June 11, 2012

Tom Lowe, Creator of 'TimeScapes', Responds to the Piracy of His DRM-Free Film

Tom Lowe has garnered a tremendous amount of respect and praise for his experimental film TimeScapes, which recently became available for purchase on his site. Tom chose a slightly different distribution plan than many other independent filmmakers. In addition to iTunes, he is offering the film for purchase in Blu-Ray/DVD form, as well as in the form of DRM-free downloads in SD resolutions all the way up to a USB stick with a 4K file of the finished film (the first to offer a film in that resolution). As with any good work, people want to share the film online for free with each other -- something Hollywood has fought fiercely. When TimeScapes appeared on The Pirate Bay, Tom responded.

First, here's the trailer for TimeScapes if you haven't already seen it:


Here is Tom's response to the film appearing on the torrent site The Pirate Bay:

Greetings. I am Tom Lowe, the person who spent two years of his life living out of a Toyota pickup truck to make this film. If you enjoy it, please consider buying a copy from our website at TimeScapes.org or at iTunes, or maybe giving it as a gift to a friend, so we can recover the money we invested in the film, and then make some more films for your enjoyment. :)

Tom's response and his distribution strategy are completely outside the realm of Hollywood, where suing downloaders is the first option they consider. He recently had an interview with TechCrunch, where he talked about his thoughts on the film and his ideas on piracy. Here is Tom on his feelings about the torrent appearing online:

I wasn’t upset about the torrents. I knew it was going to happen. I am a member at Demonoid and other torrent sites, so I was checking every couple of days to see when it would hit torrents. When I saw the torrent, I felt like letting downloaders know that this was a small, self-financed film, and there are not any Hollywood fatcats in the revenue stream. We have also gone out of our way to offer like 15 different types of paid downloads, from standard-def resolution up to 2560×1440, for those with 2560×1600 monitors, which we believe is a first. If you want reduce file sharing, I think you should offer fast, secure, relatively inexpensive, DRM-free downloads in as many flavors as possible. The only people DRM hurts are your actual, paying customers.

Tom on how he would explain his position to a pirate:

I can just look in the mirror and have that conversation. This will piss off some of my friends who are artists, but I download movies and music. Usually, if I like something, I will get on Amazon and send a copy to a friend or a girlfriend, or a family member. Do I always do that 100% of the time? No. But I do try to make a point of it.

Lastly, his advice on fixing the piracy epidemic:

I think providing very cheap, very fast downloads directly will help. I do not have complete control over pricing of my film, as I have financial backers who need to be paid back. But generally speaking I think film downloads should be cheaper and faster, with no DRM. As far as music goes, I think artists should rely more on live shows and merchandise and such to make a living. And in terms of films, I think theaters should be bigger, with higher resolution, better seats, better sound, to create an experience that you simply cannot get at home. I would also like to be able to drink a beer at the movies.

If a film company is spending $100-$200 million dollars on a movie, it's going to be a lot harder to recoup that investment when the movie is available for $3-$5 online, which is one of the many reasons cheap downloads don't already exist. Bringing the cost of movies down is an entirely different conversation for a different day, however.

The theater experience should be much better than it is, and the reality is that it's still a huge source of a movie's income. For independent filmmakers, the options to distribute your film are growing, and in some cases shrinking, but the discussion is the same. Building an audience is hard without money, and some have even resorted to giving away their films, in the hopes of reaching a far wider audience that will offer donations in exchange for liking the film. This has worked well for the web series Pionner One, which ran a Kickstarter and then proceeded to give away the episodes using Vodo, with the option for donations that would give access to special behind-the-scenes features.

The DRM-free downloads have worked well for people like Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari, and they are also working for Tom Lowe. TimeScapes, with a budget of $300,000, has made back $200,000 of that money in downloads from his site alone. Though the film is also available on iTunes, it's important if you're a filmmaker to look at as many options as possible for distribution. The DRM-free option is one way to respect the paying community who want to watch the film anywhere and on any device they want.

What do you guys think about piracy, in Hollywood and in the independent film world? What should we do about it, if anything? If we are honest with the community, can DRM-free downloads work for smaller films? Is it time to give away our smaller films for free to gain a wider audience, and hope donations and other sales sustain us?

Let us know what you think below.

Link: TimeScapes - Buy the Movie

[via TechCrunch]

Your Comment


I remember buying Gladiator and finding I could only play it on my PC with the DVDs preferred player. What does that say to the buyer when your viewing options are restricted for a payed product?

June 11, 2012 at 2:08PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Film makers should make a decision now to have integrity when it comes to this business. Stop torrenting NLE's, Plugins, Music, Movies and model the type of customer you want. Don't try to make it look nice by saying "if I like it, I'll buy it" or "I just don't have the money for it, so I'll 'acquire it.'" Work for it. Thats what trials,previews, and samples are for.

Artist are spending years and hours –blood,tears,prayers, and sweat- trying to make an awesome product. Just for ppl to torrrent,rip, or pirate it. Shame on those who do it.

Indie film makers. Just communicate with your audience. Talk to them. Answer their blogs post or comments. Express how important their support is. Do giveaways, give discounts, offer something they cant refuse.

I mean, it's inevitable. There are ppl out there who don't care. Oh well.

June 11, 2012 at 2:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


In my personal opinion, online piracy is not something that is going to be stopped, not through media companies suing and not through malicious legislation like SOPA or PIPA. I believe that it would be in the best interests of these companies, whether they be Hollywood fatcats or music industry moguls, to accept piracy as an inevitable fact of life in the digital world and adapt their business models to accomodate that fact. Whether that means making movies for less money (god forbid) and revamping the theater experience so that people are more inclined to spend their hard-earned money, I don't know. However, as someone who both purchases and downloads movies, I can honestly say that whether or not I pay for a movie depends on whether I truly care about it. When Hollywood pumps out trite superhero movie after trite superhero movie, I'm sure as hell not going to pay an arm in a leg to immerse myself in that mediocrity. But when something like, let's say, Moonrise Kingdom hit the theaters, I was there with an open wallet in a heartbeat because I wholeheartedly expect Wes Anderson to make stylistically unique films with a comical edge and with characters who are interesting, to say the least. All I'm saying is that maybe part of the solution to online piracy is for companies to create content that people actually care about, not content that's likely to make money because it's got a bunch of explosions and some shape-shifting robots...

June 11, 2012 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I totally agree that theaters need to revamp their business model. Here in Canada they've put a greater emphasis on VIP seating, but honestly I think they need to take it further... As independent filmmakers, I think event planning should have as much to do with our business model as merchandising.

However, I'd take cheesy sci-fi movies over Wes Anderson's pretentious hipsters smarm, any day! :)

June 12, 2012 at 8:24PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


That's the risk. Have you ever thought about refund after a bad concert ? Would you dare to ask a hooker for a refund ? After doctor's visit?

January 9, 2013 at 7:14AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


If Tom created his film assuming it was an investment, he's not very bright. If you're going to spend two years of your life and hundreds of thousands of dollars making an independent film in this day and age, it had better be a labor of love.

There is no longer any reason for information to be a) diminishable and b) exclusive in an era where content no longer requires hard copies on disk or tape, in order to be distributed. While I think copyright laws should protect people from having their work literally stolen (where someone takes credit for work someone else has done), I think that laws preventing people from sharing the work of others have negative ethical implications. I realize this is a complex issue that has been debated at length all over the net, but my take: You shouldn't prevent people from communicating. Ever. If your business model requires wielding legislation to prevent people from exchanging information freely, you're impeding social progress while profiting from coercion.

Instead, I think that we as artists need to find new ways of earning revenue peripheral to the distribution of information, taking for granted that info can, will and SHOULD be distributed freely for the benefit of everyone.

June 11, 2012 at 3:04PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


*rolls eyes*

I'm pretty sure a desire to try and recoup your budget does not identify a film maker as "not being very bright"

Of course it's an investment. Such a ridiculous statement. You act as though he said... "yeah man, I'm telling you this whole timelapse caper is really where it's at. People said hey Tom, why not just do what you love, and make art. You know, a labour of love Tom. But I said nah... fuck that. Timescapes is where all the money, free blow and pussy is at! I'm gonna make a killing on this thing!"

And obviously if the guy spent two years making a film out his pick up truck, it's a bloody labour of love.

June 12, 2012 at 3:07PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Lliam Worthington

Trying to recoup money spent on a film says nothing about your intellect. ASSUMING you'll recoup the money you've spent does. Been to any Blockbuster's lately? Buy any records? Most people haven't, and why should they?

As I mentioned, films can now be distributed without being diminishable or exclusive, which makes independent film a LOUSY investment. Next time less eye rolling, and more thoroughly articulated and coherent premises would be more constructive, my friend. :)

June 12, 2012 at 7:10PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


But your comments are very inspirational when it comes to eye rolling.

"...and more thoroughly articulated and coherent premises would be more constructive."

Hilarious. Such as saying someone is stupid because you failed in your initial comprehension of their obvious meaning, and then chose to make a derogatory comment based on your ridiculous ASSUMPTION? Class is class no matter the literary skills or acumen, and you showed little of it.

Speak to the point, with a modicum of humility, greater respect for others and without the strong leaning towards patronising people "friend" and you would surely make more, "friends" and allow an intellect like yours to be more readily appreciated.

June 14, 2012 at 2:46PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Lliam Worthington

What Liam said.....

I am not sure I agree with your thoughts on copyright either. Which is to say, your views on plagiarizing are fine. Taking someone's work and calling it your own is obviously wrong. But wouldn't you say it would also be wrong to buy a book at the store and then reprint it and bind it so that it was an exact copy (on your handy home publishing equipment) and then give them to all your friends... And in fact give them to whoever asked for it? Is that not really the same as modern digital replication via peer to peer sharing on pirate bay?
The only difference being that with a computer we can replicate without incurring any cost ourselves.

Personally I think that is wrong to do... People justify piracy by telling themselves that the people who produced the work are rich and that "I don't have the money right now" or "I'm a studen" or whatever they use as an excuse to themselves to pirate someone's work. It doesn't change the fact that it is stealing. Easy or not in this digital age... It is exactly the same action as shoplifting or bank robbery.

The big corporate machine that may or may not have had anything to do with the bit of data you're copying onto your hard drive (it could easily be work done by a single perso whilst living in the back of thir Toyota) Deserves to earn revenue for having produced that bit of data. If you don't think they deserve the money. Don't buy it... But don't think you then deserve to take it from them. You wouldn't drive up to their office and walk in and jam a USB drive in their computer and take it from them there, but some how the anonymity of the Internet makes it ok to do it. Cause we won't get caught. Like sneaking into the kitchen as a kid to steal a cookie from the jar when moms not looking. It is a childish and immature action.

You certainly have the right to "share information" as you say... But shouldn't that be "hey I saw this wicked video... Here's the link to go see it!". Rather than "hey I saw this wicked video and I made a copy of it by stealing it and here you go now you take it"

Finding a wallet in the road with money in it and keeping the money is stealing. Just because you found it unattended in a public space doesn't make it yours.

Final example and then I'll shut up. If an artist put art on display in public you wouldn't or couldn't take it from there and replicate it and give it to your friends and family. Well... You could... But wouldn't that be weird. And maybe a little unethical?

I see Dan has raised this whole subject as well a little further down in the thread and Link has responded with more thoughts on the matter.

Link... May I ask...

What do you do for a living?
Do you think filmmakers should give up on digital distribution and go with live performance only (re your "we should take notes" comment) And what's your take then on ebooks? If everyone is going to eventually move to a digital world. How is anyone going to make any money in the future as an artist? If piracy is ethical as you are seemingly arguing... Where is the sustainability. I'd very much like your opinion on this!

I don't think your joke analogy particularly works in this situation. No one expects to get paid for telling a joke other than comedians. And it is a different medium. If your took that analogy and applied it properly back to movies... You can certainly share the movie with your friends by going out and filming all the same shots yourself... Turning it into your own movie (and I am saying.. All the exact same shots... Just like you would retell the same joke using the same words... But with your own voice... Not the voice of the original joke teller.... )

Your absolutely right about Shakespeare too... He ripped of everybody... But then again... Everything is a remix anyhow... Just ask Kirby. I think there is a difference between piracy and legitimate distribution of information and I think you know the moral difference as well. Your right that in the digital age we need to come up with some new ideas for distribution though... There will always be the "entitlement crowd" who feels that they can do what ever they wish with a computer just because technology hasn't caught up with being able to enforce what is morally right.

Ok wow that's a bit long. Lol... Just my $1.35

Oh... And way to go Reelhouse! Great idea.

June 14, 2012 at 4:36PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Howie Murray

Shakespeare's work was copyrighted at the time. He would get paid for his work as well as other playwrights.
That didn't "prevent" people from communicating. The reason Tom was living off a Toyota and now needs to ask for help in recovering his investment is because other ignorant pirates are not willing to help him make a living. Keep stealing my friend... see you at the welfare line sometime soon.

June 12, 2012 at 3:52PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Raul Colón

I have an honors degree in English Lit, and wrote my thesis on Shakespeare's take on Aristotle so I know a bit about this... Shakespeare didn't make his money from publishing. He made his money off of admission from LIVE PERFORMANCES which is to this day a brilliant way to make money. We should take notes...

Just because you're really good at something, doesn't mean that the world owes you a living. The world doesn't work that way (wish it did). In a world ruled by the law of supply and demand, information can be infinitely duplicated at no cost, so that the supply is infinite. So you have to find other ways of making a living. You have to be a realist, if you're going to function as an artist in the current economic climate.

June 12, 2012 at 7:16PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The supply isn't infinite: If artists can't make a living off their works, they will stop doing them.

December 11, 2012 at 4:32AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


"Just because you’re really good at something, doesn’t mean that the world owes you a living."

That's so cynical that almost made me laugh. Almost. You don't 'owe' anybody a living, but if an artist is so good that makes you want to comsume his products, then you should pay for them.

The same way you pay for a painting, your internet connection or to your lawyer.

And I insist, that digital files can be copied to infinity doesn't mean the supply will be infinite. If you don't pay for them, those well produced films and albums that you love will gradually disappear.

I believe that forward thinking may be difficult for you, but make an effort and try to understand where your actions will lead.

December 11, 2012 at 4:51AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Oh yeah, one more factoid about Shakespeare: He plagiarized all over the place. The best example is an entire soliloquy from Hamlet that he stole from Giordano Bruno, the plot from a former play. But he paraphrased it everything he borrowed, to create an allegory for Elizabethan astrophysics... So who cares? Let Shakespeare steal whatever he wants, so long as it means we have Hamlet.

June 12, 2012 at 7:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The article says he already got 200K back of his original 300K investment. He never said he wanted to earn big money with this film, just get some of the invested money back (which he already did).
Sometimes it doesn't hurt to read the article entirely before making a comment...

June 15, 2012 at 4:33AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I started, then closed, a website to promote and distribute independent film last year. I found it was impossible to protect the rights of independent producers and offer a inexpensive VOD solution at this time. I am still interested in resurrecting the project, but the last thing I want to do is create a site that will be "mirrored" in the torrent pirate realm. Asking for donations is great, but it's not a business plan that makes sense for most people, there are just not enough people who feel morally compelled to donate to base a realistic return on the investment of making a film.

Timescapes is an amazing achievement, but with only 2/3 of the productions funds earned back to date, what is the likeliness of 100% return, which then gets the investors and filmmaker to $0.00. Profit is the only way to make the next film and not have to live in the back of a pick up truck for two years.

I have made films only to have my "revenue" projections completely ruined by piracy, and that was before the web. I used to distribute tapes, and people would tell me to my face they were going to make copies for all their friends...I never made another film for that market segment.

I don't see DRM as a negative thing, but it's not evolved enough now to be practical on-line. I do want to have control over my work being "freely" distributed on-line, or any where else. It's MY work! I paid for it, and I expect to profit from it. There are no business in the "non-virtual" word that can exist with the level of "shrinkage" (theft) of their inventory, that exists with on-line content, it's impossible.

Exceptionalism cannot be a valid business plan for filmmakers and musicians when they distribute content on the web, just because someone else made money through "donations" does not mean you are going to, as there is NO compelling reason for a customer to pay a reasonable amount of money. It is possible to make a profit with charging $0.01 a "view" but the tens of millions of views you would need puts you right back into the realm of "exceptional-ism" and that is not a way to reliably earn back funds invested in creating a film. For the hobbyist, the views are enough, for the "working artist" (small business owner) it is a stupid business model.

The internet is full of stories of artists doing well with "donations" but I would wager my $1.00 that it's less than 1% of all the content artists put up for sale that earns enough money through "donations" vs. PPV, DVD sales.

Treating your on-line content as a "commercial" for purchasing other (physical) merchandise is a strategy, but not for unknowns, bands or filmmakers with a following can exploit this, but how can a filmmaker who only creates a work every few years? He/she cannot, again this is exceptional-ism, and that is not a valid business plan.

This is an interesting discussion and I would like to see more articles on the subject as it cuts to the heart of the business of film making. How to make a profit at doing what I love, so I can keep doing it!



June 11, 2012 at 3:24PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Considering the film has only been available for purchase for less than two weeks (which also includes preorders), I'd say it has a tremendous chance to make a real profit. Tom is an unknown as far as the general public is concerned, and it was through the making of this project that he has really become known and won awards.

The way Hollywood has worked for years is that they spend a large sum of money advertising their films so that the regular public will hear about them and go see them. This is really the only "valid" business plan that has worked for filmmaking. We have to look at exceptional cases if we want to have a chance at creating a new model or at least several new models that can help us profit.

Independent film has never been an easy way to make a living, but it has become even less so as more people produce projects and major sources of funding dry up. Building an audience seems to be the only real strategy in getting work made at the lower budget levels and actually being able to live off it - Joe Swanberg comes to mind. With the amount of films being released, getting paid enough money to survive on just the films themselves is difficult. Francis Ford Coppola has famously come out in support of making money somewhere else and creating films because you love to create them.

If you can build an audience, even if it is small, you stand a far better chance of living only off your art.

June 11, 2012 at 4:47PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

I sent you a mail about a certain film that will be released this friday, with that business model. It's a very weird film made for a very narrow demographic. And the marketing is genious, and I think it'll make a very nice profit.

When you're offering your full film on SD on youtube, and charging $5 for the HD download, you have to worry about building an audience, and about making a product they'll want to pay for, but you really don't have to worry about piracy too much.

June 12, 2012 at 5:49AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hi Samuel,
I´m a filmmaker from Canary Island, in Spain. Which movie are you talking to?
I´d like to watch it and have a look at its bussiness model.

December 11, 2012 at 2:35AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


It looks nice but it's not "experimental" at all...

June 11, 2012 at 6:55PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Experimental in terms of genre. It's not a narrative, a documentary, or a music video - so I'm not sure what else it would be. Maybe we could call it a non-traditional documentary, but I'm not sure that would do it justice. I know it's a documentary on iTunes but the options are limited on there.

June 11, 2012 at 7:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

"Koyaanisqatsi" was made in 1982 so there's no way to call this film "experimental". The established divisions for movie classification need to be expanded. Perhaps call this an environmental documentary...?

June 12, 2012 at 3:29PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


There were plenty of films made before Koyaanisqatsi that were just as experimental. I don't think environmental documentary works at all, but as I said before its a documentary according to iTunes. Honestly, getting worked up over genres and labels is a little silly.

June 12, 2012 at 3:42PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

No one forced him to make the movie. I liked the trailer, thought it looked amazing. Wish I had the time and the equipment to do that, but honestly it's not really my thing. I made a feature film and we put it up on youtube for free, just to see if people would watch it. It's about getting exposure, I think, cause now we're scheduled to be in a couple film fests across the country, including New York. Just be happy that someone liked your stuff enough to steal it. If you don't want it to be stolen, don't make it.

June 11, 2012 at 9:04PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Have any videos been directly put into the torrent scene with some kind of pre-roll/post-roll credits that request a donation if the audience liked the movie? I'd be interested to know how much of an impact that had, and the ratio of donations to downloads.

June 11, 2012 at 9:19PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


OK, let me share some numbers for something somewhat related...

I've released the Flaat picture controls for Nikon DSLRs in the following fashion: out of the 5 picture controls, 3 are free, readily available in the site; if you want the other 2 (which are the least useful of the lot), you have to either write me an email (and I'll send them for free) or make a donation. The ratio is around 5 donations for every 1K downloads. I certainly won't get rich with this (so far it's paid me around $1/hour), but I'm pretty happy that "the donation model worked". And it was an interesting experiment.

Because for the Canon picture styles, the full suite is readily available for download, and there's a donate button. And the ratio is a lot lower, around 3 donations for every 10K downloads (and about 10 cents per hour, but I made these for my own use, not thinking about them as a revenue stream).

June 12, 2012 at 6:03AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Interesting.... thanks for sharing!

I guess people naturally are cheapskates...

June 12, 2012 at 8:29PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Ben -- I'm planning exactly that with my feature. I've been wondering why we haven't already seen that.

June 13, 2012 at 1:48PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Koo

Ben, Ryan and Samuel.

We've just released a site geared to provide exactly what you describe.

Not only does it give you, the creator, the ability to offer a richer experience to your viewers, but also a means to collect support from your audience.

You can set up a basic "tip" jar so that people who become a fan of your project by donating, they unlock Fan Only Content/Updates/Downloads (up to your discretion). You also have the ability to start a limited time rewards campaign, where you offer rewards in return for various donation amounts.

Love to hear your guys' feedback. Our passion to help people, like you, who make stories and to provide a the best home possible for people to enjoy and support it.

Hope to see you guys around,

Reelhouse Team

June 13, 2012 at 5:24PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Sorry man I got a shitload of film noirs from the 40s I haven't seen and a huge classic film qeue to go through. Not to mention catching up on a whole shitload of recent studio films, tv shows and lets not even mention Skyrim. If you want me to watch your crappy shot on a DSLR film pay me.

I know that sounded harsh and I apologize. But indy film does not exist and filmmakers looking to make money off of their films outside of the studios are out of luck. I'm sorry but no ones gonna pay for shit anymore especially when there is so much "shit" to wade through. Like the previous poster said make sure its a labor of love.

If something is actually good put it out for free people will recognize it and opportunities will come to you in many different ways. The thing is that most films are not good.

June 12, 2012 at 12:41AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


to be blunt - you complete bastard cock. sorry, but come on - he worked on the road for TWO YEARS of his life on this, at least respect that. have you ever worked on a project for a year or more? i doubt it.

my heart doesn't bleed for hollywood but come on - no need to be a dickhead about it or disrespectful to someone else's efforts.

June 13, 2012 at 1:43PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I think we can have a discussion without personal attacks. I appreciate what you are saying, but no need for name-calling - it's unproductive.

June 13, 2012 at 4:28PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

yes you're right i do apologise. although i'm sure you and many others appreciate the sentiment of my initial post, name-calling aside. egg on my face then, but i stand by it.

June 15, 2012 at 5:56AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Not that this justifies piracy but....is his film just a series of timelapses with no narrative thread and cool music? That's not called "experimental", it's called VIMEO.

Jokes aside...isn't spending $300,000 on a project like this and expecting to recoup it a little unrealistic? I mean sure, the trailer was gorgeous, but there's plenty of stuff out there like that for free, and plenty of things out there with similar quality work that brings MORE to the table than just a random series of cool shots (Planet Earth, anyone?)....and if I was going to watch a pure timelapse film, I'd at least want it to have shots from different regions...I mean, how did this cost $300,000 if he's traveling around in the same region in a car he seems to already own (and presumably with gear he already owns, if he's an award-winning photographer).

Selling this DRM free is super-cool and all, but I think he'd have a hard time getting people to pay $5 for it, let alone $15. For $15 I want something more than just cool cinematography.

But I do like his approach to pirace.

June 12, 2012 at 9:35AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM




June 12, 2012 at 9:47AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


you mesed up

June 14, 2012 at 12:11PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The work is stunning. And Tom's approach to piracy proves he is very much a realist. And the 200K's worth already sold proves quite a few others feel it has some value also.

As to "isn’t spending $300,000 on a project like this and expecting to recoup it a little unrealistic?"

Making "any" independent film and "expecting" to recoup your budget is unrealistic. But obviously we still try to make it do so.

June 12, 2012 at 2:41PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Lliam Worthington

I know nothing about what Tom Lowe did to make this film (other than seeing how he built his own motion control time lapse rigs...etc...), but $300k isn't bad to do something like this. Just an Epic is a 1/6th of the budget right there, not including AKS...(I'm assuming he owns...rental for all those months would cost considerably more).

...and editing in 4k isn't cheap (as a couple post-NAB posts by Koo and Joe point out).

Baraka's shipping budget alone was more than $300k (I can't remember specifically, but there was a lot of great BTS on the Baraka bluray)...and that was in 1990-1991 dollars. Hauling that gear isn't cheap. By using the Epic and 5D, it's a little lighter than a 70mm shoot, but still...you can't exactly shoot in the Arctic and the Sahara for $300k.

June 18, 2012 at 6:55AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Daniel Mimura

Here's a question for all those who say that you should be able to share "information" (which to me is a ridiculous way to refer to a film) with your friends (and apparently with thousands of complete strangers via torrent sites): Do you think you should be able share a movie you go to see in a theater by sneaking in as many friends as you want to sit with you in the theater for free? Probably the biggest difference between the two scenarios is in the relative ease of doing it and whether or not you could expect to get caught and punished.

Another question: Do your friends have some "right" to see the movie? Is it life or death, like air, water, food or shelter? For some reason, some people seem to think they are entitled to the fruits of other's labor without having contributed a damn thing other than "sharing" other pirated files on a piracy site.

June 12, 2012 at 3:34PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


In response to Dan: I think the argument is more complex than you're characterizing it. A movie is indeed information. It's data, that no longer needs to be distributed through the sale of a physical disk or tape. As a result, there's no longer any reason for a film to be diminishable or exclusive: two criteria necessary in order to have a viable commodity. At the very least, this means that technology has made the sale problematic as a business model.

At which point, the question isn't whether I have a right to see the movie, so much as whether I should feel obligated to REFRAIN from seeing it via file sharing. You're confusing entitlement with restraint. Nobody OWES me a movie, but should I feel the need to avoid downloading it? That's the question you have to answer.

Your movie theater analogy isn't sound, because a theater is physical property, which is diminishable and exclusive. An avi file can be duplicated infinitely.

A contrary analogy would be whether you should refrain from re-telling a joke you hear. You didn't write it, but you thought it was funny so you re-tell it to a friend, for entertainment. You're not "taking" anything tangible, but you're duplicating the information. Should you be fined or arrested? The matter becomes more complex when you consider the need for education. That is why we have hypocritical "fair use" laws, to mitigate some of the negative (read: inhumane) consequences of private ownership of information. If you invent a concept, should others feel obligated to refrain from discussing it unless they pay you a royalty?

When viewed this way, it's the person claiming ownership of information that has an entitlement issue; they expect everyone else to refrain from communicating their brainchild, under threat of law. This sort of outlook can't survive our current era. Technology has made it obsolete, so much so that physical libraries are obsolete, as are video and record stores. If we're going to function as artists, I think we need to get with the times.

June 12, 2012 at 6:48PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I dont support piracy, but i think in this case it could help the movie, because MUCH MORE people will see it this way. That increases awarness about the film and about Tom which is very good for his career. Anyway, movie like this should be seen on a big screen. I would love to see it on a big screen.

June 12, 2012 at 6:06PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


It seems that independent and self-distributed films via download/DVD/bluray is a model that just doesn't work. Has anyone ever heard of an Indy making a reasonable ROI via self distributed downloads/dvd/blurays? But with Toms film, it seems like the type that people would want to go see on an IMAX screen. I would pay to see that. But not on my 46" led in my living room or computer screen.

June 14, 2012 at 9:58AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I'm currently re-habing and upgrading a rental house purchased for about $200,000. I can tell you, I am absolutely NOT going to leave the door open and utilities on with a little note pinned to the door

Make a donation if you like living here! :-)

Sorry, but if everything I make can be had for free … no thanks. That doesn't pay the bills.

June 14, 2012 at 3:53PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Erik Stenbakken

That's a tough argument, because a film cannot provide shelter. Digital copies make these conversations more complicated whether people want them to or not.

June 14, 2012 at 7:28PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

Hell, I bought TimeScapes and would never consider stealing a viewing, but then again I’m a tad old fashioned I suppose. I paid for my copy in advance of the film being completed, on faith that it would be as fantastic as it turned out being.

June 15, 2012 at 3:37PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

John Kees

Congratulations to Tom for making his super-low budget feature AND for getting such a high percentage of the layout back. I haven't seen it, but clearly some people like it. Bravo.

That being said, he's got no clue of what he's talking. What he's intimating isn't a business. I'm not sure DRM is the way to go either, but to eschew Hollywood "fatcats" so flippantly is extremely short-sighted. I don't care if you like Hollywood people or not.........they employ TENS OF THOUSANDS of people. Including me. I live in Toronto, but Montreal, Vancouver, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, London, and a whole host of cities benefit. And the money they disseminate into those places is very large. Not just in middle class salaries, but in rental apartments, groceries, cell phones, etc. The studio I'm working in right now is a family business. I could go on.

The vast majority of people who work on Hollywood movies are middle-class people.

I would love to accomplish what Tom has, it's great, and is my goal for my first feature (whenver that will be!). But, frankly, his story is the rare one. That likely involved some talent, skill and luck.

If every film he makes involves living in his truck, essentially begging people to buy the movie, and hocking t-shirts, then maybe he'll be happy. But I doubt it. I certainly wouldn't be.

June 15, 2012 at 5:22PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


He doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to business? He's made back 2/3rds of what the movie cost in the first 2 weeks! That's beating what most Hollywood movies do.

And after it makes more...it's ALL his (and his investors). How is that for a business model? Based on what we've seen so far, self distribution is working out for him.

And if he never makes another dime...what are the chances that someone is going to see the film and hire him to shoot? Pretty damned huge. (His vimeo page mentions that he's for hire.)

Judging from other comments on here other than yours, I dont think you get that he's not living out of his truck hawking t-shirts promoting his film and being homeless. He did it to get incredible footage, much like Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi) and Ron Fricke (Baraka...also the DP of Koyaanisqatsi) before him. He isn't "living out of his truck" because he's homeless!

Lets not forget to look at this film from another completely groundbreaking way... This film is the first film I know of that is for sale at greater than 1080p.

I downloaded the trailer months ago in the 27" iMac size...it's VASTLY superior to the same trailer in 1080p.

Since 2.5k is the best that I currently have, as I don't have a 4k home theater, as don't most people, of course, this is a case where an indie is doing things BETTER than the big studios.

I suspect it'll gain traction not just with movie geeks and cinematographers, but those high end audio/home theater buffs...they're a crazy and well heeled crowd...they'll want this b/c it's the *only* content out there. A perfect demo to show off to their friends and let them know how superior they are to them.

As soon as I get paid again, I'm buying the 2.5k download.

June 18, 2012 at 6:42AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Daniel Mimura

"He’s made back 2/3rds of what the movie cost in the first 2 weeks! That’s beating what most Hollywood movies do." -- you've completely missed my point. Who cares if Lowe makes money! The endgame of Lowe's point is the death of Hollywood "fatcats". Which would be horrendous. It's not like the legion of people working on features can suddenly do what Lowe did and cross their fingers for a liveable profit.

"what are the chances that someone is going to see the film and hire him to shoot? Pretty damned huge" -- I'm not sure you're good at calculating odds. First, seems he's already an employable photographer. Second, as talented as Lowe is, he's only shown his DP skills as timelapse shooter. This is niche, and not "hugely" employable. He'll work, though, with a small bump in demand.

"He isn’t “living out of his truck” because he’s homeless!" -- then he shouldn't try and use pity to get torrent users to buy his film.

"This film is the first film I know of that is for sale at greater than 1080p." -- Cool, but big whoop. 99% of the population can't display it. Until they can, it's a gimmick.

"Lets not forget to look at this film from another completely groundbreaking way" -- There is absolutely NOTHING groundbreaking about this film! He didn't create timelapse, or pretty places, or the RED camera of 2.5K or 4K, or selling video on the internet. He does nothing new.

He's talented at taking pictures. Good for him. But, I'm willing to bet that if some Hollywood "fatcat" offered him a couple hundred grand to shoot a feature, he'd jump at it. Wouldn't you?

June 20, 2012 at 7:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


"And if he never makes another dime…what are the chances that someone is going to see the film and hire him to shoot? Pretty damned huge."

Who's gonna hire him if no one pays for content? With what money?

December 11, 2012 at 5:02AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Funny. This article reminded me that I wanted to purchase this so I went over to iTunes and did so.

June 16, 2012 at 8:30PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Anyone with money who downloaded it from TPB, saw it, really liked it and still didn't send Tom some money is a D-bag. Christ, I can understand if you hated this film, but why wouldn't you give some bucks to the creator of the movie you had a good time watching?

At least few pirates deliver their torrent-releases with a note: "If you like this product, support the person/team who made it" or something like that.

June 27, 2012 at 9:53AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I got here after seeing comments in TPB. I just bought the 1080p version.

Some times I download from TPB, if I enjoy the video/music/book I usually buy 1 or more copies to gift family and friends. In this case I bypassed the torrenting part since the video is:
DRM-free, downloadable, and demonization-free: that is how I like (buy) it. And if I enjoy it, I will buy more to gift family and friends (and if I get a 4k monitor, I will buy the 4k version too).

This interview reminded me of one by the writer Paulo Coelho on piracy.

August 19, 2012 at 1:42PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


BTW, I don't like one bit what Tom states about music: it's an argument I've heard before and only comes from sheer ignorance.

"As far as music goes, I think artists should rely more on live shows and merchandise and such to make a living."

Really? Most times, small artists make little to no money with live shows. They are not free to produce, you know? And I don't really think merchandising is a viable option for most groups either. It's weird to believe that fans not willing to pay for the album are going to put their money on a t-shirt.

Musicians should get paid for their music. Period. The same way you should get paid for your film. If anyone wants to hear/watch your products they should pay what you ask. No one is forcing anyobody to consume what your produce.

The existence of illegal options shouldn't make YOU feel guilty about asking for what it's fair, but THEM.

December 11, 2012 at 4:42AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


i also downloaded it first. its a very short movie, but the pictures are just great! and the music also is nice.
after 1-2 weeks i decided the makers deserve some money on this so i bought it directly on timescapes.org, and not the actual disc but only the 30 bucks download version, because i thought it would benefit the makers at most.
i am kinda like tom, if something i downloaded satisfied me i try to buy it. i even would have buyed the USB stick medium but 1. i dont have a 4k projector or screen 2. 100 usd are to much for me.

and because tom exactly understands the fact about drm free makes me feel good that i gave him 30 usd for a nice clean and most importent, not pissing off the customer, easy way of using it!

February 13, 2013 at 1:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


But if that's what's making money, it must be what most of the population wants. The formula works so Hollywood is giving people what they want until it no longer works(sells) and then they will move to something else. I agree that it's not good, but its a money making equation and people are buying it.

September 5, 2013 at 7:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


Very well said. Be the customer you want to have. I think it's a sign of a maturing artist. In college I ripped everything I needed to complete my films but now that I've turned my passion into a career I respect others that have done the same. That's something you get when you reflect on how hard you've worked to get to where your at.

September 5, 2013 at 7:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


Just to update this. "TimeScapes" became profitable within about 6 weeks of its release, thanks in some part to a licensing deal we made with Google. They use "TimeScapes" to promote Chromebooks. By now we have earned probably close to 450K USD. The actual production budget was around 200K USD, then another 100K for post production, with much of that going to sound mixing. The other 50K was spent on printing Blurays, paying for bandwidth, shipping, and some minor legal and accounting fees, etc. We still have not done any TV deals, and the whole 4K rollout to consumers is just getting started, so I am pretty hopeful about the film's prospects, financially.

November 30, 2013 at 7:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

Tom Lowe

i pirated the film at first. but a bit later i thought this film was greatly done so i simply buyed it, i also shared the 1620p version with some others, but just for the purpose to make this film more famous and maybe to reach more persons to buy it, just like i did.

June 24, 2014 at 11:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

hans klarsicht