These days, when only a tiny fraction of indie films are released theatrically, a small film’s primary hope of financial recoupment is through Pay Per View.
My film’s producers and I were filled with optimism when the date of our film’s release arrived. Imagine, then, our horror when within 24 hours of the film appearing on iTunes, Amazon, Direct TV, and a host of other platforms, we discovered that it was also available on YouTube. One click and the film almost instantly streamed in perfect high definition for free. We reported the crime to our distributor who immediately reported it to Google. But no sooner would a link come down and then two more would appear.
By the end of two weeks, there were half a dozen sites streaming it for free. I got so disgusted with it that I even contacted one of the sites myself. A young Palestinian out of his West Bank apartment ran the site – he was so mortified to be contacted by the filmmaker himself that he apologized and took down the film.
However, we eventually just surrendered. We were fighting a losing battle. The only way to combat the anxiety and pain of our little film losing thousands and thousands of badly needed dollars was to stop checking YouTube altogether. Call it the ostrich approach to emotional and psychological self-preservation. The only interruptions to this self-imposed blackout were the daily tweets in my Twitter feed from young fans offering their friends free links to stream the movie.
I would tweet back a simple message – “THIEF!”
Allison Burnett is a screenwriter, film director, and novelist living in Los Angeles. He has written a dozen feature films and is the author of six novels, including Undiscovered Gyrl, which he adapted into the film Ask Me Anything.
When you Stand Creative, you don’t stand alone.