The “pay what you want” pricing strategy has been a boon for many artists trying to circumvent traditional distribution models and release strategies. Radiohead brought major awareness to the concept when it released its 2007 album “In Rainbows,” and now indie filmmakers like Joel Potrykus are utilizing the method to control the release of their work, like his latest film “The Alchemist Cookbook.” The film follows young outcast Sean (Ty Hickson) who has isolated himself in the woods with his cast Kaspar to pursue his alchemic pursuits. Though his experiments start out innocent enough, they soon turn to black magic in order to crack the secrets of nature, and naturally things go awry, awakening something far more sinister and dangerous. Watch an exclusive clip from the film below.
As to why Potrykus decided to release the film through a “pay what you want” model, he cites his obsession with punk rock and his wish to bring that energy and approach to filmmaking, wishing to give “the middle finger to the big guys in the industry.” “There needs to be a shift, starting now,” says Potrykus. “Someday, I’m going to release a film as a real deal road show. Only one copy exists, in the trunk of my car, and it can only be seen that one night I come to your town. It’ll be like a concert with music and double dares and bad jokes…. This is a first step in getting away from the big guys…The internet is a big, weird place, and I’ll be damned if this movie doesn’t escape the trends and traditional release strategies. I want to set it up in the woods and see what happens when it’s left to fend for itself.”
Though he admits he’s no Radiohead (or Girl Talk or Ti West), he’ll see how it goes. “This experiment may fail. Maybe only ten people will download it, and only two of them pay. But I figure if I’m taking creative risks in my storytelling and actively trying to challenge the audience, I may as well take some risks and challenge the traditions in distribution. It’s 2016, after all. Time to get futuristic for once.”
“The Alchemist Cookbook” premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival and later screened at BAMcinemaFest and Fantasia International Film Festival. It’s currently available to purchase via BitTorrent Now from Oscilloscope Laboratories.