14-01-27 Distribution

DAY 01


Where does making a movie stop and distribution begin. As I’m now discovering, that line is hazy, at best. The biggest and hardest part of distribution isn’t making ALGORITHM accessible; it’s letting people know it exists. Actually getting it to places where people can buy it, that’s the easy part, now.

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    Since most of the work of distributing ALGORITHM will be about letting people know about it, I’ll start with that.

    I’m not a computer science major. I don’t know how to write computer code. I can boot Linux, but once I open a terminal window, I don’t know how to do anything beyond LS or Ping or things like that. What I’m getting at is that in order to write ALGORITHM, the most realistic hacker movie ever made, so far, I had to do a lot of research.

    My friend Kevin Metcalf is a Systems Administrator. He has a degree in computer science, he can write code, he knows Linux, Apache, MySQL and a ton of other things I’ll never fully understand.

    A good portion of Kevin’s job is keeping up-to-date on computer security and one of his primary sources for that is a podcast called Security Now, hosted by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. Leo mostly facilitates the conversation. Gibson, on the other hand, he has been studying computer viruses before they were even really called that. In fact, Gibson coined a few of the common terms the world uses today.

    Kevin suggested I listen to Security Now. I obeyed. For about six months, I went for long walks, slowly absorbing the mesmerizingly complex world of cracking, and what is and is not possible. I needed a context in which to write ALGORITHM. Steve Gibson gave me that context.

    Later that year, 2012, I had written a script called THE ROOT KIT. I did a Kickstarter campaign for it. In the first week we were doing alright. We had about $2k. Then, I tweeted Steve Gibson, thanking him and letting him know how valuable his podcast had been in my research. He began talking about it on each episode of Security Now.

    I didn’t mention it before, but Kevin isn’t the only person who listens to Security Now. By rough estimation, I’d guess they get about 90k downloads a week. Gibson has 41k followers on Twitter. He’s a big deal. And, he was amplifying how far my voice reached. Each time Gibson mentioned TRK, we got several thousand dollars more.

    For that month, Leo Laporte was out of town. Tom Merritt had replaced him as temporary facilitator. Tom liked the idea and invited me onto his podcast, Frame Rate. Again, Merritt’s podcast gets about 100k downloads. He’s got 76k followers on Twitter. Each time Merritt mentioned TRK, we went up another $2k.

    Then, we got on the radar of Cory Doctorow. He’s one of the founders of BoingBoing, which is one of the larger tech or news websites. When that happened, we got about $10k.

    When the Kickstarter campaign for THE ROOT KIT ended in December, 2012, we had raised over $34k. The campaign failed to reach it’s goal. But, we had made news and I had made some pretty major media contacts.

    A year later, in 2013, I had rewritten THE ROOT KIT, radically changing the plot, so much so that it now required a different name, ALGORITHM.

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    Choosing a title isn’t easy. It’s got to reflect the content of the story. It’s got to grab people, quickly. It’s really the first point of contact between people and the movie. Rarely do crappy titles get people’s attention, unless it’s superseded by word-of-mouth, which is easily the most powerful promotion tool in existence.

    Most people don’t know what ALGORITHM means. It’s “a set of rules to be followed in problem-solving operations, esp. by a computer”. Google has a search algorithm that is the foundation of their company.

    In ALGORITHM, there’s a program that uses an algorithm that’s central to the plot of the movie. Even more than that, there’s an algorithm that’s manipulating the the lead character’s life.

    Finally, there’s marketing to consider. ALGORITHM starts with an “A” which means it will appear near the top of the list when people go looking for movies alphabetically, either on Amazon, or on various video-on-demand platforms, including cable subscriptions or Netflix.

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    When I rebooted the crowdfunding campaign, this time on Indiegogo, I contacted Steve Gibson, Tom Merritt, and Cory Doctorow. I also contacted a bunch of other people who I thought might be interested.

    As you know, we made enough to make the movie. Now it’s made. Now, we’re thinking about distribution.

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    So, where does distribution begin? It begins with the title. It begins with previous projects. It begins with friends. It begins the moment you make it public. It begins with publicity. It begins the moment you tell someone.