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Interview with 'The Scene'
March 23, 2005
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“By conservative estimates, more than 200 million people around the world download music, movies, television shows, video games and other electronic entertainment,” the narration at the beginning of the series tells us.

“Music alone accounts for more than a billion downloads a week, yet most people who share files have no idea where they come from. They have no idea there is an entire world, a massive global infrastructure, that exists solely to acquire and disseminate new content. At the highest level of this machine is a place where virtually all these files that spread all around the world originate. It is a place where deals are struck, where identities and access are jealously guarded, and where an elite group of technocrats silently work the controls. Those of us who haunt this place have a name for it. We call it The Scene.”

Slyck first reported on The Scene on Monday. Today, we catch up with the creators, Jun Group Entertainment.

Questions are answered by Mitchell Reichgut, principle of Jun Entertainment Group and writer and director of The Scene.

Thank you for joining us Mitchell.

Tell us, briefly, what is Jun Group about?


Jun Group is dedicated to providing free, legal music, film, and games to the entire file sharing community. We see file sharing as a new (and rapidly maturing) mass medium, and we believe that by having sponsors pay the bills we have created a model where everyone wins: Content owners get paid (in advance); sponsors reach a highly desirable audience in a meaningful and memorable way, and, best of all, consumers get to download and share great entertainment with no strings attached.

What inspired Jun Group to create a television series for distribution on the Internet?

We knew we had a team of talented creative people and access to one of the most powerful distribution mechanisms in the history of media. It was an irresistible combination.

How much does it cost to produce an episode of The Scene? How is this funded?

Each episode of The Scene costs about $600 to produce. We're currently funding the show on our own, but we are in discussion with several potential sponsors, so hopefully that won't be the case for too much longer!

How long does it take to produce an episode?

We've gotten the production process down to about three weeks from start to finish.

How many people watch each instalment?

It's difficult to produce exact numbers, but we estimate that each episode is being downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. This is based on traffic to our Web site (www.welcometothescene.com), downloads of the shows from approximately 15 mirror sites, and estimates of traffic on IRC and Usenet.

A mixture of file sharing and donated centralized server bandwidth is used to distribute each episode. Would it have been possible to distribute the series using only central servers?

It would certainly be possible to distribute using a central server (i.e., a Web site) but the bandwidth would get very expensive - and we never would have reached so many people so quickly. We're very grateful to our mirrors, who donate bandwidth every month to make it easier for people to download our show. It's difficult to know what percentage of our audience gets the show from IRC, Usenet, FTP servers, [compared to] P2P. Our best guess is around 60%

Bruce Forest, a principle of Jun Group, has acted as an expert witness for the RIAA and MPAA. These groups are now in the Supreme Court fighting to shut down any file sharing software they have not authorized.

How do you view the future of file sharing?


First off, let me say that we do not, in any way, support the unauthorized sharing of entertainment content. Having said that, we feel that file sharing is an amazing cultural phenomenon with tons of positive potential. Unlike traditional broadcast media, consumers decide what content will become popular, because if they don't like it they won't trade it. File sharing represents an enormous opportunity for entertainment companies - and we're confident that as time goes on they will see this more and more.

Some critics are concerned about the number of ties between Jun Group and entertainment groups who have taken a stance against file sharing.

Is the show anything more than anti-piracy propaganda? Is jail the ultimate destiny of the lead characters?


The show isn't propaganda; it's entertainment. If we wrote a show about a mafia crime family that was dysfunctional and unhappy, would that be considered anti-mafia propaganda? While we do have corporate clients, we're producing (and paying for) The Scene ourselves because we think the subject matter is fascinating and the distribution channel is absolutely the hottest thing going. There are no ulterior motives.

Some vocal critics complain that the series lacks realism. There is even a spin-off episode called “Teh Scene”.

How much do the writers know about the real scene? Is the criticism of any concern?


First off, we LOVE "Teh Scene!" I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. We were flattered that someone put so much time and energy into creating such an excellent parody! As far as the realism goes, we try to walk a fine line. Our intention was to make the show as realistic as possible - without revealing anything that might expose members of the real scene. Members of our company have spent a lot of time in the scene, and, while we don't necessarily approve of everything that goes on there, we think it's an amazing culture. As one of my partners has pointed out in a few forums, our show has not disrupted the scene in any way, nor has it gotten anyone in trouble.

How do you research the characters, script and storyline?

The characters are based, loosely, on real people that we've met over the years. The storyline and the dialogue write themselves, in a way, because the characters are so strong.

The Scene is released under the Creative Commons Copyright agreement. Anyone can copy and distribute the work, so long as it is not for profit. Would it be possible for the large television studios to follow this lead?

I think it would be great if they did - and we'd love to distribute it for them ;-)

We really feel that free, sponsored entertainment is great for everyone.

Do you hope to take The Scene to a commercial level?

Absolutely. We hope to have it sponsored shortly.

How do you see the Internet impacting on traditional television production and distribution?

Like most people, we believe that the TV and the computer will merge in the coming years. In our estimation, file sharing and Web-based protocols will play a big role in how people consume content. Consumers will, in other words, have a lot more control over what they see and when they see it, which is a great thing.

Is the broadcast flag, which is due to come into force in July, a necessity for the survival of costly productions?

If the only hope of saving costly productions is with the broadcast flag, then we're done with costly productions. Not one of the various DRM schemes ever proposed has worked for more than a few months, and the hardware to evade the broadcast flag already exists. Can the content industries or the FCC point to one *single* song or video that has been protected with DRM that hasn't been pirated?

On the other hand, our vision of the future is that file sharing will become like TV - entertainment that's paid for by sponsors, not by recipients. In that world, you aren't ramming DRM or the broadcast flag down the throats of consumers who don't want it.

How many more episodes, or even series, of The Scene can we look forward to?

We don't have a set number of episodes planned. We hope to keep doing it for a long time. We are actively working on developing other series as well!

Are any episodes going to be set away from computers?

It's a temptation to do that, actually. But one of the things we love about the show is how most of the action takes place in chats, IMs, and e-mails. We'll have to see how it evolves. We're certainly not ruling out a more traditional television format in the future. It would allow us to explore each character more deeply.

Was “Luckychi” really responsible for the leak?

Hah! The way I see it, you can't blame him. His job is to get DVDs out as quickly as possible. Drosan knew that going in...

Do you think the MPAA will ever be able to stop the real scene? Will downloading the latest movie blockbusters be as easy in five years as it is now?

I highly doubt that any legal action will ever stop file sharing. As compression and distribution technologies improve I think it will be easier and easier to download and share video-based files.

What other projects do you have lined up?

We are working toward producing a few other TV-style series, and we're looking into producing The Scene as a television show and/or a feature film. We also hope to be releasing a lot more free, legal, previously unavailable music, games, and video from established artists!

Thank you for your time. Best of luck with the continuing production of The Scene.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Interviews

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