If you can't raise finance for your feature, and cinema chains don't want to touch your film, what can you do? Until recently that could have meant the end of the project, but the web offers some interesting ways of changing this.
"This was not like putting a blog post up and all of a sudden everybody comes and knocks our door down. We'd carefully cultivated an audience and put a lot of effort into the technology to pull them all together so that we could email them all at the same time."
Jim Gilliam, producer of Brave New Films, was unable to raise funding for Robert Greenwald's latest project. So he sent few emails to everyone who had previously bought a DVD from the company. Within 10 days, they had raised $220,000. And when it came to distribution, a network of activists and documentary fans have been mobilised around the Brave New Theaters website to organise their own mini and local screenings. The site, now open for any filmmaker looking to (or needing to) bypass traditional exhibition and connect with fans, allows people to communicate without any distribution or exhibition chain at all.
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, directed by Robert Greenwald, is the most prominent feature film yet to successfully 'crowd-source' the finance of film, in a piece which explores the area of private contractors and mercenaries in Iraq. Gilliam has been working with Greenwald ever since - after 9/11 - he rethought his life and left a high-paid executive career on the web to work on stuff he believed in.
Through documentaries such as Outfoxed, Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, Uncovered, Wall Mart and Iraq for Sale - Greenwald, with Gilliam as producer - has kept the spotlight on modern America. Through Brave New Theaters, and the groudnbreaking financing of Iraq for Sale, Gilliam is rewriting the rules of the industry, breaking down the traditional barriers between filmmaker and audience.
When I interviewed him last winter, Jim was awaiting a lung transplant and - despite being bed-ridden and struggling to speak clearly - showed remarkable energy, drive and optimism. The transplant took place earlier this year, and thankfully was a complete success. Like speaking with Mohammed Al Daradji, who risked personal safety to get his Iraq film Ahlaam completed, I was left humbled and inspired after the interview - and I hope you do too.