Actionable Insights from Successful Men

Film, Passionate Audiences and The Power of a Meaningful Message

It’s Tony Robbins’ birthday. Lukas Behnken alongside celebrities and luminaries from around the world are celebrating with him when a couple of guests are asked to speak to the gathering about a searing film project they are working on about a team of fearless operatives fighting the dark world of child trafficking.

Lukas BehnkenThey show the trailer of the film and within 4 minutes, they raise 17 million dollars. 

The film - The Sound of Freedom - gets made, goes on to reap a worldwide total of $250.3 million, and becomes the ninth highest-grossing film of 2023 in the United States and Canada.

Producer Lukas Behnken, with over 50 films and TV shows under his belt as an accomplished actor, director, and producer, is a cause-driven force in Hollywood.

Starting as an actor at 18, he quickly saw that actors had little power over their futures and it was the writers and producers who got films made. And what called him most was “highlighting individuals who do great things on the planet - and documentaries are valuable for this. I’ve been documenting my life since I was 8! I guess the medium of tracking people’s lives is compelling to me.”

Though he has produced feature documentaries, feature films, short films, and awareness videos for non-profits - as well as the award-winning documentaries Mully and American Skin - it was The Sound of Freedom that launched him into a new level of success and prominence.

Watch Lukas Behnken at METAL

The hustle of raising money outside the Hollywood feature system is notoriously difficult. “It’s the same effort to raise money and get distribution for documentaries as it is for indie films. You have to think of a documentary as the linchpin of a long-lasting profitable venture - a way of making the documentary part of a larger movement or campaign.”MMD In Article Image Jan 2024 Sound of Freedom

With The Sound of Freedom, he and his partners began a social action campaign over a year prior to the release of the film. “We started the call to action and social issue strategy 18 months before the film was even shot. We formed a partnership with Angel Studios, who used an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise $5 million in two weeks. We also did a couple hundred private screenings before the release so that tens of thousands of people saw it - and this allowed us to get organic promotion when the film opened. If you can get people to care about a cause, they will fund the screenings and the movement. We had hundreds of screenings in Mexico alone with the intention to change laws there.”

Storytellers move the world, says Behnken. The format doesn’t matter - long or short film, AI-enhanced or not. But storytellers need to think strategically about how to reach their audiences today.

“Hundreds of films that have important messages just don’t get attention and they don’t get seen. We created a new partnership model - and people became passionate about paying it forward and supporting our message - and that made all the difference. 

Three takeaways from METAL man, Lukas Behnken:

  1. Galvanizing your audience far ahead of your film (or business) release can help guarantee a successful launch
  2. Audiences are more then willing to “pay it forward” when you capture their imagination with an important social message.
  3. When it comes to funding purpose-driven films or ventures, consider both equity crowdfunding and wealthy entrepreneurs as primary sources. 

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