An Open Letter To Movie Pirates, From a Filmmaker

Herner Klenthur

Editors Note: This is an open letter from Filmmaker  to all the people who pirated his indie movie ‘GunTown’. Earlier today we had an interesting discussion on full length horror movies on YouTube and whether filmmakers care or not. This is Lee Vervoort’s thoughts on those people who pirated his movie. Letter begins now;

I’m a filmmaker who is going to talk to you about piracy. Yes, piracy. It’s the one thing that is having a major effect on both the high rollers of Hollywood and the low budget lovers of film making. I would be contradicting myself if I said it didn’t matter that Hollywood suffers from piracy, yet they shouldn’t have to. I’m being hypocritical if I say that Hollywood should suffer, but independent filmmakers shouldn’t.

We both make movies. But let’s face it, Hollywood makes millions. We as independent filmmakers don’t; not the low budget guys and of course I am going to use myself as an example. Last year I shot “Gun Town”. It’s a feature length film with a running time of 78 minutes and 6 special features on the DVD which was released barely 4 months ago. It’s professionally wrapped, packaged and shipped to the customer. There are no warnings, previews and it’s Region 0 so anyone can watch it. Anyone who has purchased a copy can vouch for me.

But alas, almost immediately I see that Gun Town has reached the grasp of the piracy world. I search out of curiosity and there it is, on 4 “free movie” sites. Naturally I’m upset and send emails out telling them to remove my film because after all, I’m the little guy here and I worked my ass into the ground making it. Much to my surprise, a response is sent to my inbox telling me it has in fact been removed. That’s great, only to see it pop up somewhere else. So what’s the point?

I’ll tell you about the point, the purpose, the justification behind the reason why pirates post movies. We hear that file sharing isn’t a crime. Fine. Google lists the sites on there search engine and a search result isn’t against the law. Fine. People are tired of movies that cost too much and have 15 minutes of bullshit before the movie even starts. Fine. Hell, even I agree with that one; in fact, I have to agree with all of them because they’re right. File sharing isn’t illegal, Google is the most powerful search engine out there which surely will show you results of free movie sites and isn’t illegal as a listed result, and again, I despise having to sit through a lap full of previews and warnings just to get the show on the road. (catch 22 anyone?) And let’s not forget the simple fact that if you rent/buy a movie, then your friends come over to watch it, are they breaking the law? Of course not! This falls into play where the explanation of how people want to see the movie to decide whether or not they want a copy, sort of a “test drive” so to speak and that my film loving friend, is the big picture.

If I want to buy a car, you bet your ass I am going to test drive it. If I want a new pair of shoes, I’m going to walk in them first, and if I want a movie…well…I guess I could judge it by the previews. After all, isn’t that what previews are for? Yes, but even previews have began to raise question. The assembly of the preview, the one or two minutes to view an example of what the film is about. That alone has become a problem according to the opinions of some. Showing all the good parts, showing 3-5 freaking minutes of material, but that’s another story.

If you are bored to tears by now and plotting a big slap in face for me if you ever meet me in person, I can’t blame ya. It’s a recirculating story no matter how you look at it. He said, She said. Coulda’ Woulda’ Shoulda’

So what the hell is this all about anyway? I say it’s mostly about the same thing it always hes been, money. Yeah, it’s a “free” watch, but monthly membership sites do exist. So let’s say there is a site you can join for 10 bucks a month and watch all the free movies you want. Since any monkey can do simple math, 100,000 members is a smooth million…per month. Now wait a minute there professor, that’s a lot of money. Money that independent filmmakers are losing; I speak for all of us when I say that. Of course the numbers aren’t the same when you compare a monthly fee versus sold copies, but it’s still a loss.

I don’t know much, but I do know one thing, there has to be a happy medium somewhere or at least I hope so…and soon. Yeah piracy is exposure of your film, but it’s I still say it’s costing us big time in sales. Those sales are what we as filmmakers need to continue our quest. It also wouldn’t hurt if Hollywood could ease up on the price tag a bit either. We’re working stiffs, people who have bills to pay, people who want an escape from the real world but don’t want to sacrifice a weeks salary to get it. Must you pay your A-listers 5-20 million per film? We understand that it’s hard work, but so is a 40 hour week. Just because some of us do construction work (my occupation for 20 years before film), or work behind the counter doesn’t mean we can afford your price tag all the time.

Don’t worry, I won’t blame you for piracy. Blame is for the birds. Someone decided to do it, so they did. It’s your problem, but it’s our problem too. And as for you pirates out there, I don’t blame you either. There’s a reason for everything, and I’ll even go as far as to say that sometimes it’s necessary. It probably wouldn’t hurt if some filmmakers would get something better than a handycam and a group of buddies for beer to make a film that they plan to distribute. Gun Town is no diamond, but damn.

At this point I’ll have to speak for myself because I really don’t know what other filmmakers have in mind for their approach to the infrastructure of entertainment, but I for one am looking at new avenues of exposure. Perhaps the option of watching it free on my own website with a donation button would work. Seems like a fair option if you don’t want to buy a copy; hell, watch my movie and donate a buck. Maybe a reasonable price of a DVD is in order. Already doing that one. Whatever the future holds, I only wish to continue producing movies for the masses, and I’ll do my best to make the best possible product for the pay.

But remember…I’m not perfect, I’ll never claim to be.

Lee Vervoort,
Director & Writer of GunTown


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      1. Chuck February 3, 2014 at 12:26 am

        I take some exception to this. Piracy is illegal, no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s wrong. I don’t care if you have to sit through 15 minutes of B.S. or not. I don’t care if Hollywood makes millions, or spends millions. Quit doing it. It is theft, pure and simple.
        The people who pirate would be the first to bitch about someone doing the same thing to a piece of art they created.

        • Nova6K0 February 4, 2014 at 4:41 pm

          In the U.S., among other Anglo-Saxon countries, have a habit of believing that intellectual property (which does not really exist as such property) is the same as physical property. This also, in many other countries, not just Anglo-Saxons

          There is no theft, because there is no loss of equity (if you copy something does not go away), but clear to understand this you have to live in the moment and Social Reality not Fantasy.

          Besides that losses by discharges is false as demonstrated by several studies.


      2. Tiago February 3, 2014 at 12:33 am

        Very good points.
        I am very interested in the view/profit relation on the web. Even in youtube, that cuts a big part of your profit, it is a fact that you’ll get a good deal of money if 1.000.000 million people watch your movie. You can increase your profit if you have your own platform.
        There are lots of people making real money with internet views, I believe that is the future.

      3. Libertaria Social February 3, 2014 at 1:32 am

        1 Crowd Funding, 2 requesting Advertising payments for all of your videos on youtube through their partner programm for copyright holders.

        And perhaps you also could include a message to the pirates in your movies telling them your story. Perhaps this might motivate some of them to pay.

      4. Matthew Brandford February 3, 2014 at 3:12 am

        I agree. From a viewers point of view I have friends who try to lend me movies that haven’t even hit the screens here in the UK. I didn’t work my ass off to buy my stereo, HD TV and 5.1 surround system to watch some bull shit copy. I love going to the movies and I love my Bluray and DVD’s including the cover artwork and watching the collection grow over the years. I also love my B movies so was royally pissed off when after reading the letter I went on to Amazon.co.uk to buy Gun Town… they don’t have it! If Mr Vervoot puts as much passion into his movie (I don’t care what the budget was) as he put in to that letter I want to see the film!

      5. Mark-Allan February 3, 2014 at 4:23 am

        I am also an indie filmmaker, and you have to be kidding yourself if you would think that anyone of the people who downloaded your movie would have purchased it. If a million people downloaded it for free, you would be lucky if .01 actually would have purchased it. People will illegally download, Netflix something they would never normally pay for because in their minds it is not really costing them money, but only time to give your movie a chance. I don’t like either downloading, or Netflix but when I did the first free month thing, I streamed a lot of crap that I wouldn’t even taken a second look at, even renting it. I would count yourself lucky that people are finishing your flick , if they are, and maybe just maybe that .01% will actually look to finding a copy to purchase.

      6. bob101910 February 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm

        How hard is it for an indie filmmaker to get something put on Netflix? I honestly have no idea and will research it later. If you tell them “hey look at all the people that pirated my film”, might be able to make a decent deal with them. In this case the pirates are actually helping you.

      7. kXnPunk February 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm

        Extremely good points. I can’t say that I agree with everything like I’ve told you before when we had a discussion about this but if I put myself in your position and totally agree with you bro. Thumbs up. 😀

      8. Jimmy February 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm

        Good points and I do agree with you mr Vervoort but one thing that may have slipped your mind is that without “pirates” distributing Gun Town a lot of people would never have heard of it. I`m not saying that it`s right to steal and copy but you`r work goes global and it might mean Money in the end. The more people that know about it, the more people are likely buy it.