On the day it was announced HMV was going into administration, producer Jonathan Sothcott posted this on his Facebook page (reprinted here with his permission, don’t go copying and pasting it willy nilly now):
Administration doesn’t mean closure but today’s news about HMV appointing administrators makes it a dark day for the UK film industry. With 90% of physical sales made at supermarkets, HMV was the last bastion of the niche title after the fall of Virgin, Zavvi, MVC, Choices, Tower Records etc. With the supermarkets (understandably) focussing on big budget studio product and uber-commercial top 20 material it means there is nowhere left to buy independent films that don’t make the cut. As a producer, I’m fortunate that my films generally get picked up by the supermarkets. As someone who loves DVDs, I’m gutted that my choices have been so limited.
As a teenager I caught up on more cult movies in the Brighton and Croydon branches of HMV than anywhere else. I know there wasn’t an internet then so the concept of ‘rare films’ made collecting videos more exciting but it was an experience that generations to come are unlikely to have. On Christmas Eve I queued for over an hour in HMV in Croydon buying Christmas presents and it gave me a renewed hope that the rumours were not true and that HMV might live to fight another day.
Alas it was not to be. There’s a lot of silly talk about downloads replacing physical formats and how you have to ‘face up’ to it – scant comfort for the 4,300 people facing unemployment. Download might be on the horizon but I promise you it isn’t here yet. No HMV will push piracy rates up and it will be the illegal downloads that skyrocket.
Sad, sad news.
And it got me thinking.
It got me thinking about how much I enjoy the act of buying something physical, of walking into a shop with cash and walking out with a product I have to wait until I get home to watch.
It got me thinking about what it will mean for low-budget film-makers in the UK and how (apart from a select few who “qualify” for supermarket sales) HMV is the only outlet where people can buy their films; but most of all it got me thinking about how exciting it is to see your own DVD for sale in a shop.
Now, I don’t know if that means anything to you. Mainly because I don’t know who you are.
You may not think seeing a DVD of a film you’ve had a hand in creating on an actual shelf in an actual shop is particularly exciting. Maybe you’ve had so many DVDs released you no longer care? Maybe you’re far too cool to get excited about such trivial things? Maybe you’ve never made any contribution to a film, script or otherwise, and just don’t see what the fuss is about?
Me? I fucking love it.
Regardless of the quality of the film itself, I find something electrifying about seeing my work in a shop. Being able to buy it in public is part of it; but a greater thrill is anyone else can buy it too!
They might buy it in front of me!
They might even tell their mate what they’ve heard about the film. Good or bad, doesn’t matter – it would be an unfiltered opinion!
Okay, so you could argue that the internet is full of unfiltered opinions; but you could equally argue most internet opinions are written using the ‘cunt’ filter. (Yes, including the ones expressed here.)
Even better than that, maybe the guy behind the counter will make some comment on my purchase? Maybe he’ll tell me I’m wasting my money and should buy Football Fuck Ups Vol 18 instead? Maybe he’ll look me in the eye, recognise I’m in some way connected to the making of this DVD and acknowledge me with a knowing nod of the head?
None of these things have ever happened, by the way; but they could! One day, they might, who knows?
Okay, they probably won’t; but buying your own DVD in an actual shop is so exciting (to me) that it overrides all reason.
First time I saw a DVD of my work on sale was The Evolved. Annoyingly, I bought it before I’d thought of taking a pic. I had to go back into the shop (or store, for t’was in America) and ask the clerk if I could put it back on the shelf and take a photo of it (lest he saw me taking it off again afterwards and accused me of stealing).
Surely this would be the moment where he recognised my greatness!
No. He just said “Yeah, whatever. Do what you like.” and strolled off to be impossibly cool somewhere else while I giggled insanely and snapped the photo above.
Not immediately above, higher than that.
Not that one, the one above that.
Go back and look at it! Between The Exorcist and The Evil Dead! How fucking cool is that?
The photos are in chronological order, by the way. I suppose I should move them around so that one is next to this sentence; but I just can’t be fucking bothered.
Oh, I’ve just remembered! I got so excited about seeing The Evolved in store that next time I passed an FYE, some months later, I went in and bought it again. Yes, I am the guy who bought all the physical copies ever sold! Both of them, that was me!
The guy in that shop did pass comment on the DVD, he looked at the cover, looked up at me and said …
“Holy shit! What the fuck is that?”
I love seeing my work on shop shelves and I love buying them with my own cash … and it saddens me that generations of film-makers to come may not have that opportunity.
If HMV goes (as it probably will) then only those who make the kind of movies supermarkets want to sell will get to experience that buzz; and supermarkets are notoriously fickle about what they will and won’t stock.
Yes the death of HMV would have wider implications for the UK film industry (this article in The Guardian highlights most of them); but from a purely selfish level, I need that small victory at the end of the process.
Writing a film is fucking hard. Dealing with the development process is even fucking harder. Watching the final product emerge as an absolute fucking mess is just soul destroying; but being able to walk into a shop and buy a copy of the DVD, no matter how atrocious its contents … it’s a high I genuinely hope those who’ve never experienced it get to love one day.
But realistically, no HMV means you probably won’t.
You can’t see this, but I’m now doing my sad face.