The Serpent and the Indie Film.
What is this serpent you speak of I hear you ask? It’s a beast whose name haunts the dusty room that is our fond memories of edgy film from back in the day. Although society seems to have become more progressive in its outlook of edgy film, we are on the cusp of being bitten again by this serpent. This time around I feel it will certainly be fatal. So, what is the name of this destructive and dangerous beast? Censorship is its name. As it returns from the 1980s with even more venom and cunning than ever before. Its mission is to destroy what we fought so hard against in the times of moral outrage.
It is me who feels outraged that it has raised its head again. This time not from the ejected cassette of the video player, or the gaze of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) or even ill-informed vote seeking politicians and dog owners. The new lair for the beast lies within the worlds of digital media platforms - from Facebook, YouTube, Amazon Prime and Netflix. I confess that I use all of the said platforms. Am I a hypocrite? Maybe, but please hear me out. The attack from censorship this time around is not in the form of anger over the content or a moral standing – because todays films are more horrific than their 1980’s predecessors. However, it comes from the standpoint of censoring indie films or content that the media over lords don’t like or agree with, or even for what we stand for.
These platforms are starting to ban or just take down media, for many reasons without explanation. This seems strange since similarly made (bigger budget) films seem to remain untouched. Is it because they only want high quality films on the platform? At the time of writing, Amazon are looking to buy MGM, as well as already owning the IMDB, Facebook have Instagram & WhatsApp, and two of the biggest Netflix shareholders happen to be Vanguard and BlackRock who are the top two owners of Time Warner, Comcast, Disney and News Corp. Four of the six media companies that control more than 90% of the U.S. media and Google owns YouTube. So, let’s take a look at YouTubes policy:
Consequences for a pattern of harassing behaviour
Something we heard from our creators is that harassment sometimes takes the shape of a pattern of repeated behaviour across multiple videos or comments, even if any individual video doesn’t cross our policy line. To address this, we're tightening our policies for the YouTube Partner Program (YPP)
If any of these companies want your content off their platform, what can you do to stop them? The answer is nothing. YouTube have written into their policy that your video can be taken down even though it does not cross their policy line. So, you are playing by their own guide lines, yet they have a get out of jail card to use when they wish. In some ways I think their ever-changing policy is the reincarnated ghost of Mary Whitehouse, claiming they are protecting their users, whist they are just bringing in censorship in a new guise.
So where do you go next? Nowhere because all these companies own everything so in reality you will eventually not be able to show your film on any platform, which means your film is banned by default and censored by this big business. The lack of available and viable alternatives means that these companies have a monopoly over information. So how about physical media such as DVD/Blu-ray? These can still be used for distribution; however, streaming is putting the nail in that coffin. Who owns the streaming platforms? All of the above.
So, let’s sum up, of course policy is good when protecting the characteristics of people from hate speech, bullying and everything else in between. However, having censorship forced on us through the back door based on a far-reaching policy, I find underhand at best. In general, if our product doesn’t fit the narrative, then we no longer exist simply because a film or a number of films by the same filmmaker follows a pattern that can be deemed as harassing behaviour. Why? Because the content is similar.
This serpent is ready to strike. In my humble opinion and this time, we will not survive, as this poison seeps through our dreams and hard work until we become crushed under the footsteps of the media giants. So let’s do what we can for as long as we can before the World Serpent destroys us.