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Response: Positive Reinforcement Of Piracy And The Invalidation Of Comic-Con

This past weekend was the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, pretty much the Mecca of comic book and comic book movie fandom. Few other comic conventions attract as much world wide attention and non so much as the legendary Hall H panels for major studios like Warner Bros. Marvel, Fox, Disney and others.

Each year exclusive Con only trailers and other footage is shown for upcoming movies and each year some douche with a smart phone camera films it and posts their low quality, hand held shit online, probably for the views and attention or just because they can. Honestly, I don't really care why because I'll watch it anyway.



The difference between a bootleg trailer filmed from the floor of Hall H and an official trailer is crowd reaction. You don't get any sense of how a trailer is being received by fans watching the official online version.

But, when you hear an audience going nuts for Harley Quinn and the Joker in the leaked Suicide Squad trailer from this years comic-con, well you can't help but be a little more excited for the film. I know I was. I was even more interested to see the official HD quality trailer as a result of that low quality footage. (Though I will concede that particular film had my attention as soon as the first utterance of 'Joker' was linked to the film).



Sean Gerber of Modern Myth Media wrote an article, Positive Reinforcement Of Piracy And The Invalidation Of Comic-Con, commenting on the fact that Warner Bros. caved to fans by releasing an official HD version of the Comic-con trailer online, within days of the leaked footage, as a way of combating the film being seen in a poor light (presumably by being promoted with a low quality boot-leg). Bemoaning the fact that the trailer was intended to be an exclusive for attendees.

The thrust of Sean's article is that, by caving to piracy and releasing the same trailer online within hours, it sets  precedent, it sends a message to fans that this is all it takes to see official comic-con exclusive footage online. Footage that some people paid money and queued for hours to see as a comic-con exclusive.

In doing so it somehow invalidates the special experience that is Hall H where fans are not just treated to official trailers but may also see early unfinished footage, test footage set photos, key cast members, directors and more.

Personally I disagree that it invalidates the Hall H experience. Quite the opposite in my opinion.

The only reason I care about San Diego Comic-Con is because I know that's where the majority of movies I have an interest in will debut new footage. There are many people like me who will never attend SDCC in their life time. Obviously we'd love to be there but circumstances are against us for varying and very valid reasons.

We're not deliberately boycotting the event nor do we feel entitled to see anything shown there. However, when SDCC is on we're focused on any little bit of info we can get our hands on, including those crappy phone recorded trailers because we want to be part of the discussion. Share the excitement of things that are released first in Hall H that we love too.

All of what's presented will be talked about and described endlessly by those who were there within minutes of panels ending if not sooner anyway, why shouldn't studios release that footage and those trailers officially when my interest in seeing and discussing it is at an all time high?

Even if every panel was recorded in full and put online there's nothing quite like the experience of being there. Being among the first to see and experience everything at a panel live in the room. It doesn't matter that people online will see everything as soon as the panel is over there's still the bragging rights of saying 'I was there. I know what it was like to be in the room'. It's the same reason people go to see their favorite bands perform live. The live experience is entirely different to listening to your favorite songs in their studio recorded format. And let's not forget SDCC is more than just panels.

I'm not saying studios should release the trailers and other footage they show SDCC officially. They can do what they want but why limit the discussion to 6 to 7000 people in a hall, many of whom are media, there for the express purpose of reporting what they saw to the wider audience who couldn't make it.

What's fun about new footage of an upcoming film is not seeing it first (though there is an initial buzz in that) but discussing every aspect of what it was you saw with your friends. In today's modern social constructs that often span borders and even oceans, it's almost certain most of your friends won't have access to that footage to keep the momentum of the discussion going. Keeping footage exclusive limits the word of mouth of the film. Not just for the people who weren't there but for those who were, who have to try and remember what they saw from the one or maybe two play throughs they saw at the presentation.

Personally I think it's within each studio's interest to officially release comic-con footage, particularly if it's a complete trailer or even a teaser trailer, shortly after the panels they're shown at. In doing so they keep the global audience focused on their Hall H exclusives and are still able to create moments exclusively for attendees (such as Marvel bringing out Tom Hiddleston in character as Loki a few years ago - how often and where else do you see an actual comic book movie character performed live by the actor from the film?)



The issue is not that officially releasing trailers online hours after a Hall H panel invalidates Comic-con. What it does is bypass the media outlets reporting on comic-con. Fans no longer have to scour websites looking for information about what people saw at SDCC because they can just go to the official release of that content. Which means those media outlets need to get more creative than just describing what they saw at the event (Personally I hate the rise of live tweeting or live blogging of events by media outlets - just film or audio record the damn thing on your phone, it amounts to the same thing in the end).

At the same time studios do need to get more creative with their presentations. SDCC in particular is a global event now. Just parading stars and showing trailers isn't really enough for the live experience, though it certainly should still be the core of the presentation. Adding a little bit of flare to the presentation with content that really works best live would make queuing for 36 hours seem like something a little less insane to do (and don't forget there's more to SDCC than panels that only attendees will ever experience... like Zack Snyder arriving in the actual Batmobile and handing out T-Shirts).

In the end you can't control what people film on their iPhone but studios can invalidate it by recording their events in high quality and releasing it themselves. They could even release it to select media outlets as exclusives if they want to keep the media in the loop.

Either way, times have changed. Perhaps events should take a lead from the Beastie Boys with their 2006 concert DVD Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! where most of the footage was shot by audience members?

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