I cut my teeth in the film business in the mid-80s, before the internet or even piracy was even a thing. Piracy back then was the guy on the street corner selling bootleg copies or the guy sitting in the back of the theater recording the movie directly onto a VHS tape. Not to minimize the criminality of these acts, but piracy has grown up right alongside the internet like a little brother who won’t stop stealing candy bars no matter how many times he gets his hand slapped.
Well it’s high time we move from hand slaps to something a bit harsher.
As a producer, and particularly as an executive producer, my job is to understand the finances of a film – what is it going to cost us, versus what we are going to make on it. In 2013, I was the executive producer on Dallas Buyers Club, a critically-acclaimed film that had strong Oscar® buzz. Even with this popularity surrounding our film, I was amazed to see the millions of illegal transactions from all over the world pour in. People all over the world downloaded or streamed my movie illegally without paying a dime. This wasn’t the aforementioned guy on a New York street corner with DVD boxes lying on a picnic blanket. This wasn’t the guy filming from the back row of a seedy multiplex. These are millionaires hosting our film on their site as they reap the benefits of ad-revenue from legitimate brands that have no idea where their logo is appearing. This is not a petty thief or your garden-variety shoplifter – this is a well-oiled criminal enterprise putting dollars in their bank accounts that rightfully belonged to our crew, our actors, our distributors, and myself.
I felt helpless – but I simply had to chase them. And I did, but in the end, after years of running after them, I threw in the towel.
With the tools we have in place and the lack of help we’re getting from companies like Google, who facilitate the flow of traffic to these pirate hosting sites, we’re fighting a losing battle. As soon as we celebrate a hard-fought but minor victory, new sources would surface almost instantly, providing new links, new hosting sites, and new avenues for people to watch Dallas Buyers Club without paying the talented people who made it a reality a single cent. It’s not right.
The truth is that if this continues, independent cinema has its days numbered. We need to fix this and we need to fix it soon.
To learn more about Cassian Elwes and his work, click here.
When you Stand Creative, you don’t stand alone.