Tell Rob Where He’s Wrong: Piracy and the Little Guys

We watched The Weekly with Charlie Pickering this evening. Good. Glad to say I was made to think more than I was made to laugh. (No, I’m not trying to damn with faint praise. I intend to be back for more next week.)

One of the things that got me thinking was the opening segment on piracy. Charlie cited the examples of Australian independent films Wyrmwood and 100 Bloody Acres as examples of piracy gone wrong, as they were pirated in gross disproportion to their cinema box office.

Yet this was just after he touched on the point of big media companies restricting access to content that people are willing to pay for, one example being HBO Now kicking paying Australian users off the service.

While the general angle of Charlie’s presentation was that while piracy is a better model for consumers than a lot of the Big Companies present, the thought occurred to me: Was getting Wyrmwood and 100 Bloody Acres into cinemas first an example of similar thinking to HBO Now: Building hype for a movie on a viral basis – by definition, a marketing method that the product owners cannot control the breadth of – and then restricting access to it to a handful of cinemas in (probably) one country? How many of those downloaders happened to live nowhere near one a screening of those movies?

Could having gone straight to digital and letting (almost) anyone with access and money pay for the movie immediately have worked out better for those who later had to beg people to buy the film so they could pay the cast and crew?

A quick bit of homework reveals an interesting and relevant fact: To get the cash that enabled them to finish Wyrmwood, the producers had to apply for a Screen Australia grant – and the condition was, it had to premiere in Australia on the big screen. They had to negotiate to reduce the delay between the cinema season and the Blu-Ray / digital release from three months to two.

Were there any other ways to get that sort of funding (around $850,000, if the article is to be believed) together? Could crowdfunding have done it?

Featured image borrowed without prior permission from the ABC.