Harvey Weinstein called on the U.K., U.S. and other governments to follow France in enacting stricter anti-piracy laws to protect filmmakers as he delivered the keynote address to an industry audience at the start of the 56th BFI London Film Festival’s Industry Program Thursday night.
He encouraged the global film industry to unite to change piracy laws, to oppose broadcaster consolidation and to preserve film heritage.
Following a reel of Weinstein’s pics, including this year’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Master” and “Django Unchained,” BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill introduced Weinstein as “the godfather of the sort of film the BFI stands for. Harvey all but created the world of modern independent cinema.”
Weinstein talked to the audience about three problems he felt were facing the film industry.
He attacked Internet piracy. “Our business is much more robust than we are feeling right now, but the benefits are going to other people,” said Weinstein, saying unauthorized online use of film and film clips denied actors, directors, composers and other filmmakers of their rightful returns.
“It’s like going into a clothing store, taking a few shirts and saying ‘I believe in free shirts.”
He praised the tough stance in France, signed into law in May 2009 by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, where government agency Hadopi (Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet) has the authority to cut users’ Internet connections before taking them to court.
“It works in France, they shut you down. People are disincentivized to steal. We need to emulate the French laws in the U.K., the U.S. and around the world,” said Weinstein.
Next he addressed the growing consolidation of TV companies leading to reduced competition for movies.
“We will end up with six companies owning 500 channels. There will be no diversity. The world will get smaller and smaller and smaller,” said Weinstein. “They say ‘we have six networks so we’ll put one president and one buyer in charge of all and fire five presidents and five buyers as it’s more economical, but then filmmakers, writers, actors and composers get less.
“I am worried about the regulators not being smart enough to handle the problem.”
He called for the global film industry to highlight the problem reduced competition has on filmmakers.
Finally he addressed what he called the “threat against the heritage of cinema,” raising a concern that too many film executives do not watch and understand “the rich history” of cinema.
He used clips from a series of classic movies by F.W. Murnau, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Charles Chaplin, King Hu and John Huston to illustrate the debt modern filmmakers owe to their predecessors and to suggest that filmmakers should learn from them.
“We have to put some of our own time in to remind us what we love about the movies, to understand how we profit from the past.”
Asked by London fest director Clare Stewart whether he perceived a threat to originality in Hollywood with the proliferation of sequels and remakes, he praised Joss Whedon’s summer blockbuster “The Avengers” as an example of smart filmmaking, but criticized the studios for being too happy to put out inferior product where they know an audience will turn out regardless.
“These giant companies produce movies for profit. We want to be profitable too, but we want to do something worthwhile and innovative. I haven’t gone there yet but there’s always a strong possibility I’ll be selling out shortly,” he joked.
Reflecting on the recent shootings at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Weinstein revealed he is planning to assemble a panel for next year’s Sundance Film Festival to discuss the issue of violence in cinema.
“I don’t know how violence effects audiences. I want to do a panel about that at Sundance with people that have studied it. I have no answers and I’ve made a lot of very violent movies.”