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Wednesday
Feb182015

ZOMBIES, PIRATES AND ME: A DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT.

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.

Yours truly,

Kiah Roache-Turner.”

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).

Reader Comments (18)

Oof...on the one hand your attitude is cool on the other it sucks that you have to write this sort of thing at all. I understand that the situation sucks and just hope that things DO turn around and head in a direction that benefits both the consumer and the artists. All I know is that because of piracy I found out about this article and this film so I will definitely buy this once I can afford to. I have a soft spot in my heart for you Aussies but then I'm more than a little biased. That and omg it looks fun! Wishing you and the rest of your team the best.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterZidders Roofurry

You don't go to a cinema and ask to watch it before determining if you will pay for the ticket. Home viewing should be no different.

We live in a very dishonest world these days, and the internet proves that average every day law abiding people will steal if they know no one is watching.

Sad.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSakah Dikah

I feel he missed a key point: paying NOW will get us MORE cool stuff SOONER!

Frankly I suspect people don't care too much about the mechanics behind THIS film... it's out. But these filmmakers are probably boiling over with ideas for more stuff, and it'd be a shame if they had to give up before we could see it... I really liked this film, and I'll totally throw in a few bucks to see what they do next!

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHolo

I, among countless others seen this at the cinema and it's such a fantastic movie of course i want to own it as well. In fact i cant wait to watch it again and we have told anyone who would listen about the film. There are many people like me who would prefer paying for a download rather than owning a dvd. I dont know if this is even an option that you could maybe look into? But id still buy the dvd if that was all i could buy. Support on Facebook has been great, and Id chip in for sequel (hint hint) :)
It's a testament to you guys and this movie, that in 22 years of going to the cinema i have never seen such a group of people more engaged, laughing out loud and at the end having such a great time & just flat out all sitting there in our seats not leaving . It was amazing.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRenae

Watched it at the cinema last Friday, just preordered my Bluray from JB. Good luck guys, hope everyone does the same. I want tosee a WWyrmwood 2.

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpaul pulcins

I'm from the UK and donated $30 to the film on indiegogo. For me, I paid for the film and wanted to see it and got very, very, bored of waiting. I understand that films can take a shit load longer but i've not heard of any distrubutors or when those in UK will get their packages. I thought the point of donating to indiegogo was to get early access. Also, I remember an indie video game that was released a few months ago that a team poured their souls into too and it was unfortunately ripped off on torrent websites, they went to the websites and GAVE people steam codes for the game and asked them to donate or recommend the game to friends. Not saying you should do that, but it worked for them,. the game is called "this war of mine".

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerp

The whole problem with the film & TV industry and piracy is that distributers are sticking to the out-dated region-based distribution of content and they have completely failed to wake up to the idea that we are one world now. Everyone reads and watching previews of upcoming movies and TV shows at the same time, gets caught up in the hype and expects to see them at the same time. Then they find they can't so they do the next best thing and torrent it instead.

I'm sorry, but these industry guys and gals you are talking about are not smart people. The titanic hit the iceberg 10 years ago and they still having woken up to the fact that their ship is sinking. Pirates simply have a better distribution model for content and they are doing it for free.

As for this movie in particular until the filmmaker started whining about piracy I'd never even heard of it. That's sound's like a pretty big failure in marketing right there. Were you on social media promoting it? Did you go to the big sci-fi/fantasy sites to promote it? I read a couple daily and never saw this film pop up anywhere. There are a lot of good free ways to promote a film that can build an interest in it.

I first saw this story on Reddit and when I did I looked around to see where I could watch this film legally (note: I'm not actually interested in seeing it legally or otherwise, but I was interested in seeing how hard it was to obtain). JBHI only seemed to have it as a pre-order for a physical copy. It wasn't available on any of the Australian versions of iTunes or google play or anywhere else that I could see, just the US version of iTunes). It didn't appear to be at my local cinema either. And you are wondering why people have downloaded it off a torrent site? An Australian movie, not even available for Australians...

February 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Every movie we made was pirated by someone from the distributors lab! Get used to it thats what happens to films unless you have a roomful of lawyers!

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDiBacco Films

Hi John,

Thank you for your response -

In regards to your first paragraph. Yes, you are TOTALLY right here and as I stated in the above article we are all working very hard to change the industry fast enough to keep up with changes in web technology that, quite frankly are moving faster than government bodies and large companies can change policy (these things take time).

In regards to your second paragraph - yep, changes could certainly happen faster. I'm going to do all I can to bring a wider understanding of the issues to the world at large in the hope that we can push these things through faster on my next film …

Third paragraph? Little rude here, mate. I'm not 'whinging' about piracy, I'm not whinging about anything. I'm simply doing all I can through social media to bring to the general attention at large that my cast and crew have yet to be paid - I'll do anything to get these hard-working legends the money they are owed from all the work they put into what I consider a wonderful little film. And yes, we did everything you listed above in terms of social media promotion (you don't become one of the most torrented films in the world overnight by in-action in regards to self marketing). Our marketing budget on this film was basically nothing - almost ALL our marketing was done over a 4 year period via social media (go to our Facebook page and scroll down for 5 mins and you'll see all the handwork we put into this over the years).

In regards to your last paragraph, yes - things need to change. My next film will WITHOUT question follow a different release model as a first time filmmaker I have no say whatsoever in this regard. As a 'second time' reasonably 'globally' successful filmmaker I'll have a bit more to say I would imagine. (please understand we are playing the long game here). The film is available through the below options:

JB HiFi: http://tinyurl.com/l3dznkk
US iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/mncpmwe
iTunes gift card (allows u to stream the film from anywhere)
http://itunesdirect.com.au

These are decent options for Australians and are DEFINITELY a reason not to torrent if you are looking for a legal way to view my film (only should you be interested;)

Thank you so much for engaging in this discussion, sir.

It is only through the free-flow of opinions and ideas that we can get anywhere in this rather complicated mess of neo-entertainment!

Onward and upward!

Kiah

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKiah Roache-Turner

I am reading all this and really wondering why the crew weren't part of the funding/investment budget? Is this part of the problem that film industry workers accept working for a potential and unknown payment?

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKym

Dear Kym

You're missing the entire point.

We're talking about 'piracy', not the profound dedication and tenacity of good willed cast and crew.

S.D.

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSakah Dikah

Hi Sakah, I don't feel I am missing the entire point. The filmmaker speaks of the crew working for a 'deferred payment' and made an appeal to purchase legal copies of the film so the artists can eat, hence weaving together the film budget and piracy. My questioning is not an attack on the film, filmmaker or crew.

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKym

Dear Kym,

it's a good point that you make but in this particular instance there was no budget (the investors were friends, family) we basically paid for production costs out of our own money as we filmed (over 3 and a half years).

Our crew and cast were genuine collaborators who signed on because they believed in the film.

Government funding came later and with the sale of the film this will go a long way towards ensuring everybody is paid most of what they were owed but in the current film market unfortunately we will not be able to secure ALL of the money's owed to these incredible artists - therefore 'profits' are SUPER important, especially considering that most of our key cast and crew have profit share participation in this venture (this is pretty standard for a film this low budget).

My issue here is piracy directly affects the pay-packet of the artist here so all I'm asking is that if you pirate the film and like the film please purchase it also ..

There's nothing weird or underhanded going on here. I'm a normal bloke who is typing this in a small room off my kitchen -

this argument is about real people not 'funding bodies' or investment strategies. We are just a bunch of passionate people who entered into this market very naively and are now fighting for the right of our material to be seen as a legitimate part of the market economy rather than just 'free stuff' …

Cheers for getting involved though, I feel the more debate we spark the more chance we have of changing things!

Kiah

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKiah Roache-Turner

Kym, let me create a scene in your head that may help you see it from the film makers point of view.

Kym I imagine you have a job. You get up each day and slog it a month at at time, lets say you get payed on the last week of every month and your boss transfers your pay to your account on the Friday. Imagine if on that Friday afternoon before you got to pay your rent and buy food for your kids that someone logged into your account and noticed you had $5,000 sitting untouched and they disgustingly downloaded your money, stole your hard earned cash, you dont know who, as they secretly do it on the net and will never get caught.

How would you feel. Call me crazy but I think you'd feel cheated? I think you might even call the cops or bank to reverse the problem. But even worse, imagine if the cops said, "well thats silly of you, why didn't you ask for money up front, why werent you factored into a payment plan prior to the month starting... its your own fault for working that entire month thinking youd prosper at the end of it, so really you only have yourself to blame"......... I think you'd be blown off your feet if you were given your own words.

I imagine you are an honest worker, maybe in the 9-5 system or even work for yourself, one thing is certain, you don't need to be in the film industry to understand that in most cases the universal trade payment system is delivered at the end of the labour worked. And these film makers put their heart and soul into creating a product that will get sold upon completion (Just like Coca Cola, Mc Donalds, BMW cars, your favourite Shoe label... they make their product then present it to the public for sale)... I imagine no one would question the CEO of Coke or BMW if they were to encourage customers to pay for their products instead of stealing it out of fridges or hot wiring cars and fleeing so that they could pay the wages of Coke and BMW employees.

in the same light, The Director shouldn't have to appeal for his product to be purchased or hired. Its pathetic we live in a world that forces his hand to even have to ask.

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKacey Baker

Hi Derp,

I'm so sorry it's taken so long to get the film to you awesome Indiegogo backers - you guys where the first people to believe in us and we tried SO hard to organise to have copies sent out to you guys first but unfortunately when one signs up to a distributer one has to work to their schedule. AS SOON as the DVD/Blurays are printed and packaged (which should be soon) you guys will be the first to be sent those packs ..

Your ideas in regards to the "this war of mine" game is interesting, we'll defo look into that:)

cheers buddy!

Kiah

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKiah Roache-Turner

Hi Kiah,

No worries bruh! Believed in the film when saw that fucking sweet promo scene with the bald guy with the beard and the beers. Gutted that character and scene weren't in it! Saw him play a few zombies though... artistic licensing aye? ;) Saw your post on facebook, nice touch. If you can't kill piracy, smother the pirates with kindness. Looking forward to getting all the extra perks! Your guys dedication on social media is incredible!!!

A Friendly Derp

February 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerp

Saw the donate button too! It's great to see directors reading and listening, if you didn't see the article they wrote about torrents and piracy of the game;

http://www.polygon.com/2014/11/18/7240459/piracy-free-game-this-war-of-mine-11-bit-studios

Safe.

February 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerp

Hey Kiah,

Your mother's neighbour here. Firstly, just wanna give you a big kudos; you've made something to be really proud of. Unfortunately, I didn't end up going to a screening yet and you'll probably be hearing from your mom on how I've seen it (as she was just over this arvo for a chat and directed my attention here). No excuses but >_<''.

Knowing (second hand) slightly that your views on this matter is a more progressive one, I feel you're doing a good job handling this aspect, as anyone reading can see. One thing that caught my attention in your article was "those who pirate the film, love the film and then just move on to the next thing". I think you need not despair, as the more the views, will garner more recognition for the people involved despite the money issue (especially from people who enjoyed their experience). Good will these days on media (and internet quintessential publicity) will go a long way for vice versa results.

Take care and good luck on your next ventures!

February 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterYang

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