Piracy, critic embargos, and Kelly Preston
In an industry that shouts from the rooftops with all the subtlety of tornado about film piracy, why would someone do anything that could be remotely associated with the practice?
I’m an avid practitioner of bending the rules. Sometimes you poke, sometimes you tickle, but never, and I do mean never, do you kick in the door with a neon sign hanging around your neck.
An incident dropped in the entertainment industry a few months back involving the review of a leaked copy of a film. Sure, it was on the Net and sure it was begging to be seen, but why would anyone, especially a respected critic, view — let alone review said flick for the whole world to see? When you work inside an industry that goes to great lengths to produce silly little videos with Dorothy and the Scarecrow helping teach us the horrors of film piracy, why would you chance it?
Recently a Fox News movie critic named Roger Friedman was fired for running a review of an leaked, unfinished, allegedly pirated version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Some argue the move was too harsh by Fox, while some note that Fox must have thought that the move was too close to the piracy issue for comfort. Was Friedman right in running the review? Was Fox negligent in letting it hit the Web in the first place? There are arguments for both sides.
As a fellow critic, I feel the frustration that most critics experience. We’re allowed the privilege of viewing films before they are released, but then we are hit with embargos about when our reviews can run. We get e-mails with big, bold red type informing us of the dire consequences if we happen to run a review before the designated release date.
To an extent I can understand; the studio wants to keep its cards close to the vest. They don’t want to show their hand right before the final round of betting. They dump hundreds of millions of dollars into a project and it’s understandable they want to preserve the integrity of the product.
On the flip side, wouldn’t it be nice to generate a little extra buzz? Maybe roll the dice and hope that a majority of critics pour out wondrous accolades on your film. It just might work.
Here’s the kicker – the same rules don’t apply for everyone. While some critics stare resentfully at giant red embargo lettering, waiting for the opportunity to unleash their reviews on the world, others are not held to the same standard. You can log on to just about any review site and see the big boys weighing in on the current release.
Fair or unfair, it’s what we must live with.
Friedman is now suing his former bosses to the tune of $5 million for damages and lost income after his firing. He alleges that the work print he viewed, but didn’t download on the Internet, actually was possessed and controlled by his boss. If that’s true, does it really change much? He still viewed the movie.
The question truly is, if it’s there, should you partake?
I’ve had films I couldn’t wait to rave about, but the review had to stay logged. One of the torments of being a critic is waiting, but that doesn’t give anyone a free pass to do whatever they wish.
Should his editors have stepped in from the get-go and shelved the review? Yes. Should Friedman have used a little better judgment in regards to allegedly watching an unfinished print of the movie over the Internet? Absolutely.
Friedman has voiced his belief that celebrity Scientologists were behind his firing as well. It’s not a shooter on the grassy knoll, but a conspiracy is a conspiracy I guess.
It all boils down to taking responsibility for his actions. He openly admitted to watching a pirated copy of Wolverine on the net and then running a review of the film. That is what ultimately brought him down, not Kelly Preston.
Leave the Scientologists alone Friedman; they’re just waiting on the mothership. Just kidding, Tommy.