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How ‘Earth’ Producer Made Movie Pirates Pay Up

The ad came after we learned Bruce Willis and “Live Free or Die Hard” director Len Wiseman were developing a new, sort of prequel to “Die Hard.”

Wilkinson’s ad and story idea got press attention both for its audaciousness, as well as its practicality. The story folded in the idea of being part prequel while also honoring the bones of the original film, which still delights fans to this day.

“They haven’t called yet,” Wilkinson jokes about his take on “Die Hard.” “I bought a second cellphone for that…if an LA number or restricted (number) comes up, I get really excited about it.”

He says he “races to get to the phone in time” whenever it rings.

Even though Wilkinson’s long-shot pitch for a sixth “Die Hard” film hasn’t panned out, the man has been no slouch on the moviemaking front. He’s busy producing “The Man From Earth: Holocene,” a sequel to the cult 2007 science fiction film, “The Man From Earth.

The latter boasts a strange success story. That’s rather typical for Wilkinson.

The Man from Earth - Movie Trailer

“The Man From Earth” was based on the final script by famed science fiction writer Jerome Bixby. It’s a name that should ring familiar to both “Star Trek” and “Twilight Zone” fans. Independently producing the film with an impressive cast drawn to Bixby’s writing, “Man From Earth” was meant to be a small, unique film in the independent movie realm.

After briefly playing in three theaters, “Earth” found itself in the odd position of being a popular download for movie pirates – thieves who illegally download and share movies.

Most producers might sweat over lost earnings from so many movie pirates. Wilkinson used the attention to his advantage.

Noticing extra traffic to the film’s website and the film reaching number six on IMDB’s trending movies, Wilkinson set up a Paypal account asking fans for donations.

It payed off.

Suddenly, Wilkinson had turned movie pirates into paying customers. He also made a hit independent movie.

Though it’s been a long time since the original film’s premiere, it hasn’t stopped fans from pining for a sequel. Wilkinson says he’s “been in touch with the fans through social media” since the first film’s release. All the while, the original creative team searched for the perfect story for the anticipated sequel.

He says the delay came from the intimidating boots they had to fill.

It was “the gigantic task of following in his (Bixby’s) footsteps, of writing a script that was worthy,” says Wilkinson. He laughs and adds, “we’re not Jerome Bixby….we took our time with this script.”

Still, Wilkinson knew there was a demand for the sequel. He kept working until they got it right. Now, the “Man From Earth” sequel is currently in production, courtesy of a successful campaign.

And though he may not be writing a “Die Hard” movie in the near future, he says there are plenty more “Man From Earth” stories to tell. He says the sequel acts as a feature-length pilot for a possible television series. Wilkinson seems excited and ready when he says there “could easily be more stories to tell.”

Wilkinson is certainly an oddity of a filmmaker. Living out of New Jersey, successfully producing cult science fiction films, and pitching “Die Hard” sequels in major newspapers, he’s what you rarely find in the business of producers.

A true fan.

"The Man From Earth: The Series" Kickstarter campaign

He understands the business side of the industry. He also likes to geek out about his favorite action movies, “Die Hard” included. He also praises the work of action auteur Michael Bay.

He says through all the odd twists and turns of his career, he just wants to make films the movie fan inside him would like to see.

“I’d rather take 10 years and put out something that’s really great than try to crank something out for the sake of making money,” he explains.

“The Man From Earth: Holocene” sounds like it could be one such movie. His “Die Hard” could, too. That is if Hollywood wanted to take the type of gamble that would make John McClane smirk.

One Comment

  1. Bixby also wrote the underrated gem It! The Terror From Beyond Space, which is frequently (but incorrectly) cited as the inspiration for Alien.

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