Last week was the third greatest week of my life. The first was my wedding to my amazing wife. The second was a serious of what could only be called a series of religious experiences, though, that probably doesn't fit into any traditional categories. But, enough about that. Suffice it to say last week was amazing.
I've already mentioned how www.thehackermovie.com went viral, so I'm not going to talk about that again. It continues. On Monday July 14th, the site got 150k hits, just that one day. Since then the traffic has decreased considerably, but nowhere near the levels prior to the surge. We're still getting about 2k views/day, compared to the 10-100/day prior to the surge.
There is, of course, the lurking suspicion in my mind that those numbers won't translate into sales. I really don't know what aspect of my promotions worked, and even if I did, there would be no guarantee that they would work again. I tried everything I could think of, and I'll be trying that again on August 1st, when ALGORITHM goes on sale. I hope/pray/plead it will work again.
Otherwise, it's just an ego trip. Well, not entirely. People seem to love the movie, and that's a good thing. But, if I can't keep making movies, then I'll be as good as the thousand 1-hit-wonder bands. That's not a life. That's a moment. That's not what I'm aiming at.
And that makes one of the decisions I made yesterday somewhat quizical. Let me explain: Shoreline Entertainment heard of ALGORITHM. Someone in the company liked the movie and contacted me about securing the world-wide rights.
They didn't actually contact me. They contacted Mandi Reno, who was at one point a producer, but when we decided to self-destribute, she switched to a consulting producer position. She is profoundly gifted and I hope to work with her in the future, should another project require a more traditional distribution, or just to get her take on the movie since she gave such great notes.
Anyway, Shoreline contacted me and asked about the world-wide rights. I told them that our plans to release it on August 1st digitally really severely limited the rights we had to sell/license. I would never actually sell ALGORITHM. I would be willing to license it for a period of no longer than seven years.
I let them know that. Within 2 hours I got a response saying that they weren't intereseted in non-exclusive distribution. I can respect them for that. They've got a business model that's worked for them and as long as it keeps working, which it seems to be, there's no reason for them to change it.
But, I've told 200k people that ALGORITHM will go on sale August 1st, and hackers are the last people in the world I want to piss off.
But, that's not really my motivation. It isn't fear of the hackers. It isn't even the integrity of not selling out, or maintaining a consistent public voice. It's something far deeper and more intrinsic to my personality. I hate not being free. I fight against authority, in whatever form it attempts to insert itself into my life. Shoreline represents Hollywood to me. They were a perfect segue for me to movie into the industry. Almost all my filmmaker friends would have jumped at the oportunity. And, I'd encourage them to do it. It's what most of them want.
The truly independent route is a hard and uncertain path and there needs to be really good reasons to stay on it. Simply the desire to be independent isn't enough. And, while that vigorously independent spirit is a driving factor, not even that is the totality of why I made the choice. I want to be independent, but not for independence sake. I want to be independent so I can make a difference. While I respect Joss Whedon, I don't want to be making Marvel franchise movies, or have to put in scenes because some producer said "Ironman and Thor have to fight." That's just not the way I work. But, that's more about just independent.
At the cast and crew screening I did a Q&A nswer afterword. Or, maybe it was the brief introductory speech. I don't remember. I said that in a conversation, Mandi said we were probably going to get screwed while we were working in Hollywood. I have enormous respect for her. She's willing to work in an industry where that kind of thing happens. But, it's not going to happen to me. I don't find it an acceptable reality. I'm going to change it and show people life can be better.
One of the movies that also screened at HOPE X, just prior to ALGORITHM is Internet's Own Boy, about Aaron Swartz. In it, one of Aaron's X's, Quinn Norton said she was mad, not only because of something she did (which someone else can take on, but isn't really relavent here) but she was mad to the point of tears because what the U.S. Government did to her and Aaron is the way things are. That makes her furious.
And, I totally agree with her fury. I will not stand by and let things continue the way they have been going, when I can do something about it. I can't. That's not just my fierce independence. It's justice and right and the desrie to help others have justice and live rightly. There are things wrong with the world, with the accepted way of doing things and it doesn't have to be that way. We, you, the reader, and I can make a difference. We can live in a way that doesn't let bad people continue to do bad things at the expense of those who aren't capable to defend themselves.
You may be thinking, "Jonathan, it's just a movie." That's something Joe and Phill said to me a few times. It's something Hollywood is saying because of the Midnight Rider fiasco, which was a big bad on the producers' part. But, they aren't just movies. They aren't merely something that is created and forgotten. They can be more. As a filmmaker, I have the most powerful thought-propogation tool at my fingertips. It would be foolish of me to simply use it as merely a tool to keep the masses happy on their slow road to oblivion. It can be a road sign, pointing to another way.
I work as hard as I possibly can, driving myself right to the edge of what I can handle, because I believe in what I'm doing, because I beleive it's more than throw-away entertainment. I'm passionate. I'm driven. That's the motivation behind writing this journal/case-study. It's to help give you the tools to do what I've done, so you can make the world better too.
* * *
That's the end of the rant.
* * *
Back to the awesome week summary.
Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg spoke at HOPE X on Saturday. They were originally scheduled for a 1hr slot, but are you really going to cut off people who change the world on that scale? The HOPE X organizers didn't and I supported them. The Snowden/Ellsberg talk went on for 2.5hrs, and is well worth listening to. But, the result in my life was that ALGORITHM didn't screen until 1:30am, to a weary crowd of no more than 50 people. Probably a lot fewer than that.
The screening went great. The DVD worked a lot better than the Blu-ray at the cast and crew screening. There were some glitches, but I couldn't tell if it was the projector or the DVD and there wasn't much I could do about it anyway, so why worry?
At the end of the screening, I took the stage for about 20 minutes and answered some fairly basic questions. I also gave away the DVD that just played, then a Blu-ray (better than the one from the C&C screening), an SD card with an 8GB version of the movie, and the Raspberry Pi from the movie.
When it was done, the hackers came up to me and said it was the best hacker movie they'd ever seen. I did it right. They approved. It wasn't a huge crowd, but it was the right crowd.
Afterwards, I stayed up the rest of the night, talking with Bernie, my primary contact with HOPE X and had a meeting of the minds. About 30 minutes before I had to leave, another one of the organizers taught me how to pick a masterlock in about 20 seconds. That was pretty cool. They let me ride their Segue, which was a first for me.
Skip forward 2hrs.
I was in Newark Airport, making my way through security, behind someone who had some kind of meat in her bag that needed to be inspected. As I was waiting, Bill Murray walked past in a different line. When I got out of the line, I went looking for him. He wasn't in any of the standard terminal chairs. I figured he was in an Admiral's Club for one of the airlines.
He was having soup in a restaurant. I sat two seats away and revelled in the moment. It lasted about 30 mintues. Three people came up and talked to him and took pictures with him. He was gracious and asked one guy to sit down and talk. He listened as the guy talked about his life. Bill seemed legitimately interested. When the guy left, I shook Bill's hand and said that it was the perfect end to an amazing week. 15 mintues later, Bill left, patted me on the shoulder and said he hoped my amazing week continued.
Between Woz/Draper liking ALGORITHM (Kevin Mitnick now follows me on Twitter, which is wild!), the real front-line hackers liking ALGORITHM, and meeting Bill Murray, oh, and the movie going viral, it's clear why it's the third greatest week of my life.