An Interview from Brazil featuring Lexi Alexander
A while ago Hollywood director Lexi Alexander (@lexiAlex) shared with us her ideas about file sharing and was both stunned at the viciousness of the reaction from the film industry and the lack of interest expressed by the Pirate community. Despite this she has come out fighting and is gaining respect and her voice is being heard amongst movie makers and goers around the world. We are proud to be able to bring you this exclusive English language version of an interview by Thiago Cardim from the original on JUDÃO titled “Lexi Alexander, a Girl not Popular at all in Hollywood”.
At 5′ 8″ (173cm), Lexi Alexander is the kind of woman who attracts attention. As beautiful today, at forty, as she was at 19, when she moved from Germany to California and had everything to become a star. A Champion in Karate, she moved to the USA with nothing but courage because she wanted to work in movies. As an actress, you should be thinking? No shit! But instead she preferred to work as stuntwoman in action movies, kicking some big guys asses, before she started making her own short movies. Bingo. She became a director.
Although her most recent movie is Lifted (not released in Brazil), a film about a boy who decides to become singer to try to overcome the fact that his reservist father was summoned to the conflicts in Afghanistan, she is best known by the powerful Hooligans, with Elijah Wood, which explores the violent world of football supporters in England. She was also responsible for a film with a Marvel character, the downtrodden Punisher: War Zone – in perhaps one of the most faithful visions of Frank Castle on the big screen (sorry, Thomas Jane) and had been listed as a strong contender to direct Wonder Woman.
But in recent months, the voice of Lexi has been widely heard in the world of movies because of her controversial opinions about file sharing.
“No, copying is not stealing,” she says determined at the opening of this exclusive chat with JUDÃO. Only this sentence would be enough to prevent her from being invited to the best parties in Hollywood but honestly, Lexi does not seem to care that she has positioned herself radically against most of her fellow filmmakers, who are openly in favor of the criminalization of piracy . “Hollywood can no longer deceive the public” she makes clear in a conversation about the power of the consumer in the new digital era, through the distribution of films in international territories, before she moves on to the state of women behind the camera in the land of the Seventh Art. “The situation is dire and is getting worse”, she says says.
Thiago: First of all, let’s establish the limits here: for you, is there a difference between file sharing and piracy? In short: copying is the same as stealing?
Lexi: No, copying is not theft. Because when you steal something it means the other person doesn’t have it anymore. When you copy something, the other person never loses their possession. That’s why the US supreme court refers to the crime of downloading a movie without paying as “copy infringement” not theft. There is general confusion about the vocabulary. I don’t know how it came about that file sharers were called Pirates, but from what I understand, they decided to own the name in defiance. This makes things complicated, especially when people in the copyright movement suddenly insist that everybody should refer to the issue as “file sharing” during a debate, not pirating. Especially Americans get really confused when it is someone from the “Pirate Party” insisting on dropping the “piracy” term. I get where Pirates are coming from, but they certainly haven’t done themselves a favor by first owning the name and now trying to keep it out of the file sharing debates.
Thiago: Are you the type who believes that sharing content directly affects the entertainment business profits? More people sharing necessarily mean less money circulating and more unemployment in the industry – or is this bullshit?
Lexi: It’s complete and utter bullshit. Listen, I am part of this system. I have done intensive investigations into the distribution of profits from intellectual property in the film business. File sharing is not what’s draining money from artists. Big studios are. But see, like all big businesses, they’re clever and they have money to brainwash each and everyone of us into thinking that our residual checks could be so much bigger if people wouldn’t be downloading our movies illegally. Never mind they’re saying this to us filmmakers as they’re in the middle of robbing us blind. The MPAA are the original Artful Dodgers.
Thiago: File sharing has changed, in fact, the industry? In what ways?
Lexi: I think what has changed is that Hollywood can’t trick the general public into buying a ticket for a bad movie anymore. If the movie leaks (it always does eventually) and file sharers will find out it’s a total bomb, they will spread that word of mouth as fast as good word of mouth. So essentially, you can’t scam people as bad in the digital age because the curtain gets pulled up faster. Furthermore, the audience has little patience to wait for the release of a movie, if it has been released in other countries many months before . And rightly so. This bullshit about some countries enjoying premier screenings weeks before it hits the rest of the world is elitist and condescending, especially since they expect us to talk about their products on the internet. So we’re supposed to tell the Europeans and South Americans, etc. how great the movie is…while they have no chance to see it. It’s outrageous. It’s like a mean rich kid who waves his or her ice cream in front of the other kids faces, knowing that they couldn’t afford one or missed the ice cream truck. Frankly I refuse to participate in this elitism.
Thiago: It seems to me that Hollywood has forgotten how to really talk with young people in their own terms. Do you agree with that?
Lexi: I absolutely agree. At the same time I am disappointed in young people who do not take that personal. You are the consumer, decide who you spend money on. I am against the criminalization of file sharing, which has cost me a lot of work in Hollywood, as it is an unpopular stance to take. Many other filmmakers will openly say that they believe everybody who downloads a movie should get at least 10 years in prison. So why are young people buying tickets for this director’s movie? The same guy who would throw them in prison (because let’s be honest, anybody under the age of 20 who can afford a computer has downloaded a movie. music track or TV show at some point.) So young people should investigate where the filmmaker stands on the issue of file sharing, before they spend money on them at all.
Thiago: This position, which in fact is not the most popular, has earned you some kind of problem in this market after you turned it public?
Lexi: Yes, but it was worth it. I do not support the status quo just because it is expected of me. The whole idea of arresting file sharers is ridiculous and in 100 years from now there will be funny cartoons about the idiots who tried to criminalize technological progress. I don’t want to be in those cartoons and if that means that my peers will exclude me and blacklist me because of it…even better. The cartoons about them will be extra funny.
I also believe that we have a responsibility to make culture available for all people, not only those who can afford to go to the movies. I think many of my colleagues are blissfully unaware of the global percentage of people who cannot EVER go to a movie theater, let alone with an entire family. I do not want to make movies for the rich. It’s not why I became a filmmaker. I also don’t believe that less fortunate people should have to wait until a movie is released on public TV for free, while richer people get to see it months in advance. Think about it. Culture is important in almost all professions, so if two people go up for a job interview…one of them can talk about the current box office hit movie because he could afford to see it in the theater and the other person can’t talk about it because he simply can’t afford the ticket…then my industry — with its restrictions on distribution of our product — is directly contributing to economic inequality. I don’t want to be part of that. If my colleagues would stop for a minute to think about themselves and instead contemplate what a miracle file sharing is and how much good it could do…then we could really make a difference in the world. But see…when there isn’t any Paparazzi around…there aren’t a lot of philanthropists to find in Hollywood either.
Thiago: How could the entertainment industry benefit from file sharing? How could they use this potentially in their favor?
Lexi: They are already doing it, but they won’t admit it. Many, many films have benefited from piracy word-of-mouth. The thing about the film industry is, they don’t want to work with file sharing…they want to control it. Just like what happened to Napster. You don’t hear Apple or Amazon complaining about digital tracks, do you?
Thiago: What is the main aspect of piracy that does bother you? That stolen movies are getting leaked before they’re ready for example?
Lexi: Look, no filmmaker likes their films shown in an unfinished state. I get that it’s happening, but if you love film and have respect for the art…don’t watch illegal cam rips. I mean…really…people who watch cam rips are pathetic to me. Its like drinking incredible bad, bad beer that some amateur made and then stretched with water. It’s gross. You’re missing so much about the film that so many people have worked on. Framing and lighting may not seem important to you, but it is. You just don’t notice it as a single element. I can promise you though, by eliminating the proper framing and lighting…because some idiot is shooting a cinema screen with a handheld camera, you are cheating yourself out of the true experience of this movie. So what I am saying is, if you copy shit…copy it well and with the respect it deserves (FYI, this does not matter when it comes to porn.)
Thiago: Getting away from this issue: I want to hear your opinion about the current presence of women in the film industry. Both in directing and in leading roles on superhero movies, for example. What is still missing to see a more egalitarian Hollywood?
Lexi: It is dire, dire, dire and it is getting worse. And by the way, people don’t understand that the MPAA’s fight against piracy and Hollywood’s stubborn exclusion of women and ethnic minorities are directly related. Rich, selfish assholes are rich,selfish assholes on pretty much any issue that effects the amount of money they make or could potentially lose.They’re not fond of sharing anything and they certainly won’t make room on the table for someone who is not like them. If you’re not a white man in Hollywood, you have to elbow yourself a seat and continue to keep your guard up at all times. The thing is…once you’re at the table you soon lose your appetite because who wants to eat in such company.
My hope is that digital technology will level things out more and that it will eventually eliminate favoritism. But technology cannot do it alone. The audience has to become more discriminating as well and not buy into every big tentpole movie because they have been brainwashed into thinking that’s the movie to see. I mean, we barely have any original films anymore. It’s all shit we’re serving you guys. Young people should discriminate, demand a better product, be selective, don’t just drink Coca Cola or Pepsi because that’s the only soda brand you can think of. Instead be mad that two brands have managed to occupy so much space in your mind which they have basically bought with millions of dollars in manipulative advertising. I really, really hope that the next generations cannot be fooled that easily. Hopefully while I’m still making films and TV shows.
All content CC BY-NC-SA Thiago Cardim and Lexi Alexander