Angel Studios’ $175 Million “Pay it Forward” Scheme and the Astroturfing of “Sound of Freedom”

For additional articles covering O.U.R., please go to ACJ Investigates: Derailed: Operation Underground Railroad

Unanswered Questions & Controversial Practices: Unveiling Angel Studios’ “Pay It Forward” Program

At an initial glance, Angel Studios’ “Pay it Forward” scheme presents itself as a seemingly benevolent gesture, evoking a sense of warm altruism that resonates with most. The act of purchasing a few tickets after viewing Sound of Freedom grants one the delightful illusion of contributing to the end of global child sex trafficking, cultivating that warm and fuzzy feeling within. Jim Caviezel even blesses moviegoers with his appearance just a little bit longer as the credits roll, because nearly two hours and fifteen minutes of Jim Caviezel as the ever self-important narcissist Tim Ballard just wasn’t enough – they then have the audacity to tell viewers that if they want to stop child sex trafficking, all they have to do is purchase another movie ticket for somebody else to see the film.

Sure they want you to believe this is not a faith based film nor a gateway film into QAnon, however, they pull out all the QAnon and charismatic preachers gimmicks- along with all the shade and disgusting accusations that $150 million can buy. Their goal and message is no different nor anymore creative than just saying, “Jesus loves you, now put your money in the plate”.

This deceitful and repugnant situation is akin to when a parent decides to forego all medical treatment for their cancer-stricken child due to the manipulation of a charismatic grifter exploiting their belief in the supernatural. Convinced that prayer alone can miraculously cure the illness, they abandon essential medical care, believing that their fervent prayers are enough. Tragically, we already know how this heart-wrenching story ends. Such exploitative practices prey on vulnerable individuals, perpetuating a disheartening cycle of false hope and devastating consequences. Yet this is the same crowd that claims they know what is best for their child.

It’s a form of extortion and part of the cycle of abuse. It didn’t work because you didn’t believe enough, you didn’t pray hard enough. Like Tim Ballard, the preacher is not at fault- it’s everyone else around him.

You’re told that if you really truly care about child sex trafficking, you’ll buy more tickets. Don’t ask questions and those who dare do, they are just as bad as the traffickers and part of the liberal conspiracy to normalize pedophilia.

They will tell their followers that telling the truth is akin to both “attacking their faith” as well as “supporting pedophilia”.

Angel Studios’ assertion that purchasing a movie ticket through their “Pay it Forward” scheme can help end human trafficking is a disturbing and dangerous claim. It’s evident that their actions are marred by a lack of integrity and transparency, especially failing to reel their business partner who has turned into a loose cannon. The studio has yet to demonstrate a significant commitment to the cause, failing to offer clear information on fund allocation or financial transactions. As a result, donors remain in the dark about where their contributions are truly directed.

Amidst the murk and smoke of Angel Studios’ charitable façade, a series of perplexing questions emerge, demanding candid answers. The spectacle surrounding the massive windfall from Santa Fe Films’ deal, wherein the North American rights to Sound of Freedom were conveniently handed over to Dennis Rice, sets off alarm bells. The subsequent pilgrimage of this cinematic endeavor to Q/Patriot and Stop the Steal rallies only adds to the cloud of suspicion hovering above.

Transparency, that holy grail of virtue in financial dealings, appears to be an elusive virtue for these purveyors of supposed benevolence. As the labyrinthine maze of financial transactions remains shrouded in a deliberate haze, rational minds are left to ponder the ulterior motives that lurk behind their ostentatious claims of fighting human trafficking.

To assuage such well-founded concerns, one might reasonably expect a display of unyielding dedication to the cause. However, the trail of evidence instead reveals a different reality. Angel Studios, with their hands perpetually outstretched for donor contributions, exhibits a curious proclivity for stopping short of shouldering any real responsibility.

This dubious modus operandi casts a long and dark shadow of doubt over their proclaimed mission. Are they genuinely crusading against the grave horrors of human trafficking, or is this grand spectacle merely a ruse to rake in the riches hidden beneath the cloak of righteousness? As with any intricate illusion, one cannot help but suspect that the true magic lies in the alluring prospect of monetary gains rather than the actual pursuit of justice.

In an astonishing display of self-righteousness, they shroud themselves in the guise of Christian martyrdom. Like medieval saints fending off heretics, they guard their hero from the prying eyes of scrutiny. But beneath this carefully crafted veil lies a disconcerting smokescreen, designed to deflect critical inquiry and reinforce their unfounded claims.

The echoes of history reverberate in this all too familiar tune. The fervor of misguided zealots, fiercely clutching to the threads of dogma and ideology, is mirrored in the tactics employed by Angel Studios. Such a refusal to acknowledge the uncomfortable truths and to indulge in baseless beliefs is the breeding ground for deceit.

Unanswered Questions and Controversial Practices: Unveiling Angel Studios’ Pay It Forward Program

A dozen or so good, god-fearing moviegoers reached out to American Crime Journal (ACJ) with a shared concern that struck at the heart of their experience with the Sound of Freedom hysteria. Seduced by the Q-adjacent narrative of this fantasy thriller, they found themselves entwined in its compelling message, leaving most, if not all, to hold their children a little tighter after viewing the film. Had they only been privy to the statistical reality that their child was at far greater risk of being struck by lighting- than the victim of stranger abduction perhaps they would not have such anxiety leading to much of the anger and frustration when they feel their concerns are not taken seriously. To dismiss their genuine emotions with indifference would be a selfish and disingenuous low blow- much like those who lash out, screaming pedophile at those who ask for Ballard and OUR’s accounting of millions of dollars.

These individuals were the target audience for Sound of Freedom and the victims of Angel Studios and Tim Ballard’s scheme.

“Something just isn’t right with this”, Larry, 62, a systems manager from Idaho told me during in interview. He is a self-described born gain Christian and Trump supporting Republican who concedes that he does not align with or even fully understands QAnon ideology. Nevertheless, it became evident that the systems manager with a master’s degree in computer science, embraced Q-adjacent concepts attached to human trafficking conspiracies. Such a blend of beliefs and dispositions, while not explicitly subscribing to QAnon, does bear the markings of its influence, providing a captivating glimpse into the complex balance of being evangelical Christian and Trump-supporting Republican living in a QAnon world.

Just two days earlier, Larry and his wife went to see Sound of Freedom after it became “the hot topic” of their Thursday evening church group. Touched by the film, not only did he purchase two tickets via Angel Studios “Pay it Forward” believing that “a couple with a child may benefit from the gift”. He decided to dig into the subject of human trafficking. The film’s publicity had forced reviews and Tim Ballard propaganda to permeate to the top. He said he became “sorta obsessed”, descending further down the rabbit hole until he hit rock bottom. He came across “Falling Down: The Demise of Tim Ballard” which was a living article updating critical information as it relates to Ballard and OUR, followed by Lynn Packer’s “OUR’s Origin Myth”

That’s when Larry decided to email us about our “true intent”. While the email was well mannered, it bordered on accusatory that pushed much of the right-wing’s misconception of what or who they perceive as “leftist” or “left-wing”. After we answer some of his concerns and explaining our “true intent”, Larry’s next email, was short and sweet.

“I think my wife and got robbed”, the email said. In his mail it contained screenshot of an Angel Studios “Pay it Forward” order summary. Below it he copied and pasted the disclaimer underneath the summary.

Upon submitting my Pay it Forward contribution, I acknowledge and agree that Angel Studios will make reasonable efforts to use Pay it Forward ticket sales for the audience growth of the intended film or series. However, Angel Studios becomes the owner of all funds upon receipt and may use them at its sole discretion to further the Angel Studios’ mission of amplifying light through impactful stories

“Something just isn’t right with this”, he said underneath.

Larry and his wife weren’t alone. ACJ received more than a dozen emails pointing either the same or other concerns with Angel Studios “Pay it Forward” program. These weren’t left-wing radicals looking take down the work of poor Tim Ballard.

Like Larry, almost every single one of them identified as born-again Christians, except for a solitary Catholic. All of them self-identified as either conservative or Republican. All but two were Trump supporters- with the other two supporting Florida Governor Ron Desantis.

Not only were single ticket reach (as they call it) for Sound of Freedom $15 on Angel Studios’ own “Pay it Forward” program, even though vast majority of moviegoers just saw the movie for $12 ($9 or $10 for early-birds who see the movie sometime before noon or 3pm depending of the theater chain and location).

Another issue Amber Lee brought us, was the use of the word reach instead of ticket.

“I’m sure it’s just a marketing ploy, but part of me thinks there is some CYA here legally. If they don’t ever say movie ticket, your case gets tossed in court before you can present evidence because they [Angel Studios] never even said the word ticket”, she said.

Several others echoes Amber Lee’s concerns.

In a reply to a YouTube comment one user explains their frustration, “I understand that everyone may not claim a ticket, so fine, we paid $15 for a ticket. Show them another movie and if they don’t have another in theater, because I do think this is the only one ever anyway, stream them another one of your programs. They’ve doubled their #2millionfor2million goal, so now does this go to charity? Even just 10 or 20%, and they’re getting off pretty damn cheap or are they just pocketing all of it?”

Some pointed out Angel Studios’ Feature Deal of seven tickets for $105. Another person who emailed us called it, “a lazy attempt at pulling a fast one”. It was not a deal at all. It was still $15 a so-called reach (ticket).

Online there was infighting and accusations of dishonesty and astroturfing among conservative Republicans, majority of the MAGA variety who seemed to be at war with Q/Patriots.

One thing that is import to note, not single one of these movie goers spoke of packed theaters or sabotaged thermostats. A few theaters were almost full and the rest had just had a few people. While this was not a major sample size, even the far-right wing groups I’ve inflitraited, including one on Telegram that focuses on “MAGA activism”, there were few complaints of Hollywood interference when Q/Patriots were speaking among themselves. Instead, many planned to gin up complaints- pushing the narrative of Christian and conservative victimhood on theater review sites, such as on Google or Yelp. It appears to be nothing more than culture war bravado and activism obsessed about “taking it to the libs” and this war on “woke Disney”.

At no point were there concerns about children expressed in any regard, much less those being sex trafficked. The only real concern seemed to be was whether or not Sound of Freedom could take Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Some were even wagering and other claiming victory over Oppenheimer and Barbie.

The permeation of these far-right concepts and ideations into mainstream conservatism has already woven a web of fears and fantasies within this demographic. While delving into the depths of this specific aspect lies beyond the scope of this article, it undeniably lays the groundwork for comprehending the efficacy of all the gimmicks, delusions, misinformation and illusions within the MAGA sphere. The film deftly capitalizes on these deeply ingrained tendencies, employing an artful manipulation that strikes a resonant chord with its audience.

Unanswered Questions & Controversial Practices: Unveiling Angel Studios’ Pay It Forward Program

The entire ruse behind Angel Studios’ “Pay It Forward” for Sound of Freedom tickets reaches, was peddled by Tim Ballard, Jim Caviezel and Eduardo Verástegui as this call to action awareness campaign so that the impoverished and underprivileged could know the dangers of trafficking.

So quick questions they don’t want to answer-

  1. Did you hand out tickets to groups and youth homes, those at highest risk for sex trafficking?
  2. Did they give tickets out to battered women’s shelters?
  3. Homeless shelters so they too can know the risks and signs of trafficking (that’s not in the film)?
  4. Are millions tickets going to be distributed to public schools in high crime and drug infested areas?

No. Because they know that these campaigns and free giveaways are rarely utilized. Between 40 and 60% of rebates, free money is never redeemed.

Going back to YouTuber comment quoted above,

“…They’ve doubled their #2millionfor2million goal, so now does this go to charity? Even just 10 or 20%, and they’re getting off pretty damn cheap or are they just pocketing all of it?”

As of July 24th, 2023, Angel Studios has been Astroturfing off the back of donors, one of the most inorganic, dishonest and disgusting movie campaigns ever. To date, Angel Studios Pay if Forward campaign has amassed over 11,635,000 donated “reaches” at $15 a pop, when the average movie ticket is $10 and $12 in premium locations, and of course early bird tickets that are usually $8 to $10. This clearly is a tactic where they can squeeze an additional admission out of every two to four tickets sold, but it’s only an admission on paper only.

Not only was this an additional $3 to $6 (sometimes $8) in pure profit, but an acknowledgement and disclaimer that states,

Upon submitting my Pay it Forward contribution, I acknowledge and agree that Angel Studios will make reasonable efforts to use Pay it Forward ticket sales for the audience growth of the intended film or series. However, Angel Studios becomes the owner of all funds upon receipt and may use them at its sole discretion to further the Angel Studios’ mission of amplifying light through impactful stories

Angel Studios has pulled in $175 million in donations alone, yet the film has only earned $125 million organically in ticket sales.

Angel Studios $175 Million #2for2Million Scheme

Many will say that this is just a quick money grab, but it’s much more sophisticated than that.

What truly makes this unique is that astroturfing, while it appears to be a grassroots campaign and completely organic, is usually funded by corporations, Political Action Committees, or certain wealthy individuals. They bankroll these operations or schemes, whether it’s to change public perception, rile up their base, or demoralize their perceived enemies – all typical tactics employed by Republicans and other right-wing groups.

They vehemently rail against leftists and decry the mainstream media, dismissing it as a bastion of the left, conspiring to suppress the very film they champion. While vehemently denying any political or religious motifs, they embark on a cacophony of self-aggrandizement, employing hackneyed right-wing catchphrases like “save the children” and “God’s children aren’t for sale.”

Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. had acted with such defiance and hate, spewing nothing but vitriol at his opposition. Tim Ballard is a man who has the audacity to call himself Jesus, Moses, and an abolitionist.

Your intelligence is further insulted with this gimmick of how this film is organic and grassroots. No Hollywood film begs for donations to supposedly serve public interest or any other film, for that matter.

What Angel Studios’, Tim Ballard, Eduardo Verástegui, and Jim Caviezel clandestinely withhold is the inconvenient fact that the studio has already financed the film’s entire theatrical run. The theater seats stand paid for, irrespective of attendance. Whether the film’s images illuminate the silver screen before a packed house, a modest gathering, or a barren theater, the radical right’s conspiracy theories about theaters denying Christians the viewing pleasure are rendered both ludicrous and nonsensical. Angel Studios had no exigent need for your presence; they had already accounted for you.

We visited and called theaters throughout the Las Vegas metropolitan area, spoke with theater employees in Los Angeles and Charleston, South Carolina. Did you know that people who went to see Sound of Freedom in groups (such as church groups) were having trouble getting in, despite the seats available? Credible people, honest people without agendas, demonstrated just how often they ran into problems getting seats, yet the theater would be empty. This wasn’t due to the theaters trying to prevent people from seeing the film; this was due to astroturfing, plain and simple.

Churches throughout the Las Vegas Metropolitan area were going to see this film, both youth groups and adults. Some even held fundraisers to donate to Angel Studios’ “Pay it Forward.”

Very few people claimed movie tickets and went to see the film for free. Others would claim free tickets, not show up, and it would close the seat. Some people were even buying Angel Studios’ feature deal of seven tickets for $105, except it was not a deal at all. It was still $15 per ticket.

What is important is that the people defending the film and making excuses and death threats on behalf of Tim Ballard and Angel Studios – you are the ones being defrauded, you are victims. We are doing this for you, just as anyone else that is wronged.

For some who have been involved with Tim Ballard, Operation Underground Railroad, and Sound of Freedom before the acquisition of Angel Studios, this is like déjà vu all over again. For years, the tactics and fundraising schemes are very similar to what they’ve dealt with prior to the acquisition. When Ballard and Caviezel were peddling this from Q/Patriot and Stop the Steal events, where did all that money go that was supposed to be for Sound of Freedom?

One thing we know for sure, for a fact, is that Tim Ballard recoils in horror at the thought of being asked for financials and specifics. Angel Studios appears to have that very same phobia.

Resources and Further Reading

O.U.R.’s Origin Myth – American Crime Journal |

Falling Down: The Demise of Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad – American Crime Journal |

A History of Buying Books Onto the Bestseller List (

Pay it Forward for Sound of Freedom | Angel Studios

How Mail-In Rebates Rip You Off (

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