Friday, May 01, 2009

Fan-made movie: The Hunt for Gollum

The Hunt for Gollum is a 40-minute high-def movie made by fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in general, and the Peter Jackson movies in particular. The trailers look beautiful, the cinematography looks about as good as the three movies. This is being done on a purely non-profit basis and the entire movie will be released free to the Internet on Sunday, May 3rd.

I kinda wish these guys had tried to make money with this, for a few reasons. First, they should be rewarded for such a monumental effort. No doubt many of the primary organizers will get their pick of sweet jobs, just as the primary developers of Apache, Linux, Python, etc. have gone on to sweet jobs after releasing useful free software, but other participants might have gotten some compensation for their time and effort.

Second, there was an opportunity here to experiment with compensation models whose endgame is the release of a work into the public domain. I've often wondered if a big movie could be made by an independent group and released to the public domain, and still bring in significant money. My first idea for a ransom model where each frame of the movie would be encrypted and distributed, and encryption keys for frames or groups of frames would be published as various amounts of the total desired donation were reached. There would probably be a clause that the entire key set would be released unconditionally at some future date.

I think I have a better idea on further reflection. Before the public-domain release, find some buyers who are willing to pay for the privilege of having the movie before the big release. The buyers need to be informed that a public-domain release will occur and on what date, so that they understand that the window to make any money off the movie will be limited.

Another possibility is a ransom model with a linearly-decreasing donation threshold, with the public-domain release scheduled for when the donation threshold reaches zero. If the total donations cross the threshold before then, the release occurs at that time.

Anyway, kudos to the people who made "Hunt for Gollum", thanks for your efforts, and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the movie.

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