonating the United States Chamber of Commerce, who are now suing them for doing so. This footage cannot be released on DVD, so the only way it’ll be seen is if you download it.
Join the pair as they expose inequalities the world over including flagrant profiteering from Hurricane Katrina and other high-profile, highly-entertaining and very clever political stunts.
There are so many films to choose from on VODO, and you can easily donate using PayPal, Visa or Mastercard. Browse, download, give what you like and reap the benefits – not only are you helping out film-makers, but also proving that file sharing can be used for far more than just piracy.
Best bit? Most torrents are well-seeded so download speeds are generally very high.
Any films on this list you like? Any on VODO you’d like to recommend? What do you think of the payment model? Have your say in the comments!