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Is piracy democratizing entertainment or destroying it?

Davinia Levy's picture

In many places in the world, there is easy access to pirated movies. You can either buy them in CD or DVD format from street vendors, or, increasingly, download them directly into your computer from online sites.  This form of consuming entertainment content is not only harmful to the movie industry but to culture in a broader sense.

Some may say that piracy is allowing more people access content that otherwise would not be available to them because of price. “Democratizing” entertainment, if you will. Movie tickets are not cheap, and for many, it can be a luxury treat to go watch a movie in the theater or buy the original DVD from a legitimate distributor. Furthermore, some may argue that if someone is pirating material because the price of the original is too high, that act of piracy cannot be considered a “loss sale” when calculating the economic damage of piracy, since that person would not have purchased the original material anyway (because it being too expensive). In that sense, piracy can make movies reach more people, beyond those wealthy enough to have the extra spendable income to go watch a movie in a cinema.

The real economic impact of piracy is hard to calculate in certain terms. However, many authors agree that movie studios lose a lot of revenue to piracy. This has a great impact on the kinds of movies that the studios will decide to invest in and produce. Faced with low box office and sales revenues, the movie industry will be more inclined to produce movies that will draw people to the cinemas and guarantee box office returns (such as big franchise sequels or blockbusters) rather than bet on a production that is considered less mainstream or invest in a new concept from an independent filmmaker. In Trevor Norkey’s words: Due to the increase in film piracy, production companies and movie studios are now much less likely to loan money out to an independent filmmaker with an idea than they are to a team of writers and producers working on a Harry Potter spin-off.

And, to me, that is the worst part.

#2 from 2014: Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak

Margaret Miller's picture

Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on August 06, 2014


In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence.Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.

The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.

Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak

Margaret Miller's picture

In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence. Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.

The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.
 

The Reel World: Film & Development Knowledge

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

I’ve never been to Colombia nor do I have the slightest idea of what it’s like to be involved with drug lords smuggling people across borders, but I remember what it was like to watch Maria Full of Grace, a movie about a pregnant Colombian teenager that agrees to become a drug mule in a desperate attempt to support her family.  Following Maria’s journey from the streets of Bogota, where she worked in sweat shop like conditions at a flower plantation, to the illicit world of the drug trade that transports her to the city of New York, was an incredibly intense and emotional experience for me. Yes, I am a crier and this movie was both terrifying and tearful. But outside of the emotional appeal, did it provide me with an education on Colombian society? Was it a true depiction of criminals exploiting the vulnerabilities of the poor? Did it shape my view of international drug enforcement policies in the U.S.? These are the type of questions that authors of a new World Bank study entitled, The Projection of Development, try to answer in their compelling research on the interface between cinema and development.
 
By examining an interesting range of historical and contemporary films that touch on a wide variety of development issues—such as poverty, urban violence, conflict and war, and human rights—this paper explores the power and limitations of cinematograhic representation as an authoritative source of development knowledge. It focuses primarily on dramatic films rather than documentaries. Interestingly, it draws on a selection of popular films that have been successful in the global north, including City of God, The Constant Gardner, Missing, and The Year of Living Dangerously. As noted in the report, the authors are acutely aware of this northern bias, but they hope to encourage further research that will explore films from India, South Africa, Nigeria, and South Korea, among other places.

Albert Einstein and Brad Pitt Walk Into a Bar…

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Another Sunday evening recently found me fuming through another science infotainment show as they abound these days on not-so commercial broadcasts. It made me think about how important science education is in development and how easy it is to do it wrong. Popular science education is essential, and not only in development. Climate change is one of the most obvious issues where people need to understand what’s going on and need to understand it fast. Health issues are another area where a better understanding of scientific principles can contribute to behavior change that could promote better public health. What I tend to see around, however, is not as useful as the producers may think.

Let Me Entertain You

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

When we talk about how mass communication can be used to foster development effectiveness, what kind of communication are we talking about? Well, I would say that we often talk about information-centered mass communication – be it in political media or through other channels. Communication centered on facts and bits of information is certainly a wide-spread approach in development, but let’s think about communication that does not so much focus on facts, but on emotions and context.