Back in January 2004, Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish and I co-directed a short film entitled Who Steals Movies? The idea was to spoof, as closely as possible, the MPAA ads that were, at the time, preceding theatrical presentations. We decided that we wanted to make it from the perspective of a film bootlegger, the rub being that he only bootlegged crappy movies and, since we were going to secretly premiere it at Slamdance, it had to include Robert Redford somehow. We shot the piece in about an hour, and I spent the first few days of the Slamdance Film Festival editing the short on Dan’s laptop so it would be ready to premiere prior to the other film I had worked on with Dan, his real-estate musical Open House. It showed, it got some laughs and that was really the end of it as far as Dan and I were concerned. We figured it was a one joke affair. Capitalize on the moment (which we did, we were the first to make one of those shorts and now there are quite a few floating around) and then, that’s it.
When we got back to LA, a friend of ours from iFilm, John Halecky, suggested that we send the short to him so he could put it online. Sure, why not? Then John suggested that we take it one step further and register the fake domain name we had included at the end of the short (we had put down www.respectbootleggers.org to pick on the MPAA’s own www.respectcopyrights.org). This got Dan and I thinking, and we set about designing a spoof website that was a mirror to MPAA’s own, only completely pimping the bootlegger’s perspective. This site, coupled with the short on iFilm, actually got Dan and I some publicity. We were written about in Wired, and the short began bringing in the numbers as far as views went. I think it hit 19,000+ within two months, and then I stopped paying attention.
So here we are now, about two years after the initial posting on iFilm, and Who Steals Movies? is back on the frontpage of the Comedy section, this time in “competing spoofs” against, you guessed it, another fake MPAA ad. I have no idea how we’re competing (as in, what’s the criteria) but we’ve got about 13,000 more views than the other short so… are we winning?