I've been a bootlegger for seven years. That all ends tonight when I pull the plug on SuperHappyFun.com. It will no longer be a viable "grey market" site after tonight.
I got into the bootleg business as revenge. I was in desperate need of a few movies and was unable to trade for them. Instead, I was charged through the nose for them. Rather than see anyone else pay the exorbitant prices I did, I decided to sell copies for cheap in order to make up what I had paid as well as unleash these titles to the world; effectively undermining the guys that ripped me off.
Don't piss me off.
Thus, SuperHappyFun.com was born. I had registered the domain years before, not knowing what to do with such a wonderfully-named site other than hosting an animation of a drawing I traced out of a Japanese magazine. Now I could try my hand at making an e-commerce/database-driven site.
Out of the blue, a stranger offered to help me put some of my more popular titles on DVDr - a new format to the time - a home-made DVD that played on most of the new DVD machines. Soon things evolved and this stranger went from a guy converting things to one DVDr to him being my partner in crime -- fulfilling orders from his secret underground lair.
I was the murky face of the business -- buying new titles, making deals for things, and gathering a stock that would make my old tape-trading buddies drool. I started garnering a "name" in the bootleg biz, helped quite a bit by an article in Cinemascope by Jonathan Rosenbaum which lauded the rarities I had amassed.
Meanwhile, my partner toiled in obscurity, his life ruled by the order queue that I maintained.
We had our spats -- my partner always had a knack of misplacing things or having massive harddrive meltdowns. I could never get rid of anything or misplace anything, never knowing when my partner would need me to send it to him. This got fairly frustrating.
I tried to stay within the spirit of the law, if not the letter. I tried to only sell titles that weren't available on DVD in the United States. This became more difficult as more and more titles found their way out. I eventually gave up even trying to carry certain directors as they kept being released by obscure DVD outfits.
In actuality, I loved that the titles on SuperHappyFun were being ousted by legitimate release. My dream is that all of the two thousand films we once carried would be as easy to get as the latest hot release. I want a world where the grey market isn't necessary; where all movies are available via a massive movie server where they could be viewed in their original aspect ratio with their original running time with any/all languages available as audio tracks and/or subtitles. Keep dreaming, I know.
Things got weird a few times when I got cease & desist orders. Matthew Barney's lawyers were not happy about me selling copies of Cremaster when the "artist" could fetch a few hundred grand for copies (no lie). David Lynch's people didn't like that the Rabbits webseries showed up on my site (though they didn't mention the Mulholland Drive TV Pilot -- the video that really started the whole business. Remarkably, I never heard from George Lucas's legal team even with multiple fan edits of The Phantom Menace prominent on the site (the other film that pushed me over the edge, along with Jim Morrison's HWY).
Along the way, I tried to branch out a bit. Read about that fiasco here.
When my partner lost his day job, I encouraged him to start his own site and sell the scads of titles he had that I didn't want to sell (too close to being illegal for me). Oh, what bad advice. A few weeks after his site finally opened I found that he was selling some of the same things I was. Essentially, I was competing... against myself. That wouldn't do.
Rather than going ballistic, I decided that this was my chance to get out of the business. No longer would I have to refuse all registered mail (the way all previous C&D letters had come) and constantly scan New Release lists to find out what new titles I'd have to pull from my site.
This is the year of clean-up, apparently. I pulled the plug on Cashiers du Cinemart and now I'm sunsetting SuperHappyFun.com. Now I can finally clean out my basement and start getting rid of the hundred of VHS tapes and DVDs that have been cluttering my life for so long. (Be sure to check back for announcements of DVD sales on ebay or something). Time to cut the things that don't make me money or happy.
Wish me luck!