Paying it forward

Case study: Can we 'sell' a film about a world without money?

A unique love story challenging our collective and personal utopias

  • Director: Maja Borg
  • Producer: Sonja Henrici, SDI Productions
  • Co-producer: Lisbet Gabrielsson Film AB
  • Producer of Marketing and Distribution: Ben Kempas
  • Outreach Team: Rebecca Day, Demelza Kooij
  • Publicist: Alex Rowley, AR:PR

At the brink of losing the idealistic love of her life, filmmaker Maja Borg takes us on a poetic road trip through the financial collapse, exploring a radically different economic and social model proposed by 95-year-old futurist Jacque Fresco. How much freedom are we prepared to give to the ones we love? And how much responsibility are we ready to take for our society?

Fresco defined a "resource-based economy", a holistic socio-economic system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credit, barter, or any other system of debt or servitude. All resources become the common heritage of all inhabitants, not just a select few. 

A 'gift economy' as a compromise to reach the target audience

And there are global communities, The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement, with hundreds of thousands of followers out there. But they would all expect us to give away this film freely, whereas the producers still needed to recoup their investment.

We clearly needed a compromise, so we came up with a 'gift economy'. As part of the Portable Fundraiser project, Ben proposed a Pay-it-Forward scheme that would allow people to watch this film for free, but once they had seen it, they would be asked to pay for others – friends or strangers – so those could then watch it for free as well. And so on. It's like returning the favour, but the other direction. 

This animated video was made by Will Anderson and Duncan Cowles to explain how it all worked:

You can read more about the idea and the response in Ben's Huffington Post piece

In this pilot project, the follow-up procedures to remind people to keep 'paying it forward' were quite labour-intensive. But with a higher degree of automation, this model could become more feasible – and the voucher system could include forms of distribution other than VOD systems, such as cinema tickets.

Eventually, on the occasion of Fresco's 100th birthday and almost 4 years after the film's world premiere, the film was released for free on YouTube for a limited time.

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