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It amazes and terrifies me that so few filmmakers are as open, interested and engaged in the torrent phenomena as director John August. You might remember that earlier this month we reported on August’s curious announcement to fans that his indie film (and /Film favorite), The Nines, was available for illegal download online via Bit Torrent and sites like Mininova. He seemed to express that he wouldn’t hold a grudge if you saw his film that way. Well, August has posted twice more on the topic on his personal blog, and he now attributes a huge surge for The Nines on IMDB’s MOVIEmeter (which measures movie search trends) from 1,539 all the way to 11 to its exposure via the Internet’s torrents.

You don’t see a lot, actually any, directors making the correlation between illegal torrent leaks of their films, their films’ popularity and consumer interest, but August has voiced up. And it’s clear that August has received a lot of flack for doing so, as he’s extended on his prior statements and countered others’ directed at him in another blog entry.

I’m not bouncy with joy over my movie getting torrented, but I think it’s a stretch to equate unlawful downloading with traditional theft. As many commenters have pointed out, The Nines isn’t available in any legal form in many countries around the world, nor will it be in any foreseeable time frame. So I have a hard time arguing that a reader in Germany should pay for the movie when there’s no way he could.

August goes on to say that he has far less tolerance for viewers who download a film that is openly available to them, be it on DVD or theatrically, but even then, he seems to think that downloading his film is less harmful than buying a bootleg of it on the streets of New York, referring to the latter as “organized crime” and torrent sites as merely “far less noble.” Moreover, he says that Hollywood should lay off the downloaders and lay on an innovative solution.

I’d steer the legal machinery towards stopping the true black market – counterfeit discs and camcorder specials – and spend more time coming up with legitimate, convenient alternatives to the torrents, so that’s it’s not any more difficult to find and download a movie legally. Apple’s new rental deal with the studios sounds promising. That and a dozen other efforts could make the market competitive, which will be better for everyone.

But where August takes a next step in becoming a unique voice on this subject is with the following statement…

One of the things I hope to do with The Nines – sometime after the writers’ strike, when I can call Sony again – is work with them to release a low-res version of all the source material for The Nines, so budding filmmakers can try their hand at cutting (and re-cutting) a real feature. So I’m watching this first wave of torrents carefully, hoping the people who are downloading The Nines are doing it because they love movies, and not because they want to screw over some mythical The Man. Because to a very large degree, I am The Man in this case.

Yes! This is the kind of forward-thinking the industry needs and props to August for doing it for them. I cannot express enough how frustrated I am watching Hollywood slowly but surely follow the same “all defense all the time” path as the music industry when it comes to ignoring downloading as the future (in favor of Blue Ray), going after torrent communities and prosecuting downloaders, and practicing what basically equates to an erred philosophy on human beings’ relationship and instincts in regards to sharing information.

The fact that 99 percent of all moviegoers around the world were put in the position of waiting to see The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, an Oscar-caliber film barely released theatrically in America last September, until it arrived on DVD five or more months (or years) later, or illegally downloading a pristine DVD screener a month ago, burning it to a DVD-R, and watching it in their home with friends or loved ones is preposterous. I have a separate post about this in the works, but I can’t help but notice how many more comments on /Film and other sites are now referring to a combination of smaller, less intriguing and under-distributed movies as “[illegal] download only” and “maybe I’ll download it to see what the fuss is about.” And it’s not just the “nerds, criminals, derelicts and college students” as the music industry used to label those who first adopted Napster.

As for whether illegal torrents can actually make films more popular, to me this is a no-brainer. Yes. They Can. In a global marketplace, we should all be able to view movies on demand via the Internet at the same time. And more and more, we can, except that it’s not Hollywood and the big corporations that are promoting, initiating, investing, improving and expanding this means of populist, and incredibly lucrative, distribution. It’s the people, whatever you think of “the people.” You can go the Daniel Plainview these people route if you want, but I’m leaving that mindset to the antiquated oil set.

Here is the aforementioned IMBD MOVIEmeter for The Nines. August attributes the huge surge in January in terms of movie searches to the film’s leak on torrents this month.

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The NinesThe Nines was one of the best films of last year, although, chances are you never saw it. I think John August‘s directorial debut didn’t get much further than a couple screens, which is a crying shame if you ask me. Thankfully the film is hitting DVD store shelves later this month. I highly recommend it.

But in a highly strange move, screenwriter turned director and self professed tech geek,  August has announced to his fans that The Nines is now available illegally on Bit Torrent.

“You can loan a DVD, without passing along that troubling knowledge that you’ve done something illicit,” August writes, adding “But if these reasons and/or your conscience doesn’t persuade you, it’s not hard to find The Nines online. And won’t think less of you. Probably.”

Wow. But I want to support this film with my money, so I’ll be putting down the cash on January 29th. I recommend you do the same. But what does my moral opinion matter when the filmmaker is telling you that he doesn’t care as long as you check out his movie.

Get Smart Poster

While I was in New Mexico, I missed out on a couple movie poster premiere. So let’s make up for lost time, and take a look at a few of them. First up is the teaser poster via cinematical for Get Smart starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. I’m really looking forward to this one, being a big fan of the Mel Brooks series as a kid. Also the footage shown at Comic Con showed major promise.
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The NinesWhen Clerks 2 was getting ready for release, Kevin Smith had a great idea to release an audio commentary track for the film a couple weeks after the film had hit theaters. The idea was to encourage people to go back and pay for the movie again, and to listen to the film commentary on their iPod. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but if I remember correctly, the theater owners complained about people may be laughing at parts during the movie that shouldn’t have laughs and that would be distracting to others in the theater. It was a great idea though, although I can see that complaint, especially considering how funny some of Smith’s commentary tracks can get.

John August has taken that idea and run with it. Not only has he announced he’s releasing the commentary track for The Nines on MP3, but he’s already posted it. I guess it’s easier to get something like this through on a smaller limited release. Also, I’m sure August’s track is probably more informative than funny, and would not result in such distractions mentioned above. And The Nines is the perfect film for this experiment because it offers a complex mystery which people may want to explore a second time with a guide.

“In the age of iPods, there’s really no reason why audio commentary has to be relegated to DVD. That’s why Ryan Reynolds and I recorded one last week for The Nines which is now yours to download.”

You can download the commentary track now at JohnAugust.com.

Nine Minutes of John August’s The Nines

The NinesEver since I first saw John August’s directorial debut The Nines earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, I’ve wondered how they would market this film. I absolutely loved it, yet can’t even explain the plot. It’s a LOST-style mystery infused in a Go-style dialogue and reality. Three stories with the same actors. I am always hesitant to reveal too much, because going in clueless is part of the fun. At the same time I’m hesitant to recommend the film to anyone because I could also understand how such a film could irritate certain types of people.

The people at Newmarket Films have decided to release the first 9 minutes of the movie online. I wish they cut out the intro and allowed the clip to extend to the mystery which is revealed shortly after (at least by my memory). I think if you left the moviegoing public with the question “What is the Nines?” then most would be forced to buy a ticket and find out. But the first nine minutes will give you a good indication of the playful nature of the film, the actors involved, and the pop-culture infused dialogue which has become August’s trademark. Again, I loved this film, and may-be you will too. It hits theaters in LA and New York on August 31st, and will hopefully expand based on audience response. Check out the clip after the jump.
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John August’s The Nines Movie Poster

The Nines Movie PosterJohnAugust and Cinematical have posted the theatrical one-sheet poster for John August’s directorial debut The Nines. Guys, this was my favorite movie of Sundance 2007. There isn’t an easy way to describe The Nines without ruining much of the plot. The plot summery I’ve seen floating around the web describes the film:

A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways.

The poster, seen right, features Ryan Reynolds tying (or is he untying?) a green string bracelet on his right wrist. This is something that comes into play late into the film. The tagline reads “You Never Know When Your Number Is Up”. It’s a cool tagline, and a very cool poster for that matter, but does it really give you any indication of what the movie is about? Or even what the genre is for that matter? “You Never Know When Your Number Is Up” sounds like the tagline for a cheesy direct-to-dvd horror film, but on this poster it seems like something much different. And truth is, this movie works within more than a few genres, which is probably one of the reasons why the film itsn’t easily to classify. You can click on the poster image to enlarge.

When I first saw this film in January, I wondered how they would market such a movie. It’s so very different from anything on the big screen today. The closest thing I can compare it to is the television show LOST, and even then, that is a far stretch. It begins as a realistic film with a mysterious sci-fi element, and evolves into a multi-part story with a polarizing mind-fuck climax. If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, check it out now at this link. But bottom line is – You need to see this movie. I can’t recommend it enough.

The Nines

My favorite film from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival is the feature film debut of screenwriter John August (Go, Big Fish). There isn’t really any way to describe The Nines without ruining much of the plot. The plot summery I’ve seen floating around the web describes the film:

A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways.

The new movie trailer probably reveals too much. What are The Nines? It’s a JJ Abrams style mystery/character drama which will have you talking the whole car ride home. Check out the trailer after the jump.

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John August Updates The Nines

The Nines movie

Screenwriter turned director John August has posted an update about one of my favorite films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival (Review). The Nines was chosen to play the Venice Film Festival as part of Critics’ Week, which takes place the first week of September. The film will be released in limited US markets (“New York and Los Angeles and maybe one other city”) on August 31st. (“No, I don’t know when we’ll be playing in Omaha. Or if we’ll be playing in Omaha. Ditto for Argentina.”) The movie trailer is cut and will be showing up within the next week, likely with he official movie website. The film has not been changed since its Sundance premiere and has been Rated R (“Presumably for language”). The movie will be on 35mm in some theatres, digital in others. I can’t wait for others to see this film and be confused and amazed.

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