The Director’s Cut: The pitfalls of piracy

Popcorn Time, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes … ah the instant internet! Remember back in the 1980s when ‘Top of the Pops’ livened up our living rooms every 7 o’clock on Thursday – it was not to be missed. You would take out your tape deck and record the number one single of that week … so you could replay it over and over. Those were the days! And years later, I would send mix tapes to my girlfriend of all my favourite songs. It was fun.

Video killed the radio star
At weekends, we would gather at the back of a house and scrutinise several hundred VHS videos without covers; the quality was sketchy but we didn’t know any different. Did we know back then that this was piracy? Not really. And then came Blockbuster and it all changed. But did piracy go away? No – it has always been around in one form or another.

Being an independent filmmaker, I see it from both sides and realise it’s becoming easier to watch movies for free on your computer, not to mention downloading music. Free is great; everyone loves free, but few think of the bigger picture of supporting those artists who need it.

Help David slay Goliath
Now, I cannot speak for the huge CGI movies or superstars, but for the independent guys when you buy their stuff, you are sending a signal you want to support them and believe it’s interesting what they are doing. You give it value, and if it has value, it creates more interest, and with that they can flourish and develop their craft.

I prefer to use official sites like Netflix or Amazon (all my previous movies are on there) – but there are alternatives out there too. I have mixed feelings towards this. There is an argument that ‘exposure’ is good for the artist, but for indie filmmakers, who are sometimes lucky to even make back the technical cost of making the film, we rely on much needed sales. The typical indie filmmaker struggles financially from movie to movie. There are the odd breakout hits, but that’s very few and far between – usually we are drowned out by Hollywood.

A torrent of wrongful use
All my previous films are on ‘torrent’. Even my new film is already targeted for download. It’s weird. The thing is that you cannot really fight it; random fines might deter a few people but won’t stop the crowd. I know some filmmakers who have decided to work with the torrent community and help to promote and launch their movies. Again I don’t know. Maybe this is the future because as the internet grows, and access becomes easier and easier, we may need to roll with it.

But how do you survive in the long run? Some take extra jobs, and there is crowdfunding (I even sat in a shop window once to fund a film). It’s a complex problem. Of course your thoughts are to just create something good, particularly given your limited resources, and go from there.

I have came to the conclusion that until there is a system that works for both the artist and consumer, we need to help the small voices out there: the indie filmmakers, the up-and-coming singer-songwriters and the new novelists and try not to download their work illegally as this is an obstacle to their