Director Craig Brewer is giving away a free download of his debut film, "The Poor & Hungry" with the goal of reconnecting to his early days of indie filmmaking and building a community.
"I just want to have a relationship with people who dig my work. The end goal for me is to feel a little bit like an artist in my community again," Brewer told Indiewire. Although he's selling other related products on his web site, Brewer said he doesn't expect money on the film -- and, in fact, it will cost him a quarter per download. But that's beside the point. "Everyone is asking 'how are you going to make money off of this?' For me, I don't know if this is the project to be thinking like that about...I would love it if I suddenly gave away 10,000 movies." Though it's only been available for a couple of days, Brewer said the film has been downloaded more than 500 times.
Brewer wrote, directed and directed the film in Memphis the late '90s for $20,000 with an inheritance from his father. "We shot it on pawn shop bought camcorders," Brewer said. "I really learned how to be a filmmaker on this movie. The movie is a little bit of a miracle that it gone done, but it became kind of a phenomenon in Memphis. It won the Hollywood Film Festival in 2000 and it was a big deal that a local film beat out other movies that cost millions of dollars."
When "The Poor & Hungry" played at The Memphis Film Festival in 2001, Indiewire reviewed the film, writing: "Hands-down the finest feature among the pack, "The Poor & Hungry" (named for a popular café) was made using a floor-model Digital 8mm camera (no, this is not the same as DV), a two-person crew, $20,000 of inheritance, and first-time actors. Those Dogme-tic fetishes aside, this fast-paced two-hour poetic scraping of Memphis down-and-outers was put together with more than cojones. It also boasts a spiky, if plot-heavy script that's flanked by aptly crude lighting and sound that belies the overall grace of the editing, camera movement and actors."
Though a Memphis theater chain gave the film a run, there was never a DVD available of the film, which played as part of IFC's "Digital Theater," according to Brewer, who allowed a VHS to be made for a local video store, Black Lodge Video. But those copies all disappeared over time and the film became a local legend, which nobody was able to see.
Mostly, "The Poor & Hungry" was as a calling card for Hollywood. "It was just the movie that Hollywood got to see when they read 'Hustle & Flow.' 'Hustle & Flow' was all about my making this movie," Brewer said of his 2005 feature. Since then, he's gone on to direct "Black Snake Moan" and the reboot of "Footloose" among other projects.Brewer sees making his first film available for free as a way to reclaim his career. "I didn't make a new movie. I remastered my first movie that nobody's been able to see. I think it's my best film and my favorite film," he said. He's also thinking that this could suggest a new self-distribution model. "Maybe this new distribution model will be so much fun that I'll want to do it fo the rest of my life, make a small movie and put it out there in my own store and feel fulfilled just by the making of it. I don't have to go to Sundance and sell it or anything like that," he said. "That's what I'm hoping I can do for the rest of my life - make something and get it out to people and have a closer connection with the audience."
Watch a trailer of the film here: