An Open Letter To Movie Pirates, From a Filmmaker

Editors Note: This is an open letter from Filmmaker Lee Vervoort 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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