Dear Edgar Wright: An Open Apology Letter (AKA: Don’t illegally download stuff, guys, it’s a dick move)
*Forenote: Before anyone points it out, I know that Edgar Wright would be fully aware of the impacts of illegally downloading someone’s work. I also highly doubt he’ll ever actually see this, so the open letter format is merely me being a silly, as usual.
Dear Mr Wright,
I would start this with “I met you on Monday” but a more apt description would be “I came over to bother you whilst grinning moronically on Monday”
It was shortly after the showing of The Phantom of the Paradise at the Picturehouse cinema, the penultimate film in your curated series `Edgar Wright Presents`, and my sister suggested we grab a drink in the members only bar. As we chatted to each other we spotted a moment where you weren’t in conversation with a friend or another fan and I scurried over to you. I had wanted to say hi briefly when we had first walked in and it wasn’t so crowded, but was discouraged. As time went on I was made more and more anxious – hence my awkward fluttering, nervous grin and total inability to have a conversation like a human. It is extremely safe to say that I am Not Good at social interaction.
I was mortified at myself as I walked away from you, hell; I was mortified at myself as I was speaking to you. I immediately tweeted my shame, because what else would a member of the social media generation do? (But also because turning my embarrassment into a joke at my own expense is something of a coping mechanism). Readers of this open letter, or anything else I’ve written, will probably be able to tell that I pretty much just spew whatever words pop into my head. But my inability to communicate like someone with more than three brain cells isn’t why I’m writing you this open apology (well, not the whole reason). I wanted to apologise for something that I said the first time we spoke on Monday – I won’t include when you kindly came over to sign my sister’s copy of Scott Pilgrim because I think I pretty much just sat there gormlessly, and said “Thank you” over and over, not overly offensive stuff that. I want to say sorry for admitting to you that years ago a friend of mine had illegally torrented a couple of the songs from The Phantom of the Paradise and then shared those files with me. I immediately followed this with “Well, it was before YouTube existed”, which is a pitiful excuse.
Illegally downloading films, TV shows, music, books, comics, any kind of live performance and other creative piece you can think of, really does hurt the creative industry. I’m not just talking about one person being out of pocket (the creator) or some faceless organisation not reaping in the dosh, but everyone who is involved in the process. From the Script writer on a TV show, to an extra in the background of a film, from the writer of a book to the copy editor and everyone in between, these people are all being affected.
For example; if a film more than tripled its production budget (say it had a 20 million budget and made 85 million) when it had its cinematic release, there would nearly instantly be a lot of talk about a sequel thanks to its success. But then it turns out a second film was never commissioned during the film’s hype, why? Because whilst it was showing in the cinema, and for quite a while afterwards, around a million people were downloading the film illegally, and for the studio to have considered making a second film they would have had to see it crack triple figures when it came to the million dollar mark, rather than just tripling its production budget.
The hypothetical film made about $85 million and I know someone will say “Well, what’s that million downloads got to do with that figure? They would still have been five million out.” Sure, because those million downloads truly represents the number of people who actually watched the film, or tells us how many times those individual downloads were shared again or watched more than once, or how many DVDs they burned of the film and then sold them for their own profit. It’s like saying “There are an estimated 26 million TVs in homes in the UK, therefore, only 26 million people watch TV!” (which is actually kind of the way TV statistics work, unfortunately, because a show that was watched on 6 million TVs could have easily been watched by an audience of 24 million people, meaning that sometimes good shows get axed).
And it’s not just films or big budget productions that experience the backlash of illegal downloading; I’ve seen plenty of accounts from small, self-published authors finding their work on places like Pirate Bay. Or on sites that are specifically for torrenting books, who try to get around their iffy legality by stating that they DID pay for the eBook version, and because they paid for it, they own it and can do what they like with the content (yes, this really is an argument some websites put forward). If that means sharing it for free or even having the gall to CHARGE people for the download (I wish I were making this up) then they feel like they have every right to do that.
Are you a fan of a particular artist? Did they create a painting or series of images that you really love? Do they sell their work? Maybe buy that tote bag or canvas wall art directly from the artist instead of copying the image and getting one made yourself. Yeah, doing that may save you a couple of bucks, or you can get an item that the artist doesn’t sell themselves, but you have stolen someone else’s work. The less money they can earn through their work, the less able they are to keep doing what they love and you enjoy.
And yes, Mr Wright, I realise I appear to be a total hypocrite because I asked you to sign a Cornetto Trilogy poster I had obviously printed off myself, and can’t claim it to be my own work. I had forgotten to grab my copy of Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead and there’s nowhere near my office I could have bought something, so I found an image and printed it off.
I also tracked down the artist’s DeviantArt page (dear lord, I haven’t been on that site in years) found a link to their shop where they sell the print and bought one. It’s going to go alongside the low res image you signed for me. Because I may have been an uninformed dick as a teenager, not questioning my use of sites like Lime Wire or sharing files over chats with friends, but I am now an informed dick of an adult, and I know I would be pissed if someone did that to one of my artist friends.
So my hypothetical film from before doesn’t get a sequel because it was downloaded a million times, the writers won’t get to work on and be paid for a new script, the directors and ADs, runners and crew members and casting companies will be down a job offer, caterers will be down a business offer, extras won’t get the work, location scouts won’t be looking for new locations and studio lots won’t land another contract. Any number of individuals or independent businesses and workers will be short an offer for work. For some this won’t matter, for others this may have a negative impact.
Just like when you take an artist’s image to do with as you please instead of going to them and paying, it has a negative impact. But you’re just one person? That’s right, and all the other people doing it too are also “Just one person”
So, to cut a long story (letter? Essay?) short; I am the biggest kind of idiot for saying to you, Mr Wright, that I had illegally enjoyed music from the film you had loved so much, you picked it to be five out of a thousand to be shown to an audience. Not only that, but that I then didn’t go and (legally) find the film to watch it for myself at the time. I haven’t file shared or illegally downloaded music, TV or films for a good ten years or so, I pay for my subscriptions to streaming websites (even though I hardly use them) and I buy DVDs when I am inclined to own something. But to stand in front of someone like you and say what I did? I can’t believe I have embarrassed myself so much like that (well… I can, I embarrass myself on a near daily basis) and am extending my apologies to you.
I really enjoyed The Phantom of the Paradise, and come next payday I intend to buy a copy of the special edition steel book Blu Ray (it’s all ready and waiting in my Amazon basket, hopefully my housemate’s Blu Ray player won’t break any time soon). You don’t have to worry about me bothering you at next week’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, unfortunately I am unable to go (but you’re right, I definitely need to watch it sometime).
So allow me to apologise for being That Fan, for saying the utterly wrong thing and for being a total idiot at you. There were so many other things I could have, and REALLY WANTED, to say to you. Or I could have just left my idiot mouth shut.
Thank you for being a creator, thank you for sharing your work with us, and the works of others. May those who illegally download your work forever find that their devices’ batteries run out super-fast and every download infects them with viruses.
GS Blogger and Idiot: Fia @Madame_fifi
*Footnote: Yes, I also realise that this encounter probably slipped his mind after a moment or two and he has no idea what the hell I’m talking about. But I’d also like to remind you, hypothetical reader, that he’ll most likely never read this inconsequential gibberish form an inconsequential person