By: Lisa Hammer

First in the series.

Photo by Isaiah Garnica

I have been an artist my whole life.

I spent thousands of hours and dollars studying film-making, music, and acting. I have been creating my own work since the 80s and for many, many years I was able to make a good living as a filmmaker/musician. I was able to live well, perform and record with the band, create and screen my films, and reinvest my earnings back into my work.

This, unfortunately, has dried up in recent years due to piracy. A few years ago, I made the mistake of Googling my bands. To my horror, I was easily able to find dozens of sites giving my songs away or charging for them, selling ads, etc. I had never heard of these companies and they were not sending royalties to me or to my record label. My label went to battle daily to bring these sites down, but every time they cut one head off, two more would grow in its place. It is now impossible for me to continue with my band.

The same has happened with my films. I used to make money through distribution on tapes and DVDs, and even a few VOD. But now, as soon as I release a film through an online distributor, or submit it to a film festival, I see links to the film on a YouTube channel.

I ask Google to take it down. They do. Two days later, my partner emails in a panic. Three more links for our film have been put up on YouTube. This goes on every week now and we only just finished post production on our most recent feature. The film hasn’t even been screened at a festival yet or considered by a distribution company. My last feature has only made about $100 on a legitimate VOD site because it’s being given away for free all over the internet.

I am not a huge, greedy studio as the pirates and fans might imagine. I am a small, indie filmmaker creating content with my own pocket money and fan-funding. For the first time in my career, my bills are piling up and I can’t keep up. I have no idea how to monetize my work or continue to afford making my films and music.

Lisa Hammer is an award-winning independent film director, writer, actor, and musician living in New York. She is also the voice of Triana Orpheus on the Cartoon Network show The Venture Bros. Photo of Lisa Hammer by Isaiah Garnica.

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