by Content Cafe — April 23, 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 Shaun, please introduce yourself.
I am a screenwriter who has spent the past decade or so telling stories on both the big and small screen. My first feature film Snowtown premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have some my other films such as Berlin Syndrome, True History of The Kelly Gang and Penguin Bloom premiere at the Sundance and Toronto festivals. In television I have written for series such as Mindhunter, Deadline Gallipoli and Janet King.
How does piracy affect your business?
Sadly, it affects it all too much. In today’s world, with its burgeoning technologies, it appears it’s only getting easier to pirate film and television. As an artist whose living is made from that work it’s tough knowing that, while your work may be getting seen online, often people aren’t paying for it. That has a knock-on effect upon filmmakers residual payments.
What do you think is the most significant impact of piracy on the creative industry?
Film in particular has enough challenges at the moment, piracy is one we could do without. I believe it has never been more difficult to fund films than it is in today’s current climate. While television has flourished independent cinema has taken a major hit and that was before the pandemic. Since Covid-19 cinema chains are closing and to see films being pirated online makes it even worse.
What is the biggest challenge in the fight against piracy?
Technology I think. Though hopefully it can be used to prevent piracy as effectively as it’s been used to promote it. I also think people expect to get a lot more for their dollar than they used to. Back in the day, I would think nothing of renting a couple videos in a night and spending $12. Now that price gets you a month’s worth of endless content. So people perhaps don’t value the work as highly as they once did. ‘It’s so cheap now why can’t it just be free?’ Is a thought I’ve heard voiced. Piracy may always be out there, so it’s about we as the public valuing the product enough to pay for it.
How do you think Australia is measuring up in tackling piracy?
I’m not sure to be honest. I hope well. I remember before every movie I used rent there was an advertisement trying to stop video piracy. I don’t see those anymore so I hope we haven’t taken a step backwards. My hope is that the government continues to work towards stamping it out for all those whose work in the industry.
Do you have any personal experiences or anecdotes about piracy?
I think every filmmaker recalls that first time they’re travelling overseas and they come across a pirated copy of their film. For me it was seeing Snowtown on sale for next to nothing on a street corner in South East Asia. Honestly I think coasters were more expensive so people could’ve just saved some money and used the DVD as one.
What are you watching and recommending to friends at the moment?
I’ve been excited to head back to the cinema so I’ve hunted down all the Oscar hopefuls. I loved Sound of Metal, The Father and Minari. It’s been wonderful to witness Australian films like The Dry and (gratuitous plug) Penguin Bloom drawing crowds as well. At home I’m currently watching the Amazon documentary series Making Their Mark as I’m a football tragic. And catching up on a lot of great Aussie content on Stan; it’s good to see a streamer producing lots of quality local content.
What excites you about the future of your industry sector?
The demand for content and distinct voices should be exciting for all storytellers. The writer has never been in greater demand. My hope is that with the greater competition for eyes, filmmakers/showrunners strive to be original and inventive. It’s easy to not risk being brave in storytelling but I believe nowadays it’s more of a risk not to be. Otherwise, you just get lost in the crowd.