By: Richard N. Gladstein
Many of the films I have produced dramatize crimes and heists – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Bourne Identity, among others. Safe to say, I know a crime when I see one. Last week at SXSW, I spoke about crime – in this case the multi-million dollar heists involving digital piracy.
On March 13, along with Gale Anne Hurd and Ruth Vitale, I participated on a featured panel titled “How to Make Art, Pay the Rent, and Survive Piracy.” It sounds like piracy might have been an afterthought, but as I explained on the panel these are all intrinsically tied together.
When you are a creative first starting out, your first worry is “how do I turn this into a career?” The good news is that you can, despite people telling you that your art is nothing more than a cute hobby, or asking when they’re going to get a “real job.”
But digital piracy, the wholesale theft of creative works, is an ongoing threat to the viability of jobs and the number of films made every year. The copyright industries employ 5.5 million people across the country. This number includes the crews on all of my films – and they are all victims when a film is viewed illegally. Residuals, the money paid to crew members after a film has been distributed, are calculated based on the film’s revenue. When you steal one film, you’re stealing from hundreds of individuals who brought their diverse skillsets to our shoots. All union members that receive residuals, from actors, to truck drivers, to seamstresses are affected and, in essence, stolen from.
For odd reasons, many people believe that downloading a film from an illegal website isn’t stealing. Well, it is. As a producer, I make a product. It happens to be films… but what if I made chairs? And what if I had a truckload of my chairs in the back of a truck and you came and stole those chairs. That’s wrong – it’s immoral. What’s the difference with movies? NOTHING!
Worldwide box-office revenues have been declining. Studios (and independents) are financing and distributing fewer films than they did 10 years ago. There are many factors that have contributed to this decline – social media, video games, an abundance of new original programming, etc. But there is only one factor affecting this decline that is ILLEGAL … it’s piracy.
Theft is theft. Crime is crime. Piracy is not a grey area. It’s a CRIME.
Richard N. Gladstein is a two-time Oscar®-nominated film producer – his most recent film is “The Hateful Eight.”