Can a movie make money on the internet? Can sincerity sell?
Last month three independent filmmakers who are all professing Christians-Adam Browne, Brendan Choisnet, and Daniel Nayeri-premiered their full-length feature, The Cult of Sincerity, not in theaters or video stores but on YouTube. By May 16 the site (youtube.com/watch?v=YnsLBEuqsYE) had received over 22,000 hits.
The film's premise is terrific. Its 20-something main character sees cynicism and unhappiness among his poseur peers and discerns rightly that irony does not sharpen irony. Urban but not urbane, he oozes sincerity as he decides to spend his days helping people he doesn't know. In the process, though, he sometimes misses opportunities to be kind to friends.
The Cult of Sincerity drags at times but has some good performances and good prospects for promoting thoughtful discussion of what compassion truly means-and an audience of 22,000 for an independent film isn't bad. Even a film accepted into lots of festivals may only be seen by a few thousand people unless a big outfit picks it up, so we may be seeing more YouTube debuts.
The movie has a tie-in with the Amie Street music website that is bringing in a few dollars: Filmmaker Browne tells WORLD, "While we still have a way to go to pay back our investors, the YouTube model has been extremely satisfying for us, both creatively and artistically." Viewers have been commenting directly on the film-they're giving it four stars out of a possible five-and asking Browne and his colleagues to speak at events ranging from youth groups to producers' forums on new technology.