Content Cafe


Industry Voices: Deanne Weir,

by Content Cafe — May 20,2021

Each month we hear from industry insiders in Australia and abroad to get their take on content piracy. Is content protection improving? How do we stop piracy? How does Australia compare to the rest of the world? These are some of the questions we'll be exploring with leaders across the content industry.


Welcome Deanne, please introduce yourself.

Supporting storytellers has been part of my world for many years.  I spent 10 years in pay-tv at Austar, 8 years on the board of Screen Australia, and I have been part-owner of Hoodlum since 2012.  Now I am Chair of Sydney Film Festival as well as For Films Sake, and I am investing in feature films and documentaries through WeirAnderson Films.  My passion is supporting female Australian filmmakers to tell Australian stories for global audiences.  I am also Chair of Ai-Media, an ASX-listed technology company that makes live and recorded video content accessible for audiences around the globe through captioning, audio description and translation.   

Does piracy affect your business or that of your stakeholders? How? 

Of course!  I am part of a broader creative and commercial community that wants to inform, entertain and engage all of us through screen content.  Whether it is the formation of an original idea that forms part of a screenplay or the writing of a treatment for a documentary, the creative process that lies behind each step of the journey to storytelling sees someone expending emotional, physical or financial capital.  That effort has value, and if we want to experience the ultimate result of the creative process, by watching the screen content, we should be prepared to pay fair value for it.  That might be through watching ads, through donating, through paying for a subscription or buying a ticket, but whatever the method, the notion of exchange is where our mindset needs to be. A young artist might choose to make something available for free as part of getting their name and work known, but in that case the notion of exchange still requires those who choose to experience the work to consciously do something to acknowledge the generosity of the artist.  It might be a social media post or a recommendation to friends, but something active is required.

If that exchange doesn’t happen, if people actively choose to pirate content because they have the technical means to do so, then they are not only undermining the social bargain of exchange, but they are telling creative people and the commercial people who support them that their work doesn’t matter.  The commercial system and business models that support screen content have been constantly changing, and it is up to everyone involved in the industry to understand those changes and adapt.  However piracy is not a business model: and telling someone that their work has no value but then consciously choosing to view it anyway, well that is just rude.

At the Sydney Film Festival we create opportunities for filmmakers from around the world to find new audiences. Sometimes those films are big budgets but often they are smaller budget projects from emerging filmmakers who can take the support and visibility offered by a film festival and turn that into a lifelong career and a great body of work.  Piracy can destroy the fragile environment in which not for profit festivals like ours operate, and that harms filmmakers, audiences and our cultural environment.

What do you think is the most significant impact of piracy on the creative industry? 

Piracy de-motivates everybody, from creators, to investors, to exhibitors.  This is a risky enough game as it is, and it needs all elements of the chain to act together to bring stories to the screen.  The higher the risk of piracy, the less likely investors will be willing to fund projects or continue to invest in exhibition venues.  And, if creatives can’t get funding to make projects, they may just give up, and we are all poorer for that.

What is the biggest challenge in the fight against piracy?

Complacency and relativism.  ‘It was just one film’.  ‘I don’t normally do this’.  ‘I watched it for free but I didn’t really like it so I wouldn’t have paid for it anyway’.  We are very good at convincing ourselves that our little act of piracy didn’t really make any difference, but of course if we multiply that across a viewing universe, the loss of revenue and the loss of opportunities can have a huge impact.

What are you watching and recommending to friends at the moment? 

One of the joys of a multitude of streaming services is that it provides a great opportunity for Australian stories to find a new life, even if you have to work a little bit harder sometimes to find them.  ABC iview, Foxtel, STAN and SBS On Demand all have some great Australian feature films that I am currently working through, I am trying for 2 per week.  I just watched Down Under last night, I missed it when it first came out in 2016.  Do yourself a favour and go and re-discover this film, a fabulous portrayal of the stupidity of racism and toxic masculinity.

Before you go check out last month’s interviews with  Belinda Lui and Shaun Grant