Last week the Internet briefly roused itself from lazily perusing Vines of snoring pugs to express some irritation with Saban Entertainment over their ham-fisted legal action against the makers of Power/Rangers. The smartly made fan video by director Joseph Kahn re-envisioned Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a gritty, dystopian sci-fi actioner, and was loudly defended by Kahn and producer Adi Shankar as a form of speech protected by fair use doctrine, as Kahn and Shankar made it on a strictly not-for-profit basis. Sensible people rallied to their cause, pointing out that fan fiction should be an acceptable and legal form of expression, since nobody was profiting off of someone else’s copyrighted materials. Huzzah for creative common use!
Only, it turns out producer Adi Shankar might have been a teensy bit full of shit. The producer just released a new video, this one from pre-visualization artist Tyler Gibb and featuring an old and wizened James Bond, and notably gone is all the high-minded talk about not-for-profit fan expression. Shankar is now explicitly referring to his method of content production as a new way of doing business, which implies that he would like to get paid, thank you very much.
“There is a changing of the guard, and we need to stop pretending that the people in digital filmmaking are not credible because the audience is gravitating away from us and to them,” Shankar tells Deadline, which is a fun sentence because it places himself squarely in the camp of people the audience is turning away from, now that he kind of sounds like a douche. Also, it weirdly suggests that people were upset about Power/Rangers because it was low-budget digital filmmaking, which is basically the opposite of the case. But Shankar has more to say!
“You must be fearless, but the vast majority of decisions in this industry are fear-based. The fact is that more people saw Jerry Purpdrank and Britney Furlan on Vine this weekend than saw Will Smith in Focus. It’s not a knock on Will Smith, it’s a commentary on what’s happening in entertainment.”
As your 14-year-old niece could tell you, Jerry Purpdrank and Britney Furlan are Vine artists, makers of six-second loops of video shot on iPhones in a matter of minutes (or sometimes hours). And it’s true that while Focus pulled in $18.6 million this weekend, Purpdrank and Furlan’s Vines garnered 1.8 million and 5 million loops respectively. “This new generation doesn’t hold movies as above or below any other form of content out there,” said Shankar, leaving unsaid the part where the amount of money pulled in by a Vine viewed one million times may be ever-so-slightly less than $18.6 million.
The new 10-minute 007 video does indeed look like a pre-viz clip, or something that would have fit right in on Liquid Television back in the day. Fans of things that look like half-animated parts of Archer—only not funny—are encouraged to check it out. As for Shankar, he seems to have found his passion, at least until someone explains to him that his passion can’t legally make him money unless he also has a passion for losing lawsuits. He says that James Bond: In Service Of Nothing was made at the same time as Power/Rangers. It was apparently completed with “all volunteer work, favors and an animation collective,” because getting paid means developing a fondness for others’ unpaid labor. “When people are passionate about something, they just want to do it,” says the man who just wants to monetize others’ passion. “They are doing things for the collective good.” Apparently Shankar’s definition of “collective good” is roughly as accurate as his understanding of the limits of the fair use doctrine.
Shankar, whose accompanying picture in the Deadline story leads the casual reader to assume that his personal style is “extra in a particularly ridiculous 30 Seconds To Mars music video,” will no doubt continue to defend his new business model. If you’d like to see the new James Bond short, you can watch it here.