5,504 miles from Hollywood in Tampere, Finland, five “students and unemployed people” began reinventing moviemaking out of sheer necessity. Lacking the experience and resources to make STAR WRECK: IN THE PIRKINNING their ambitious sci-fi parody, they built a vibrant global community around the production, demonstrating the power of what they call “social filmmaking.”

Going far beyond the traditional model of face-to-face collaboration between handpicked cast and crew, director Timo Vuorensola and his four teammates were able to harness the creativity and expertise of people around the world they had never met. They developed a 3000-person community online, which yielded a writer, composer, and actors. Members of the community also translated the film into more than 30 languages and dialects.

The community created 50% of what ended up on screen. This includes spectacular special effects, 3D models, and digital environments, allowing this elaborate, effects-laden film to be made for only 15,000 Euros.

Their army of viral evangelists helped jumpstart the distribution of STAR WRECK when it was released in 2005. Timo and his team made the film freely available for download believing “you can double your income if you give something away for free.” Even though they didn’t have money for traditional marketing, the free availability of the film online created significant demand for the DVD. The filmmakers sold 10,000 DVDs (plus merchandise) directly from their website and also made retail DVD distribution deals in Scandinavia, the US, and the UK. Eight million free downloads later, they continue to sell DVDs in stores and online. The filmmakers have already earned 20 times what they spent making the film and revenues are still coming in.

A passionate advocate for social filmmaking, Timo developed, a new web platform that enables filmmakers to build online communities around their films and tap existing ones. Almost 100 projects--including features, documentaries, and shorts--have already signed up.

When I interviewed Timo at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, he was completing the financing of
IRON SKY, his new sci-fi feature about Nazis on the moon. Timo and his team’s innovative use of social filmmaking on STAR WRECK helped them raise a substantial 4.2 million Euro budget from traditional financing sources for IRON SKY. Even with the luxury of an exponentially higher budget, Timo and his team are counting on the vital support of the IRON SKY community--already 1000 strong and growing--to collaborate creatively and tirelessly spread the word.


Scott Kirsner’s new book, FANS, FRIENDS & FOLLOWERS features an insightful interview with Timo. The book is an indispensable resource for filmmakers interested in building audiences for their work.

Scott has offered a 15% discount to all readers of the DISTRIBUTION BULLETIN. You can buy the
paperback (discount code: VSZJHH2J) or the e-book (discount code: paradigm).