Shane Carruth — The One-Man Army of “Upstream Color”

Published On February 3, 2013 | By Mike Carroll | Fellow Naked Filmmakers, Filmmakers

A few years ago in 2004 writer-director-cameraman-editor-actor Shane Carruth made a splash at Sundance with his debut film Primer, winning the Grand Jury Prize for his $7,000 Super-16mm sci-fi film.

Most filmmakers with that kind of instant heat head straight for L.A. and a top talent agency and a string of movie deals. Instead, Carruth disappeared . . . went underground.

Then he was the surprise announcement at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with a new film, Upstream Color. This one he’s being much more tight-lipped about, not discussing the films budget, technical specs, really . . . much of anything.

What’s so interesting about him is that he is the lead actor, as well as the writer-producer-director-cinematographer-camera operator-editor-sound designer-music composer.

Also, most filmmakers come to Sundance looking for distribution. Carruth is completely bypassing that model, choosing instead to distribute the film himself in select independent theaters across the country for one month in April. The screenings in cities and cinemas and dates are already on his website. After that it becomes available for download — directly from his own website.

Carruth is bypassing everybody. Carruth has invented himself as a one-man independent film company and distributor.

Bypass the middleman. Pocket all the cash yourself.

His first film Primer has been out of distribution on DVD for a few years, though copies from the first printing can still be found on eBay and Amazon. It can also be seen on Amazon’s Instant Video.

More interesting to me, however, is that Shane Carruth offers a 720 HD download of Primer for Apple TV, iPad and Android that can be purchased directly from his website. Again, eliminating the middlemen.

I find this to be incredibly interesting. My own film Nightbeats is available on Amazon in a DVD with lots of extras, as well as a download for rent or purchase. All of these are Standard Definition formats, though. It would be interesting to be able to offer my film for download directly from my own site in the 720 HD format that it was shot in.

(If anybody out there knows how to do this, please contact me ASAP!)

I shall be keeping an eye on Shane Carruth, downloading his film, and be following very closely to see how well this model works for him.

And how I can apply this business acumen to my own films.

Here are links to some fascinating news articles on Carruth and Upstream Color.,0,6953593.story

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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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