Giving back to directors who need it?
August 1, 2008 1:50 AM   Subscribe

I often download documentaries, and generally love them, and frequently feel like I want to give back to the director. Monetarily-wise, that is, as perhaps I didn't pay for them. What do you think of a service that allowed for paypal or such donation to individual directors? Could it work? Alternately, directors of small films could set up a link on their websites, and one could spread the idea memetically. I'm not looking to cash in on this, just to get feedback on an idea of how to assuage my guilt and help support those who make films worthy of support.
posted by aschwa5 to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
I think you could always... buy the documentary on DVD?
posted by jedrek at 1:58 AM on August 1, 2008 can't think of a pay for movies?

Seriously? Am I missing something here? Because if you wanted to help them, you'd just buy the damn thing and help them get a deal for another one.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:10 AM on August 1, 2008

jedrek, you're assuming that... the documentary is out on DVD.

It's an interesting idea, but isn't it really a tacit admission that you're ripping the director off in the first place by downloading their work?

And also, the director is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the list of people (researchers, writers, editors, technical crew etc) who make a successful documentary happen.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:11 AM on August 1, 2008

I think it's a fair assumption that if it's on the torrent sites, it's either out on DVD, soon to be out on DVD, or the filmmaker or company has uploaded the doc themselves, in which case the entire question is moot.

I think what you're really after is a way to assuage your guilt rather than a way to monetize that torrent-guilt. I'd suggest Netflix combined with purchasing those DVDs you find particularly fantastic. Directly contributing money to filmmakers you like doesn't quite produce the result you're looking for and doesn't pay for all those hundreds of people involved in making the film. I assume you're hoping for more good documentaries to be made. They will get made if there's a demand for them, if you buy them, if you go see them. Please don't download movies without paying for them in some fashion.
posted by incessant at 2:46 AM on August 1, 2008

I think it's a fair assumption that if it's on the torrent sites, it's either out on DVD...

Or on someone's PVR.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:40 AM on August 1, 2008

Or on someone's PVR.

It seems to me that you really screwed up your licensing if your movie is on TV, but it's impossible to buy on DVD.
posted by meta_eli at 5:53 AM on August 1, 2008

As a film-maker myself, I have a limited amount of sympathy for victims of copyright violation who have screwed up their distribution arrangements so badly that there is no way to acquire their content legally in exchange for money. Self-distribution of DVDs is so hassle-free and easy that there really is no excuse. It's noble of you to want to get money to them, but I think you're fighting an uphill battle with people this clueless.
posted by caek at 6:20 AM on August 1, 2008

Best way to give back is to buy the DVD, plus with the DVD you often get a commentary track with is usually a fantastic way to rewatch a documentary you liked.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:22 AM on August 1, 2008

It seems to me that you really screwed up your licensing if your movie is on TV, but it's impossible to buy on DVD.

Possibly, possibly not. The distribution model's changing rapidly, but rights allocation isn't. Most of the BBC's factual output, even when made by independent production companies, doesn't make it onto DVD, because the sums just don't add up. (Here's a story about Jonathan Miller's Brief History of Disbelief, which the BBC didn't think would appeal to Americans.) Just as illicit home recordings preserved programmes that were deleted from the broadcast archives, a couple of torrent sites are bringing documentary-makers (Jonathan Meades is a good example) to a wider audience.

If these are documentaries that don't make it onto DVD, your best bet is to contact the broadcaster of record and say 'I watched XXX with pleasure and would appreciate it if you [make it available to buy] [offer it to broadcasters in my country] [commission the makers to do some more].' Or you could create a blog entitled 'not available on DVD' and hope to give them some googlejuice.
posted by holgate at 6:35 AM on August 1, 2008

I would also add that a system like this leaves out all the "little guys" involved in the production of the movie. Any kind of payment outside of the industry may seem noble, but then everyone else in the chain doesn't get their share. The director is the most visible member, but not the only deserving one.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:57 AM on August 1, 2008

There is a service set up so people who make films can get compensated for their efforts by people who enjoy them. It's called buying them.

For those who say "But what if its not for sale?" it's almost definitely for sale somewhere. If scrappy little garage bands can sell home made DVDs out of the back of their van then a documentary maker can make and sell DVDs.
posted by Ookseer at 9:10 AM on August 1, 2008

If you're just wanting to support the director to make more films like the ones you've downloaded, I'm sure you could set something up to get money to particular directors through their agents or managers if they have them.

But, as other people have pointed out, most likely there are other people involved in the making of that documentary. The director may have gotten funding from someone else or was able to sell the distribution rights to his/her finished film after getting it in a film festival.

If it's available, buy it. Many docs and indy films depend on DVD sales since they can't get enough screen time in theaters. If you don't want to collect it, give it as a gift.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:41 AM on August 1, 2008

Snag Films is supposed to help with this.
posted by tinatiga at 1:23 PM on August 1, 2008

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