THE BLOG
05/28/2010 02:06 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Free Movies: Movies That Give Back

Watch a movie for free. Everybody likes the sound of that. Except for people who work at movie studios, marketers and big ad guys who are running around the side of that building right now and puking into paper bags -- that's how upset they are. Filmmakers are taking it one day at a time and taking one antidepressant a day.

"Free" happened with music, with stock photography (on Flickr) and now, with movies. Pricing is on a roller coaster straight into the dirt. I hate roller coasters. I'd rather deal with scary clowns. But there's no escaping that more videos have been posted to YouTube than have been seen on television in the history of the medium.

"Do you know why they call it a medium? Because it's rarely well done." -- Fred Allen

A lot of videos on the web are free and a lot of them are junk. But at the end of a day watching them I often sit back with a rosy sense of satisfaction and think, Man, that was junk. In other words, they get me nowhere.

What about free media that is good, and further, free media that inspires people to do good? Now you're on to something. KarmaTube is all about "do something" videos that are intended to help everyone be the change they want to see in the world. (Yeah, it's a quote from Gandhi.) The KarmaTube guys are like that -- they want to find a way to massage your consciousness so you'll do one small good thing that leads to other good things and then to real change.

As a documentary director, I'm working with KarmaTube on a channel of my recommendations for films that are inspiring, cinematic and nudge the world. Want to help me? Send suggestions for inspiring cause and change-advocating short films to @docuguy and I'll recommend those that I like to the KarmaTube board. To give you some ideas, here's a film I've recommended called Unshaken. Beautifully directed by Paul Pryor, it's a moving first-person appeal made bolder by unforgettable images. Paul Hawken gives a great speech in this talking-head-fest with surprisingly powerful visuals. Check these out and more on KarmaTube.

David J. Neff is a busy guy. Once upon a time he designed online and media communications for the American Cancer Society. Now he's writing about the intersection of tech and the marketing of non-profits in his blog 501derful.org.

Lights. Camera. Help. is project he started to match filmmakers with non-profits. Then there's the film festival he's doing in Austin, the world's first, David told me, dedicated entirely to nonprofit and cause-driven films. "The films we show here have to have that call to action," David said. He's looking for films with a mission and those that move you. Judges will choose finalists based on cinematic considerations, but they want to know if the movie asks something of you. Any film that heavily features a cause will be considered. This includes films by or about nonprofit, non-governmental or grassroots organizations. Feature length films, shorts and public service announcements are ok to submit. The deadline is June 30th. Go for it and you could get your movie screened in Austin July 29-August 2nd.

Going from free and foolish online to free and worthwhile is progress. Still, that "free movie" thing continues to give my bottom line a headache. How do you give away a movie for free and still pay back investors? Working on it. Will get back to you.

Gandhi image credit dougdelshaw via of Creative Commons License.