Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All Aboard the Piracy Bandwagon

Times are tough, but it seems that there is a growing trend amongst indie filmmakers to blame much of their ill times on internet piracy.  While the studios have long asserted that the internet and file sharing is to blame for millions in lost revenue we are no seeing a trend amongst indie filmmakers who place blame on internet pirates for their film's lack of success.

The latest case to crop up comes from the LA Times profile piece on filmmaker Greg Carter.

Greg Carter spent the last three years scraping together $250,000 to write, direct and produce "A Gangland Love Story," a gritty, urban retelling of "Romeo and Juliet."
Since its DVD release in July, audiences have embraced it: More than 60,000 viewers have watched the movie on the Internet, giving the independent filmmaker a coveted public following.
Unfortunately, winning an audience has come at a steep price. The viewers of Carter's film watched if from pirate movie sites and never paid for it. Carter figures the unauthorized viewing has cost him as much as $100,000 in lost revenue, dashing hope that he'll ever see a profit.

Now on the surface this seems pretty straight forward: Piracy = Bad.  However if the film community is to make sense of the next decade of entertainment media and engaging the audience we MUST dig deeper than that and get to the roots. We can't assume anything.

In reading this story there are some pretty bold assumptions set forth that I would like to question...

[Full disclosure. I have met and discussed business with Greg Carter many years ago when I was with York Entertainment.  I admire his business savvy and entrepreneurism, and have no axe to grind here. I have also done work for Maverick Entertainment as a freelancer]

1. I would like to know how he arrives at the $100,000 estimate he says he's lost to piracy.

2. I would like to know where the movie has been sold.  Has the # of downloads of the movie ever been used as a marketing sell point?

3. Beyond this article, Greg has never had an interview with the LA Times for one of his movies.  What is the value of this article toward people looking for the movie now that they've read about it?

4. What has he done to reach out to all of the people who watched his movie to see if they would be willing to pay money for a DVD of it?  Has he attempted to sell the soundtrack to the movie as an ancillary product?

5. What is the line item budget of the picture?  I ask this because budget is often used as a press ploy in these articles.  I want to look at the actual ROI for this film.

6. Has he done any events to promote the film and tie it to the urban audience?

Piracy IS going to happen, but we need to analyze these stories very closely to determine the truth of whether or not piracy was a factor in the film's profit or loss.  This is tricky business and there's too many unclear assertions in this article without any actual facts being presented.


Rusty James said...

You know what I'd be into, Bill?

An online movie theater.

I'd pay a few bucks to watch a film - shit, put in some ads at the beginning while everyone gets settled, and charge a dollar - if I was given an online, community-like venue to watch films while chatting.

The good thing about Veetle is you get to leave comments while the (pirated) movie is streaming.

But a real online movie experience should be a reality.

Cunningham said...

Definitely - an online viewing destination for niche movies would be great.

Break it down into different genre 'channels' (ala Veetle) and go from there. Chat with the filmmakers afterward.

Place ads everywhere on the site and charge a subscription for the year. A revision of the Netflix model.

Make sure the streams could be accessed by even the slowest of computers (different tiers of bandwidth) ...

OR - just to get it started, do it on Youtube. They have a new streaming service. It needs work, but it's already there.

OR - yes, just go ahead and place it on Veetle. With ads between shows, sponsors, etc...

And maybe have enough ads, and tie-in merchandise on the site so that you could put the movie pricing in the name:


Rusty James said...

Create a movie network of fans and flamers like IMdB.

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