New government anti-piracy campaign finally takes the post-Cluetrain carrot
Communicating the message that films are generally very expensive to make, and that widespread piracy will directly affect the number and quality of films produced and released, should have been a straight forward pitch. However after years of, literally, demonising piracy as the sponsor of terrorism and child pornography (good round up of videos at the Guardian, my fave is at bottom of this page) a credibility gap has been created, leading otherwise intelligent and responsible people to argue that that the studios deserve piracy in response to the mountain of crap they've produced over the year - how many hours of lives can we not get back having forked out for a ticket to watch a lousy film that was marketed to be something far better?
This comes regardless of the inconvenient truth that big studio features tend to do well regardless of how much they are downloaded (The Dark Knight topped both the legitimate and illegitimate charts last year), but small indpendent films are the ones most likely to be hurt as they are hard enough to get hold of to begin with, and there is a higher consumer risk associated with them given their lack of known actors. For many people, given the choice between paying £10 or more to see a foreign arthouse film with no recongisable talent, or downloading a 'try-before-you-buy' version, piracy wins out on convenience and risk. And for a film on this scale, without the cushion of a large cinema release for marketing or income, every less DVD bought makes an impact.
The UK government's latest campaign, You Make the Movies, following the light hearted peer-pressure angle of 'knock off Nigel' in the last few years, thanks viewers for providing the money that lets great films be made. I could wax full of praise and relief for this new approach, but the main point, as should be the aim of any such marketing message, is it alienates no-one. If you've bought cinema tickets or DVDs recently, you can feel valued by the film industry. If you haven't, then like a child's quest for paternal approval you may subconsciously seek to earn that approval at some future point when you can join the big happy family of fans and filmmakers all cheering each other on. It's a post-Cluetrain approach, and I'll be very suprised if it doesn't work. My only gripe would be that it could focus more on the films that Britain makes (rather than Jaws and Lord of the Rings), to really hammer the point home about supporting our local industry. Perhaps there could be a follow up campaign where British indie filmmakers also voice and upload their thanks for buying their films - people like Chris Jones, Jan Dunn, Charlie Belville, Ben Hopkins and the thousands of others like us, to give the message that your local filmmaker is a bit like your hard-up local pub landlord, and doesn't live in a mansion in LA.