It has been a heady couple of weeks for Australian filmmaker, Kiah Roache-Turner. Having topped the iTunes charts with his zombie epic Wyrmwood, the debutant filmmaker then learnt that his low-budget passion-project was also one of the planets most illegally downloaded films. SCREEN-SPACE wanted to know how the turn of events impacted the Sydney-based director (pictured, below; on-set, with one of his creations) who, with his brother Tristan, poured all their money and countless unpaid hours into the production. So, for the first time, we turned our site over to the victim of a crime. Exclusively for SCREEN-SPACE, Kiah Roache-Turner provides a first-person account of how destructive net-piracy truly is…
“My name is Kiah Roache-Turner, I am a filmmaker who has just released my first feature, 'Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead'.
Wyrmwood is currently one of the most torrented films in the world. This is fantastic and horrible, all at the same time. What a lot of these ‘jolly pirates’ don't understand is that the film was made by a bunch of people on weekends over four years on a 'deferred payment' basis. A lot of these amazingly talented actors and crew, including myself, have not seen a cent from this film yet.
In this instance, profits from the film are vitally important because they go directly to very basic things like rent, bills and food for a lot of hardworking artists and technicians who exist in an industry where it is very difficult to find work (pictured, right; on the set of Wyrmwood).
We expected to be torrented. My issue isn't with torrenters; that is a global policing issue that is out of my hands. My issue is with those who pirate the film, love the film and then just move on to the next thing. All I ask is that you think about (your actions) for just a second. I don't mind the 'try before you buy' theory, but if you try it and you like it please pay for a legal copy because artists have to eat. It's really that simple.
I've been following the online comments and a lot of the reaction boils down to "If those fools were too stupid to organise a cross-platform, same-day global release strategy, then they deserve everything they get!" And yes, comments have been that harsh, even harsher; the Internet can be a pretty brutal playground.
When you sign on with a distributor, you sign on to be guided by their existing distribution model. Remember, these guys and gals are really smart and really know how to release a film. They've been doing it for decades to a wildly successful degree.
You don't sign onto one distributer, which would be fantastic; you sign on to many distributers all over the world, who all have different release strategies and key dates and different agreements when it comes to DVD, Blu-ray & VOD. This is a point that needs to be clarified, as most people don't seem to understand how the film industry works. Quite frankly, nor did I until very recently.
In conjunction with Studio Canal, we tried very hard to get 'same day' for Wyrmwood for iTunes but unfortunately our hands were tied due to the window* required by cinemas. In this instance we were able to get a two month window instead of three, which is fantastic. But Aussies were still pissed off when (US distributor) IFC Midnight released theatrical and VOD same day. As soon as the iTunes copy launched, 'BOOM'; somebody ripped that film off the platform, uploaded it to Pirate Bay and the film became one of the most torrented films in the world overnight.
People have been asking, "Then why go theatrical at all?” Unfortunately, funding bodies require a limited theatrical run for funding consideration. And my brother and I (pictured, left) ran out of money for this baby years ago so without funding - NO WYRMWOOD. Thank God Screen Australia believed in us because without government funding for post-production, this film would not be playing in cinemas at all.
People need to understand that this industry has been around for a long time. It is huge and vast and labyrinthine and doesn't change on a dime. I liken it to the 'Titanic'; we've all spotted the iceberg and the ship is turning, but not nearly fast enough. Every single person in every single organisation, from the government bodies to distributors to cinema chains all know what the problems are and they are working their butts off to make these changes. But it is happening in the way that all huge industries generally make gargantuan changes and that is never 'overnight'.
Right now it's in YOUR hands. Yes, YOU the person with the hand paused over the 'download' button getting ready to download my bad-ass ozploitation zombie film RIGHT now. I can't stop you pushing that button nor do I judge you for pushing that button. Mate, that's your decision, it's none of my business. But if you download Wyrmwood and really bloody like it, please do the right thing and purchase a copy. Support independent filmmakers who sweated blood for four long years to bring you that film.
It's all very well to say, "Well, this is how the world is" or "If the industry won't change fast enough, why should I bother?" But the simple fact of the matter is my cast and crew need to eat. So, please - YOU WATCH, YOU BUY and we can eat. It's really that simple.
Australian readers can pre-order Wyrmwood on DVD here.
Wyrmwood can be purchased via the US iTunes store here.
Local screenings (including profit-share arrangements) can be organised here.
*period between a film’s theatrical release and subsequent ancillary platforms (DVD, VOD, Pay-TV, etc).