From crowd funding to the most pirated movie list: 'Wyrmwood' has been on a wild ride

Australian filmmakers Tristan and Kiah Roache-Turner talk about their zombie film "Wyrmwood" and its journey from an IndieGoGo campaign to a spot in the top ten pirated movies on The Pirate Bay.

Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Nic Healey
4 min read

"Wyrmwood" director Kiah Roache-Turner and lead actor Jay Gallagher on set. Guerilla Films/Universal Sony

Filmmaking duo Tristan and Kiah Roache-Turner are a hot property right now. Their Australian horror film "Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead" has been the darling of the film festival circuit, with horror fans calling it a breath of fresh air in the stale zombie genre. Its popularity saw a longer-than-anticipated cinematic run in Australia and rumours of a sequel abound. The brothers have even had the dubious honour of seeing their film hit the top ten most popular downloads on the torrent-sharing site Pirate Bay -- but more on that particular accolade later.

The film, like so many independent films, had some very humble origins, first appearing on the crowd-funding site IndieGoGo in November of 2012.

"Honestly, crowd funding was just fun," said Tristan. "I remember Kickstarter had started getting some heat around it and I sat down with Kiah and said 'mate, we've got to get onto this!'"

"We went to an IndieGoGo seminar to try and get an idea of what it was all about," Kiah said. "I stood up and asked 'what's the difference between Kickstarter and IndieGoGo' and the guy running the seminar says 'the main difference is that you need an American bank account for Kickstarter,' and that was what made the decision for us."

The campaign was bolstered by a short film that set the tone and look for the feature film: Australian wasteland-chic cult classic "Mad Max" meets zombie king George A. Romero.

"That short was actually the first scene of the film -- we'd already started shooting a little," Tristan said. "Then we had some script changes and realised the scene wasn't actually relevant... so we just stuck it online to see what happened. And we were lucky -- it went viral!"

"IndieGoGo was great for us," said Kiah. "It raised a fair bit of cash but above all it was great marketing -- it really got some buzz happening around the project."

The pair raised AU$50,000 from two different crowdfunding campaigns, with more money coming in from Screen Australia, a government body that supports local filmmakers.

"We're not a low-budget indie film where people sit around talking to each other in a room," explained Kiah. "We've got multiple locations, monsters in nearly every scene, we're setting peoples heads on fire... so, for us it's wasn't really possible to totally fund the film via IndieGoGo. But it helped -- oh boy did it help!"

Kiah said that one of the unexpected effects of a crowd-funding was reaching a far wider and more diverse audience than the filmmakers had anticipated. "If people like what you're doing then -- bam -- suddenly you've got fans in Poland, you've got people from Bulgaria emailing you and liking your Facebook page."

Guerilla Films/Universal Sony

Of course, "Wyrmwood" found a very different type of fame: it became popular with pirates when the video-on-demand version went live in the US.

"Sadly, I think the best indicator of how well we've been doing globally is the fact we made it into the top 10 most downloaded movies on Pirate Bay," said Tristan.

"It was a strange feeling -- like being kissed by a beautiful girl right before she knees you in the bollocks," mused Kiah.

"I mean we love that people like the film, but we made the film on 'deferred payment,' so no one involved with making it gets paid until people are paying for the film."

The piracy issue has been somewhat exacerbated by the differences in the contractual rights between the US and Australian distributors.

"Some of the problem has been that in the US our distributor was able to sort a same day release for theatrical and video-on-demand," said Tristan. "But in Australia, cinemas want more of a gap between the two."

Because of how Screen Australia funding works, "Wyrmwood" had to have a cinematic release locally. The pair have tried to combat this by explaining the delay in the film hitting on-demand in Australia, even taking to Facebook with the slogan "You Watch, You Buy, We Eat."

Universal Sony

Kiah is surprisingly sanguine about the experience.

"It's a case of an older industry catching up with the newer technology, but I think its happening," he said. "In Australia, we were able to negotiate an eight-week gap between theatrical and on demand instead of twelve weeks and I think that's a really positive sign.

"And you know if everyone who did pirate it ends up buying a copy of the DVD or grabbing it via iTunes that would be cool too. Support us and we can keep making horror action films for you."

"The reception of this film has been so much bigger and better than expected and we can't complain about that. But we are campaigning a little to get our cast and crew paid," said Tristan.

Kiah agreed. "I mean, we don't want to be filthy rich -- we just want to get out there and keep making awesome films. I'd be happy just with one Ferrari."

You can watch "Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead" now on iTunes in the US. In Australia it'll be available on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms from April 2. In the UK, the Blu-ray of the film will be available May 11.