Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
Kieran Turner-Dave writes for The Independent blog regarding the use of filesharing and, interestingly, how many filesharers – despite breaking the law – actually spend 30% more than an average film viewer on legal products as they have such an interest in the medium. He notes how, on August 24th 2012, many people opted to see Keith Lemon: The Film over The Imposter, surely showing how tragic the options at the multiplex can actually be…
“This terrifying prospect exemplifies the most important, yet overlooked, result of filesharing amongst movie fans – it creates a more informed audience, with higher expectations and a greater respect for cinema. When someone is able to watch a hugely diverse amount of films, irrespective of the year or country in which they were produced, they are considerably more likely to discover a wealth of exciting and thought-provoking pieces than if they were only limited to watching what was showing in the multiplex that week. Immediately, the audience is able to more readily distinguish between filmmakers, writers and actors whose work they have previously enjoyed.“
Read the full article here.
In the first instance, it is worth noting that I have not see Keith Lemon: The Film, so I don’t want to judge what could be masterpiece (*chortle chortle*)… but The Imposter is a tough sell even at the best of times. It is an indie documentary coasting on the success it achieved at festivals. Keith Lemon: The Film is a film based on an established property using a broad range of cameo appearances (Kelly Brook, Fearne Cotton, Verne Troyer etc.) to bolster its cheap-sell tactic. The Imposter only made a mere $1.8m worldwide – whilst Catfish, a film that it clearly aimed to imitate in its marketing, only made $3.5m worldwide. Keith Lemon: The Film, in the UK alone (it hasn’t broken into any other territories yet…), has made over $4m. This is chalk and cheese – both films are aimed at completely different markets and have completely different expectations at the box-office so the comparison Turner-Dave has is completely void.
But that’s not to say he doesn’t have a point – the open access to films will force studios to make better films, but illegally downloading is not the only ‘open access’ way people have to watching films. I would like to highlight a couple of things – in 2010, what was the most pirated film of the year? Avatar. Hardly a film which needed the extra ticket sales, but that doesn’t therefore condone the pirates who watched the film. It simply says that marketing and publicity of a film will equally draw people to the cinema and draw people to their laptop to download it illegally. The film tastes of illegal filesharers are exactly the same – if not moreso – as the mainstream audiences. The most pirated films of all-time (according to TorrentFreak) includes Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. It’s a complete joke to imply that these same filesharers are equally watching The Imposter and any other unsuccessful smaller film that deserves attention. They are probably buying the Blu-ray boxset of Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean and, thus, adding to the sales and success of lame, lower-quality blockbusters. Indeed, they are probably downloading Keith Lemon: The Film.
I’d agree, variety is the current benefit of accessibility. The combination of DVD and Blu-ray, alongside legal downloading sites including iTunes, LoveFilm and Netflix, means that people can easily watch any film at any point of the day. There is absolutely no reason to go to the cinema at all if nothing good is playing. Indeed, that is often where I stand on the issue. Cinema prices are what they are – and if they can charge more, they will. All we can do to support the film industry is pay for what we owe, go to cinemas that will benefit more from our price of admission and pay what we believe a film is worth when it is released on DVD and Blu-ray. After watching Skyfall this weekend, I’ll buy the film week of release, and I’ll pay full price for the Blu-ray. I’ll also buy it again when they inevitably release a Super-Deluxe-Directors-Limited-XXX-Unrated edition. I’ll do this because I think the film is incredible. A few months ago, I bought The Karate Kid in HMV for only £3 – I’d never pay more than £3 for it, but it’s a good film, so I believe it’s worth it. I watched Looper at the cinema and, in all honesty, I didn’t think it was worth the price of admission.
Piracy is not simply about access to free films – it is crucially about subverting the system and gaining access to films which people should pay for. The statistics speak for themselves; filesharers want to talk about the latest film around the watercooler and they want to discuss the latest TV series when boiling the kettle, but they believe they don’t need to pay for it. YouTube, after a quick scan, have legal, free films including Kung-Fu Hustle, The Big Heat, Enduring Love, Chaplin’s The Kid and Life in a Day. If filesharers wanted to watch good, quality films – if they were “turning audiences onto independent cinema in record-breaking numbers”, then why are the same people not utilising the legal sites too? Because there is no value placed on the medium – and that is the problem. Films are products, they are art pieces – and whatever your disagreement is against the ever-increasing prices and consumerist-methods of sales – unfortunately, if we get into a position of accepting pirate filesharers as “members of a new kind of cinema: the cinema where you pay on the way out” then we are devaluing the art form we love. You don’t pay on the way out of Les Miserables. You don’t pay on the way out of the National Theatre. You don’t pay on the way out of the Pre-Raphelites exhibition at the Tate Britain. You don’t pay on the way out of a Coldplay concert.
There is one place you do pay afterwards – and that’s for buskers and street artists. And lets be honest, I rarely pay for them.
*I would also like to credit Flickering Myth contributor Luke Owen on highlighting the article to me during the week.