the industry

Director Goes to War With Online Pirates

When the trapped-on-a-ski-lift thriller Frozen opened last February, it made less than $250,000. So when it turned up on IMDbPro’s Moviemeter index (which measures the top ten movies that people are searching for) last week at No. 7, among high-profile moneymakers like Inception, Takers, and Robin Hood, it would seem like sweet vindication and a sign of impending profitability for the film, which is coming out on DVD on September 28. Except for this: The film’s writer/director Adam Green discovered that the reason people were so curious about it was because an early copy had leaked online, and thousands of people were madly downloading it for free. “It’s devastating,” he says. “I literally had a nervous breakdown watching this happen.”

Right now, Green is directing his anger at two places: First, his film’s distributor, Anchor Bay. His movie was first released in February, just as Anchor Bay was being sold off by parent company Starz Media was trying to sell off the company. (It has since taken Anchor Bay off the market.) “It got shitty treatment when it came out,” admits Green, “because unfortunately, we were with a place that had no interest in being in the movie business. Even when the movie came out, you couldn’t find it. There were no commercials.” He adds, “And now, it’s being stolen.” When other films are leaked online, studios sic their killer lawyers on the Torrent sites, but Green says that now that Starz has decided to give Anchor Bay the heave-ho, there’s little interest or resources available to pursue pirates, let alone write them threatening letters. “They couldn’t even pay for a fucking commercial [when they released it], they’re not going to do anything about it now,” he sighs. “Once it’s out there, everybody has it.” Asked for a comment, Anchor Bay president Bill Clark says simply that the company “takes piracy issues very seriously. We deal with each incident on a case-by-case basis and have a great legal team on board that responds quickly.”

The second focus of Green’s rage is, of course, the people downloading his film for free. Hoping to stop the downloading, he posted a dismayed plea online — thinking people would sympathize with an actual artist as opposed to a bottom-line exec — and, well, if you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you know what happened. “Torrent sites started linking to my [negative] response. Fans came after me! I had one guy tell me, and I’m not even kidding here, ‘Hey, I pay $60 a month for Internet; you owe me this,’” relates Green, pausing for a doozy of a metaphor. “So, if I love a woman, is it okay for me to rape her because I love her? It doesn’t work like that!”

He adds: “And by the way, I didn’t make $50 on Frozen; every sale means so much in terms of me having a career. But the fans don’t see it like that. There’s this new entitlement with this generation, where they feel like everybody owes them.”

Green is trying to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen with his next film, Hatchet II, which will be released in theaters October 1 by Dark Sky Films. But this time, he has a plan to combat illegal downloaders, using the same countermeasures employed by major movie studios: sending out multiple decoy versions of Hatchet II to the very Bit Torrent sites that pirated Frozen. “We’re going to be uploading all kinds of files that contain the first five minutes of the movie, labeling ‘em ’Hatchet II rough cut,’ and ’Hatchet II — final mix,’ and so on,” he says. “These files can take two hours to download, so if you keep getting videos of my cat’s litter box, eventually, it’s just going to be too frustrating. There’d be so many, you’d have no idea where to start or what to do. If we can confuse them enough, we might curb it.” That is, unless his fake film catches on with litter-box fetishists who would have paid to see it. Screwed again!

Director Goes to War With Online Pirates