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Film matters: The Tunnel

Last year, James Cameron’s second golden egg Avatar was hailed as one of the most important films ever made through its use of pre-existing formats and enormous wads of cash.

This year, a practically unheard-of Australian film called The Tunnel has changed cinema quietly with little more than common sense and a lot of chutzpah. Its greatest achievement so far has not been breaking its own record for the most expensive film ever made – it’s being recognised by IMDB.

The Tunnel was funded entirely by the filmmakers encouraging fans to invest AU$1, or 61p, for a frame of the film. There are 135,000 frames. So that’s $135,000 to make a 90 minute film. It personally cost them nothing to make – and judging from the trailer, it looks to be pretty frightening. However the film was initially refused a page on IMDB because it will become available on BitTorrent – a site often used to illegally fileshare.

The entertainment industry would have you think that downloading films and music was a cardinal sin. It isn’t. The internet is not simply a tool for shopping and email – it connects millions upon millions of people, helping data reach places it would never have found otherwise. The music and film industries in particular have been using the same tired business model for far too long and have failed to see the internet for what it is – a fantastic opportunity for innovation, not a network of criminals. As a result of this, we in Britain have ended up with the ill thought-out Digital Economy Bill, which proposes that internet users found guilty of filesharing or downloading face a three-strikes-and-we-limit-your-internet-use punishment. (Not many people know that they’re entitled to digital rights – the right to information – but there you go. They’re being infringed.) The Tunnel, made by filmmakers Julian Harvey and Enzo Tedeschi, is one small step towards a revolution in digital media.

By cutting the costs of studio production and box office fees and raising the funds for the film online at 61p per frame, the film will be accessible worldwide immediately and for free via BitTorrent. The filmmakers are also selecting one frame, the owner of which will receive 1% of all profit made by the film. For less than a quid, you could own a piece of film history and help a film to get released worldwide. Or for about a tenner you could go and see The Hole in 3D. Your choice.

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