Director Of Thor: Ragnarok Pirated Clips For His Sizzle Reel

from the everyone's-doing-it! dept

With the constant drumbeat of the evils of copyright infringement and internet piracy being issued from those leading the movie industry, you might have been under the impression everyone within the industry held the same beliefs. Between the cries of lost profits, the constant calls for the censorship of websites, and even the requests to roll back safe harbor protections that have helped foster what must be considered a far larger audience for the industry, perhaps you pictured the rank and file of the movie business as white-clad monk-like figures that served as paragons of copyright virtue.

Yet that’s often not the case. While many artists, actors, and directors do indeed toe the industry line on matters of piracy, you will occasionally get glimpses of what has to be considered normalcy in how people engage with copyright issues among members of the industry. We should keep in mind our argument that essentially everyone will infringe on intellectual property at some point, often times without knowing or intending it, because engaging in said behavior just seems to make sense. During a radio interview Taiki Waititi did to promote Thor: Ragnarok, which he directed, he admitted to doing it himself.

Speaking with broadcaster Tom Power, Waititi revealed that when putting together his promotional showreel for Thor: Ragnarok, he obtained its source material from illegal sources. Explaining the process used to acquire clips to create his ‘sizzle reel’ (a short video highlighting a director’s vision and tone for a proposed movie), Waititi revealed his less-than-official approach.

“I cut together little clips and shots – I basically illegally torrented and, erm, you know, ripped clips from the Internet,” Waititi said.

“Of a bunch of different things?” Power asked.

“I don’t mind saying that…erm…on the radio,” Waititi added, unconvincingly.

Almost immediately afterwards, Waititi seemed to realize that he was admitting to copyright infringement on a recording and asked for that part of the interview to be cut out, which of course it wasn’t.

So what are sizzle reels? When a director pitches a movie to a studio, they will often include a short reel of movie clips that demonstrate what they feel to be their overall vision as a director and tie that in with whatever film is being pitched. Producing a sizzle reel, particularly on short notice, can be a harrowing experience. You have to get the movies from which to pull clips. You have to make sure those movies are in a format easily editable to make the clips. You have to then splice them together in a coherent way to demonstrate your vision and themes for the movie pitch.

Of course, the internet provides an easier avenue for much of that effort, which is why a director like Waititi would naturally go to this massive resource to build his sizzle reel. It’s as innocuous a thing as could be. Also, it’s definitely copyright infringement.

Now, Waititi almost certainly will face zero repercussions for this confession, but only because he’s a protected industry insider with great movies on his resume. But if this were an up and coming director? Or just some kids having fun? It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up images of threat letters demanding settlements, or even protracted legal proceedings over this kind of “piracy.”

Whatever this discrepancy says about how copyright is selectively enforced, it should be obvious that nothing in this is promoting the progress of the arts.

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Comments on “Director Of Thor: Ragnarok Pirated Clips For His Sizzle Reel”

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orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Even I read this one TWO WEEKS AGO.

It’s entirely legal to pirate films from pirated film torrents to use in your little clip reel or whatever? OK then. Good to know.

Further, who says it is his own material? Does he own the copyrights on his “own” material as a director anyway?

You need to get over the fact this site isn’t breaking news. Your head must simply explode once a week when things that happened 15 years ago are mentioned.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Even I read this one TWO WEEKS AGO.

Yup. Marvel paid for it, so Marvel owns it. The director doesn’t have any rights to it any more than a programmer keeps the rights to any code written working for Microsoft.

When Babylon 5 ended, Babylonian Productions was required to turn over all their digital models and CGI effects to Warner Bros. They were not allowed to keep a copy.

The show was one of the first filmed in wide-screen. Though broadcast in 4:3, for wide-screen they had the original Super-35mm negatives and the CGI effects would be re-rendered from the existing models.

Soon it was time for a spin-off show and a wide-screen DVDs. But Warner had LOST the digital models and effects. So the CGI on the DVDs looks awful, having been merely stretched from 4:3. And Warner forgot that they had the original Super-35mm negatives for the live-action parts.

For the spin-off show, the B5 folks recovered some models given to Sierra Online for a video game.

More interestingly they put out a call and used digital models created independently by B5 fans. Which copyright maximalists would consider a crime, but ultimately saved money for the copyright owner.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Even I read this one TWO WEEKS AGO.

“Even I read this one TWO WEEKS AGO.”

Well done. Might I suggest you stay wherever it was where you read that since, unlike this site, it appears to be a primary news source. Years of idiocy, and you still don’t know what this site actually is.

“And so far as I can tell, it’s entirely legal and even non-contradictory to take your own material off teh internets for convenience”

Well, your copyright masters have created a system where that’s probably not true – the studio, not the director, will be the copyright holder of a movie.

But, either way, the implication is that Waititi was assembling a sizzle reel to show examples of his intended vision – i.e. it was NOT his work that was being pirated, but rather that of the films he wished to emulate.

So, you wrote 2 sentences and they were both completely wrong. A 100% failure rate is impressive, even by your standards.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

A couple issues – one, it isn’t clear that all the material in his sizzle real was his to begin with and two he doesn’t hold the copyright even if it was. Even if you are one of the people who would try to claim that he can’t sell his rights, that just leads down a rabbit hole of conflicting copyright claims, from the actors to the SFX guys.

But from a legal standpoint, its piracy, because that material is owned by the studios, not the director in any sense (unlike some musicians who still own part of the copyright as the writer/composer)

Anonymous Coward says:

>But from a legal standpoint, its piracy

Actually not, as no ships were involved.

From a legal standpoint, it might well be either “copyright infringement” or “fair use”.

“Fair use”, it’s worth repating isn’t “a legal excuse for copyright infringement”; it is a right reserved to the public, and no less important than other rights reserved to the proprietor.

ryuugami says:

Arrest all of 'em

Producing a sizzle reel, particularly on short notice, can be a harrowing experience. You have to get the movies from which to pull clips. You have to make sure those movies are in a format easily editable to make the clips.

You have to be sure not to breach the DMCA anti-circumvention clause… which means you can’t use clips from DVDs, Blue-Rays, streaming sources, or almost any other ostensibly "legal" source. So unless you’re using public domain material, or are provided non-DRM’d sources by the studios, "sizzle reels" are actually illegal.

If copyright laws were properly enforced, 99% of movie&music directors/producers/executives would end up in jail and/or bankrupt. The only thing keeping those laws on the books is selective enforcement.

How did that quote go, the best way to get rid of an unjust law is to follow it to the letter with no exceptions, or something.

Rekrul says:

Personally, I’d be fine if Waititi never directed another Marvel movie. The box office says I’m in the minority, but I thought that he completely ruined the tone of the movie with all his slapstick humor. He made the character of Thor look like a dim-witted klutz. The character of the Grandmaster belonged in an Austin Powers movie and even the film’s main villain Hela talked like she just stepped out of one of SyFy’s original movies made by The Asylum. He even managed to make The Hulk seem dumber than he was in previous movies. The whole movie had more dumb jokes than both Guardians of the Galaxy movies combined.

Anyone who thinks it makes sense to have Thor, a person who has faced off against hoards of enemies and giant creatures, scream like a little girl at a hologram and then almost piss himself when he sees someone else die, has no place directing Marvel superhero movies.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

I demand realistic dialogue from my Stan Lee characters!

Oh right, I forgot that nothing matters in a movie based on a comic. Why, they could have had the hulk fly them all back to Asgard by farting rainbows and then Thor could have defeated Hela by executing a Mortal Kombat II Babality move on her, then they all go to Tubbytronic Superdome to have a celebration with Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po. I mean, it’s only a comic book movie, so nothing matters, right?

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:


Click my name. It links to my blog.

Off to the right, you’ll see a header that says "Categories". If you click on the one that says Comics, here’s what you’ll see, going from top to bottom:

A two-part, 1400-word essay on IDW’s Transformers comics

A post on April O’Neil’s racial ambiguity in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics

Two posts about Harvey Kurtzman

A post about Essex County

A post about a Humble Bundle which, among other things, discusses why I hate the way it looks when publishers use the original 4-color printing process on glossy paper

The last two parts of a lengthy series I’ve written on the subject of Archie v Penders, an ownership dispute between the comics publisher and the guy who used to be the main writer on the Sonic the Hedgehog comic.

That’s page 1.

In summary: motherfucker, do I look like a man who would say "Any complaint about anything in the movie can be excused with the same rationale that it’s just a comicbook based film," or anything remotely like that, to you?

Because here’s what you look like to me: a man who has never read a Stan Lee comic book in his life. Anybody who has would have read the sentence, "I demand realistic dialogue from my Stan Lee characters!" and understood exactly what I was getting at. (It’s not complicated: Stan Lee does not write realistic dialogue. That’s the joke. That’s really all there is to it. Nothing about how comics don’t matter, no lengthy digressions about farts and Teletubbies, which frankly say a lot more about your mentality than mine.)

You like what you like; that’s fine. You’ve got your opinion and I’ve got mine. My opinion is that it’s okay for a comic book villain to talk like some kind of comic book villain.

If you want a superhero movie that’s all about how super-serious superheroes are and how seriously you should take them, try Batman v Superman. No jokes anywhere, I promise.

(Hey, would you look at that: a movie that directly disproves the premise that I think "it’s a comic book movie" excuses a bad film. There’s no excuse for Batman v Superman.)

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I waited until the Rifftrax came out. I enjoyed the Rifftrax. The film itself…well, it turned out to be every bit as bad as everybody said.

Justice League wound up being pretty good, though. They picked the most boring villain possible out of the entire Fourth World canon (even Simyan and Makkari would have been better), and they still haven’t made a compelling case for why anybody is supposed to like Superman (aside from "Here’s some John Williams theme music! Remember those other Superman movies?"), but I still liked it overall.

It had jokes in it, though, so I’m not sure if our friend here would have liked it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Now the way he got the material is questionable, but you can’t infringe when your the owner already.

Except he almost certainly isn’t the owner of the material, as pointed out above. In fact given the words he used(‘illegally torrented’), and the fact that he tried to have the part of the interview in which he admitted to it removed, I’d say it’s pretty much a guarantee that he wasn’t.

‘The ones I pitched the idea to owned the material’ does not translate to ‘I own the material’, so yeah, still possibly copyright infringement(not going to bother with the fair use question offhand), it’s just the odds of him being sued for it are very low.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Fair use?

I don’t think that’s relevant here. Fair use would be a valid defence were he to be prosecuted for the resulting product, but that’s not what he’s criticised here for.

What’s under discussion is not the reel he made, but rather that he illegally obtained the sources he made it from. Fair use is not a defence for that, nor for the hypocrisy of doing so while working on a project for a studio which has had no problem prosecuting people for doing the exact same thing in the past.

drew (profile) says:

Re: Re: Fair use?

Hi Paul, let’s apply the same standards we do elsewhere. Just because he torrented the content doesn’t mean it was illegal. Likely yes, but not definitely. It could have been a legitimately loaded trailer, a clip from a commentary or critique programme etc etc etc. There are, as we regularly say on here, plenty of non-infringing uses of torrents and plenty of fair use cases.
The hypocrisy challenge I obviously have no issue with. 🙂

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Fair use?

Yes, and in fact the very same file can be both infringing and non-infringing depending on factors well outside of the mechanism of transfer. The copyright itself is far too convoluted even before you start looking at things to use as a defense in case of being accused of infringement.

That’s why trying to hold Google et al write algorithms wholly responsible for such things is a very bad idea – they cannot possibly have all the information they need to have an accurate decision. That’s even before you start looking at more complex things like fair use.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fair use?

“Hi Paul, let’s apply the same standards we do elsewhere.”

I do. In fact, what he did was actually worse since rather than merely downloading the movies to watch them, he did so in order to profit.

“Just because he torrented the content doesn’t mean it was illegal”

True. But he literally said he did it illegally. I’m not making any assumptions here, I’m going on his own words where he confessed to breaking the law.

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