When Michael M. Belmont, a.k.a. M dot Strange, heard that his recently released animated movie We Are The Strange had been leaked onto torrent sites, he immediately fired up his email client. But he didn’t send out DMCA takedown notices to stop the unlicensed distribution of the movie he had worked on for three years. Instead, he thanked the pirates for the free publicity: “I’m glad to see it being released and possibly finding more strange people who appreciate it.”
In fact, Belmont was so happy about his movie being pirated that he recorded a hilarious five-minute rant on video and uploaded it to YouTube. In it, he explains that he’s gotten tons of new traffic, sold “more than two” DVDs, and overall really appreciates what he calls the “torrentrical” release of his work.
We Are The Strange is a mixture of old-school video-game graphics, 8 Bit music and Japanese anime-inspired animation that tells a somewhat confusing story of a sad girl and an odd, big-headed doll that become friends — and face demons — in their quest for ice cream. People reportedly fled the theater when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, but Variety has called it fascinating, and Wired Magazine has described it as a “triptastic triumph of DIY filmmaking.”
The movie didn’t get a theatrical release, a fact for which Belmont blames contracts that he said would have forced him to give up all his rights and, given the limited niche audience, not get any money in return. Instead, it went straight to DVD, and from there it was just a small step to torrent sites.
Belmont apparently wasn’t involved in the P2P distribution of his movie; a group called JFK released it on Dec. 2nd. He seems open to collaborating with torrent sites and release groups, though: “In the future, filmmakers like myself will work together with torrent sites when releasing films,” Belmont told one of the sites involved. “I’m not afraid of the future.”
He concedes in his video that this future probably won’t make him rich. But who needs money anyway, right? Says Belmont: “What would I do? Buy like a jet and fly back and forth from here to the coffee shop?”