Last month, Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti announced plans to no longer provide DVD "screener" copies to the various film award voters, citing piracy of these screeners as the main reason. In the past, if you were say...a member of any number of film assocations that held awards were given screener copies to watch, since there's no way you could get to the cineplex to watch ALL of the films you should be considering. But this move basically clipped small films in their tracks. Why? Films such as Lost In Translation, the Station Agent and Whale Rider (to name a few) are produced and marketed so that they would recieve a certain amount of attention from critics, and as such would recieve some attention from the awards the critics vote on. And as such, would garner more attention from filmgoers as a result of that critical attention. But if the critics cannot see these films (via screeners), how the heck would they be able to give accurate praise?
To quoth Roger Ebert: "The Valenti Decree would cripple the chance of a small independent film getting an Oscar nomination. With dozens of films opening at year end, the academy population lacks the time and energy to attend all those screenings in theaters. The DVDs pile up at home, and when the buzz turns hot on a title, they look at it."
Various film critics agreed with that sentiment, and voiced their disapproval at the move. David Poland & Ebert among others expressed their displeasure and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assocation simply decided to forego their annual awards ceremony (a precursor to the Oscars) in protest...unless the screener ban was lifted.
The MPAA & Valenti caved. The September 30th ban was lifted on October 23rd...sort of. VHS tapes will be sent to Academy members this year with the intent of stopping digital piracy by simply foregoing the digital format this year.
So, what does this all mean? Sure, the screener ban has been scrapped for this year. But in the future, filmmakers might not be so lucky. A quick browse through the results of the 75th Oscars reveals the harm a ban could do: MPAA member companies produced films that yielded all but 20 nominations.
Well I will say this. The fact that most piracy is caused by critics, academy members, and industry insiders and workers leaking things like Oscar screeners puts an interesting spin on things doesn't it? Adds a whole new angle to those "don't download movies" ads celebrities cavort around in.
"Just a humble bounty hunter, ma'am." -Spike Spiegel
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened. - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Perhaps the only good part about this crackdown on piracy is that maybe it'll spur the Academy into giving the critics (who see all the movies at their own screenings) a vote in the Academy Awards. It just makes sense that the most informed people get a say.
It is long and vigorous, like the penis of a jackass."-- Sidney Smith, describing a scholarly piece in the Edinburgh Review
Tiny: Wayne! How you doin'? Wayne: Hey Tiny, who's playing today? Tiny: Jolly Green Giants and the Shitty Beatles. Wayne: Shitty Beatles? Are they any good? Tiny: Man, they suck! Wayne: Then it's not just a clever name --- from Wayne's World
Kirk, crackers are a family food. Happy families. Maybe single people eat crackers...we don't know. Frankly, we don't want to know. It's a market we can do without.-- Kirk Van Houten's former boss at the cracker factory
...so the critics get piles of free DVD screeners, let them pile up while they go see the "big" movies, don't bother watching anything smaller unless the buzz gets big on it and then bitch that they're not going to get the movies they aren't even going to watch unless someone else tells them to for free?
Color me unsympathetic. You want to make sure the little films get exposure then you get off your ass and watch 'em before you see Angelina Jolie's latest mess. People are going to go see "Bad Boys II" and that level of stuff no matter how many critics bash it, but a smaller film needs all the help it can get.
They don't care about the little guy getting Oscar time. They just want to keep getting freebies.
(edited by Nate The Snake on 29.10.03 2252) Kansas-born and deeply ashamed The last living La Parka Marka
"They that can give up essential liberty to gain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin
Let me put it this way: Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Sam Raimi and basically every one of my favorite directors got their start through small, independent features that they had to bleed themselves dry to get funding for. These films weren't immediately seen by any and all comers because the average filmgoer would rather see a blockbuster film that Hollywood spent millions on as opposed to a small black & white feature about a convenience store or a mariachi. People went to see Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, El Mariachi & Evil Dead because of the buzz. Critics went to, say, Sundance, and saw these films and told people about 'em. And then, more critics saw them (via screeners) as a result of that buzz from the festival...and so more people go to see these films. And so, these filmmakers get more and more cred due to this success, and they go out and make movies like Kill Bill, or Spider-Man or the Spy Kids flicks. Without screeners, there's no avenue for the films to get to the critics except for festivals...which are few and far between. How can you expect future filmmakers (like myself) to have an exen keel against the huge machine of Hollywood without allowing more people access to the flicks?
Also, Academy membership is reserved for people who...y'know...make films. It makes sense to me that the outstanding filmmakers are chosen by other filmmakers. The Golden Globes are chosen by the press.
EDIT: And nobody really knows how much piracy stems from the screeners, but it's thought to be fairly low.
(edited by Freeway420 on 29.10.03 2339) FLAMES: 4-3-0-0; 8 pts; Oilers SUCK STAMPEDERS: 5-13; Season Over, thankfully SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS: 10 Remain [Tijuana, Osten, Andrew, RyanO, Darrah, Jon, Shawn, Rupert, Christa & Sandra]
(snip) Awards screeners are movie-only DVDs or cassettes that for the last several years, as Oscar competition has heated up, have proliferated. They’re sent to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, film critics and other awards voters in the weeks leading up to filmdom’s big contests, the Golden Globes and the Oscars.
But invariably, a number of these screeners have wound up on eBay, the online auction house, where they’ve sold at highly inflated prices. Last January, 27 bidders competed for an advance DVD screener of Punch Drunk Love, which ultimately fetched $122.
Studios are alarmed at the prospect of losing a sale once the consumer product hits stores, although their real fear is that some of these screeners might wind up in the hands of pirates with vast underground duplication and distribution networks. Indeed, last year, some bootleg copies of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets being sold in China were traced to an Academy screener. (snip)
Something to think about...
Finished week 1 of my 2002-2003 College Football raitings. Only 17 weeks to go, then I can start on this season, sigh...
Yes, I like the idea that we haven't seen the whole picture yet and that there is always more out there to find. Every branch of science needs a good kick in the slats every so often to shake up its more overconfident practitioners.