Xan Brooks wrote a Guardian blog post today to espouse the virtues of the new tactic being employed by the Industry Trust in the UK to try and combat film piracy. He has found some solace in this recalibrated method of thanking audiences who do no practice film piracy, rather than scorning those who do.
The previous campaign, which has run for quite some time, worked to try and emphasise that film piracy is only a small cog in a much larger criminal machine, trying to shame those indulging in the practice by equating it to stealing televisions or handbags.
Brooks may well come over as somewhat pompous and self-righteous in the post, promoting his own achievement of never having downloaded a movie, but I think he, and the Industry Trust, are still missing the point.
The problem is that people who practice downloading appear to have a vastly greater understanding of the process. Those who download will tell you that the kind of tinny, crappy copies of movies which are highlighted by anti-piracy advertising are not the norm. The vast majority of movie downloaders with any sense would never download something so completely useless as a watching experience. Those who do are not movie fans, rather fans of supremacy in being the first see a given film, rather than having any enjoyable experience in actually watching.
Most film fans who download will wait until a good version of the film is available and, more pertinent, will often then purchase movies they like on DVD. I understand that this may seem a skewed method of viewing and distribution for the industry to get it’s head round, but isn’t this just part of a wider consumer culture in which the power has shifted? People don’t have to spend money on a movie to see it, meaning the crap which comes out will often be quickly sidelined.
What this should do is spur film industry players to make better movies, rather than making movies they think will sell based on face values. That kind of cynical methodology is still very much in play. Consider the likes of Lionsgate, which often will not screen its shitty horror films to critics in advance for fear that bad reviews will prevent audiences from flocking to them in droves. Doesn’t there seem to be a disconnect there between the desire to make good films and make money? Surely, all studios should want people to see their films because they are good and interesting, not because the posters and trailers promise action, gore and nudity.
I don’t agree necessarily with the practice of pirating. But I think what should be considered by studios is how distribution and exhibition methods can adapt to deal with it, rather than suppressing any advance in these lines to try and prevent audiences from having any influence over the frequency of quality movies being produced.