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Louis CK Shows How to Self-Distribute a Video, Brings in $1 Million Online

Among the many news stories that I missed recently, comedian Louis CK’s self-released Live at the Beacon Theater video might be the story that I feel the most remiss about missing. Louis is not only one of the funniest men alive, he’s also a writer/director/producer/editor (you may know his show on FX, which he not only writes and stars in, but also edited the entire second season himself). Louis recently shared some of his thoughts on the hot button topic of Final Cut Pro (X) (included below), but the larger story is that his self-produced, self-distributed downloadable video has raised over $1 million, and he’s been completely transparent about where that money is going (much of which is to charity). Here’s a sample of the routine, which includes NSFW language/subject matter:

If you want to see what $1 million dollars in a Paypal account looks like, here it is:

$5 of that is mine! Well, slightly less, really, given Paypal takes a cut.

On a terrific Reddit thread, Louis took to answering questions — many hilariously — and had this to say about editing:

I love editing. I have used Avid in the past but I exclusively use Final Cut Pro now, though I am concerned about the future… You always have to put three dots after the future… Editing is part of the process. It’s how you form everything. In some ways not editing yourself would be like a sculptor dropping some clay off at a guys house and saying “Make a naked lady chasing a bull. and do it nice”.

Taking the distribution and transparency one step further, on his news page Louis shares where the money is going:

The first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build.

The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I’m giving them a big fat bonus.

The third 280k is going to a few different charities. They are listed below in case you’d like to donate to them also. Some of these i learned about through friends, some were reccomended through twitter.

That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.

Louis’ transparency, hilarity, and humanity makes the release even more of a special event in which to participate — it’s great marketing and it makes you want to buy the video even if you’re not a Louis CK fan or a stand-up fan. Get the $5 download at the link below — or don’t, if you’re easily offended by “adult” topics. Just a warning!

Link: Louis CK – Live at the Beacon Theater

[via MotionVFX]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 21 COMMENTS

  • Louis’ handle on reddit was “iamlouisck,” not “phormality.” That just seems like someone else who was on the thread.

    P.S. Great site. Been reading for about a year. Saying this as constructive criticism, not to be nitpicky.

  • Koo, I love and admire you and your site, and follow both religiously. Just for context, please take 5 minuteout of your day to read this:

    • Really? A bubble? Good lord, can’t people just enjoy it when someone is on a hot streak? Sometimes we as the internet have to fight the urge to analyze the fun out of things.

  • Damen Stephens on 12.29.11 @ 3:21PM

    It seems entirely illogical to be praising Louis about his “transparency” about how the money he made was to be distributed. It would be understandable to praise him for GIVING money to charity, but to praise him for TELLING you he’s not keeping all the profits himself (as would normally be the case when one is paid for an endeavour) ?? How is that worthy of praise ? If anything, it should be disappointing he is telling you all of the proceeds don’t go to him. Somebody TELLING everyone that they are doing a “nice thing” is NOT a praise-worthy endeavour (and could often be considered the opposite of praiseworthy). Doing the nice thing is. How is this not absolutely self-evident ??

    • Couldn’t disagree more Damen. It’s in the news that he’s making 1 million dollars. This headline even, says that. So people think, wow, 1 million, straight into his bank account. He’s not doing it to win “nice thing” points, he’s doing it because he’s setting an example to other people who make a bunch of money doing things like this. You don’t always have to deposit it all to yourself, there are other people out there too. If you watch his stuff you should know that he hates himself way too much to want to pat his own back. Cheers Louie.

      • I agree with you, Bob.

      • Damen Stephens on 12.30.11 @ 10:11AM

        Hmmn – unlike you I am not a mind reader and would not be presumptuous enough to believe I understand another person’s motivations as you do (especially not someone I don’t know personally and well). I think Louis would have had a good laugh at you discerning from his ACT that he “hates himself” – that is truly a priceless statement !!

        He would also laugh at your knowledge that him providing figures was purely in aid of improving the world and setting a good example for others. That could be the case to an extent (though it is far too simplistic a motivation for anyone to ascribe to a real human being – maybe a character in a shallow Hollywood action film, or romantic comedy ?), but it might not – and is almost certainly not the only motivation (maybe just the “outer layer”).

        Regardless, we can only judge actions with any accuracy – not the motivations of another person or even our OWN (you just denigrated a a large portion of the mental health industry). The action is praiseworthy, the “transparency” of his financial reportage is not necessarily.

    • Hey Damen, if you didn’t notice yet, we are living a revolution regarding distribution models ( indie books, films, shows, and shorts) and having someone like him sharing his experience and realistic numbers is definitely a great asset and to be praised indeed, people used to sell this information back in the day and we are very lucky to have easy access to them nowadays. One more time the formula — Build your audience- give them something- they will give you something back—- is proven to be the future model for indie distributors.

      • Damen Stephens on 12.30.11 @ 9:58AM

        Wow – I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet, but having someone share the “realistic numbers” of how much they are earning from a particular endeavour is in no way a “great asset” to “be praised indeed”. Nor is it a saleable asset as you suggest and nor has it ever been. It is applicable to one person, performing one endeavour, at one particular time. If YOU wish to run a comedy broadcast – with exactly the same fan base as Louis, with exactly the same website build and server providers and exactly the same staffing levels, at exactly this point in time, then this information could, presumably, be of some use to you. So, guess what ? You are not Lois CK – your expenses will be different, your projects, methodology, pricing and audience buying power will be too. So extrapolate away if you believe you can – if you believe you now have the information you have always required but used to have to PAY other people for !!

        Also, your argument appears to be confused between praising a distribution model (something with which I have not argued) and praising somebody’s fiscal “transparency”. So how’s this for you. I earn $60,000 per year, spend approximately $28,000 in expenses, give approximately 10% to charity. I hope this transparency re: financial information is as useful as you suggest it will be in helping you to lead your own life …

        • All right, I understand your point, don’t agree though. Just different points of view, you see as a very specific case, and I see it as a growing trend since there are many others from different fields (kinddle, apple store, youtube, etc) sharing their numbers as well. And the whole message is simply “yes, you can make profit exploring different distribution avenues , being a indie or a well known”.

    • Attention: occupiers, rich libs living off inheirtances and complaining, Warren Buffet and anyone else whining and snivling who apparently need the government to do anything remotely resembling “good”. READ THIS MAN AND GET A CLUE.

  • Louis it dope person work with him on many things and he’s always keep it #100%

  • Is there no income tax in the U.S? If there is, it looks like he’ll end up with $0.00.

    • if he’s set his operations right as a firm instead of an individual, what he uses to pay costs and wages won’t pay any taxes: only the profit will
      and he also gets some deductions for giving away to charity
      so no, he doesn’t end up with $0.00

  • Enough is enough!! I am sick and tired of hearing these story. This guy was able to self distributed because he was ALREADY FAMOUS!! He had a number of HBO special. That alone makes a world of difference.

    • Josh Stauffer on 12.30.11 @ 5:48PM

      Settle down dude! Yes, he’s already famous. Get over how much more popular people are than you and get the POINT. He self distributed. Maybe you could do the same and make a living for yourself. You don’t have to make a million dollars for it to be a good idea! If you can’t think outside of the box and see how this could benefit you then what are you even doing on a film site?