By Melissa Chamberlain
All parents worry about their kids. We watch our children dream big and we do our best not to stifle their ambitions – so that they might enter into the adult world with the confidence that comes from being supported and encouraged. Even as they move away from those early, wild dreams and narrow their interests to prepare to enter the working world, every mother and father still worries. We worry if they want to be a lawyer. We worry if they want to be a doctor. We worry because we want what’s best for them. We hope, most of all, that they’re happy.
I’m the parent of an actor. My son, Andrew, has been working since he was nine.
At film screenings, I often get to meet fellow parents whose own kids are just out of film school and doing their first professional work. More than a few have shared their worries about how tough it is to make it in “the business.” There is always an unspoken (but implied) wish that their child had pursued a career with more guarantees – maybe dentistry, engineering, or law. I always tell them that I have watched lots of young filmmakers, producers, and actors at work – and they are the happiest young people I know because they are following their dreams, even when they do not know where their next job is coming from, or if they will even be able to raise enough money to produce their own work.
I know it’s difficult to feel sorry for Hollywood, especially when we hear about the millions of dollars raked in by the latest action film or read stories about the glamorous lives of movie stars. But I’m not talking about them. When I visited my son on the set of his first feature, Hide Your Smiling Faces, the tiny minority of individuals that become millionaires in the film industry were nowhere in sight. What surprised me the most? There are so many jobs! When I talk about the real cost of piracy, I am talking about these hardworking people.
From those who create and mend the costumes, to the makeup crew, to the electricians, set builders, lighting technicians, and drivers – so many trades, skill sets, and talents were on display just to make this one small, independent feature. I was in awe of them. An entire ecosystem of dedicated and tireless employees populates a film set, working 14-hour days, and their faces will never be seen up on that big screen.
My son is an actor, but he is just one of the hundreds of people employed on a film between the author of the first draft of a screenplay to the graphic designer who creates the final poster. This is why it was so infuriating – especially as a parent looking out for the well-being of not just her own son, but for all of those individuals I met on set – to find an illegal copy of Hide Your Smiling Faces pirated and uploaded to YouTube. This small film, made by a group of close friends, was financed through crowd-sourcing on Kickstarter, private donations, and credit cards. I had to pony up and buy the beer for the wrap party. And there it was, up on YouTube, stolen.
Yes, stolen. I recall thinking about every single one of those people I met on set. I thought about how the filmmakers had brought Hide Your Smiling Faces to film festivals from Berlin to Tribeca. It had good reviews, people were talking about it, there was momentum, and we were excited. None of these things, of course, entered the mind of the thoughtless person that decided uploading the entire film to the internet was just a harmless series of clicks and keystrokes.
Adding insult to injury, the pirated copies I saw uploaded to YouTube (and elsewhere) are of poor quality, with some versions cropped badly, on purpose – a trick often used to escape detection from Google’s “pirated content bots.” So, in addition to lost revenues that should have gone back to those who invested their time and labor to Hide Your Smiling Faces, these pirated versions are such an inferior representation of the filmmaker’s work, it could even damage reputations. These crude uploads are especially infuriating considering the two years in post-production that was spent ensuring the film was ready for theatrical release.
Movies can feel like magic, but they are not made by magic. In the age of YouTube and The Pirate Bay, stealing seems more like magic. Click! Poof! Send! And the prospects of a small film ever recouping on their investment goes up in smoke.
The sad truth is, no one talks about piracy enough, not even the parents I interact with whose own children are entering this industry with the same tentative bewilderment I had when my own son discovered his love for acting. This is when I tell them that they should join CreativeFuture and add their voice to the fight against the digital theft of creative work. This is our job as parents and this is all of our jobs as ethical participants in the digital ecosystem.
Editor’s Note: If you’d like to watch Hide Your Smiling Faces – or want to search for legitimate options to watch other films and shows – visit WhereToWatch.com.