Who is the biggest enemy of film-makers and writers? Their thieving online-sharing enthusiasts, according to the usual narrative. Sticky-fingered fans won't hesitate to pirate work and share it. As a consequence, writers are earning peanuts, films aren't making back their cost, and the cultural end of days is nigh. Fans have even been blamed for their excessive enthusiasm influencing the creator: is it Steven Moffat's fault that the last series of Sherlock wasn't up to scratch? Nope, it was those pesky fans again, liking his show too much and somehow therefore encouraging him to focus too much on the nerds and not enough on the mass audience.
But as Quentin Tarantino has discovered, it's your friends you should be worrying about, more than your fans. The director has this week announced that he is — for now — scrapping work on The Hateful Eight, a western whose first-draft script has been leaked by an acting agent. Tarantino declared himself too depressed to continue with the project in the short-term.
While there will doubtless be people accusing him of diva-dom, it's a perfectly understandable reaction. Rewriting is the hardest part of writing, but also the most satisfying. There is a succession of tiny eureka moments where one problem after another is resolved and improved. Having people read a first draft is like having them eat uncooked dough instead of bread, and then telling you they think it's a little under-baked. Your work is being judged on its unfinished state, and for a writer to reclaim the enthusiasm needed for fixing mistakes (when they've been seen and discussed by all already) is a very tough ask.
Tarantino has stopped just short of naming who he believes to be the guilty party, but remarked that he gave the script to three actors, one of whom has the leaky agent. Tim Roth is apparently in the clear, which must come as a relief to his management. So although those too-keen fans might be at fault for reading the leaked script, they didn't start this. As other writers have found before, it's often the industry people who can't be trusted.
Stephanie Meyer found herself in a similar position to Tarantino a few years ago, when an early draft of one of the Twilight books was — again — leaked by someone she knew. It wasn't a crack team of Edward-loving teens who swiped her manuscript, but someone she had trusted to read the twelve-chapter chunk for professional reasons. She found herself too saddened by the leak to continue working on it. You may think the world a better place with less angsty Twilight in it, and I wouldn't disagree. But the point is that her enthusiasm for the work was destroyed, at least for the last five years, because the story was seen too soon.
Industry leaks have always occurred — JK Rowling's law-firm were responsible for the highest-profile one last year. But, vexed as Rowling was by the revelation of her nom-de-plume, it didn't stop her from writing another book as Robert Galbraith. The loss of anonymity was frustrating, but at least the work remained in her control, even if the secret did not. The moment where we — the readers — saw the book was still decided by her.
It has always baffled me that some fans are so keen for advance material — scripts, photos from the set, plot-twists — as though the true sign of fandom is to know everything about a film or book before actually seeing it, thus ruining all chances of being surprised by a work the first time you see it — one of life's tiny, perfect delights. But these fans couldn't get the material they crave if the insiders didn't leak the stuff in the first place.
This week, a man was hauled out of a cinema in Ohio, for wearing google glasses (which can record film, though they were switched off, and acting as mere prescription lenses). He was rightly annoyed to be treated as a potential criminal. The film industry shouldn't be frog-marching their customers out of screenings; they should be checking their own attitude to copyright and confidentiality.
I have been in America this week, to give a talk on Classics and discover what cold weather really feels like. As always, I am intrigued by the shift in focus that happens when I visit. I could have gone another 20 years in Britain without knowing about change-of-heart insurance. But one brief trip stateside and I now know you can be insured against being left at the altar. Sure, your heart will still be smashed into a thousand shards, but on the plus side, you'll get the money back for the cake.
An average wedding in the US (I now know) costs virtually $30,000, which is serious money and, I presume, a sizeable cake. And as one insurer pointed out: you wouldn't buy a $10,000 ring without insurance (she's right there: I wouldn't buy a $10,000 ring at all). So why take the risk on a whole wedding, when you might end up with a broken heart and a broken bank? At least this way, you'll be writhing in pain while filling in a claim form.
I see the practicalities of this argument, but can't help thinking the solution is simpler than it looks: have a cheaper wedding, or live in sin. No insurance necessary.