“DVDs are like currency to me” exuberantly exclaimed a fellow film lover the other night. It was a statement that, though fitting the theme of the night, has been rattling around in my brain ever since. Considering how swiftly technology is advancing why don’t we treat DVDs more like currency? Surely they are more valuable to film lovers than Bitcoins.
Two years ago, at one of our local film lover’s pub nights, someone suggested the idea of a DVD swap. As some people were slowly upgrading their collection to Blu-ray, having a swap meet of sorts was a way of reducing the redundancy in ones collection. Really, no one needs three or four different copies of Dirty Dancing in their collection…though my wife would disagree.
By all accounts the night was a huge success as numerous DVDs, and books for that matter, found new homes. There was no loud bartering like you get in bustling street markets, simply folks saying “hey, do you mind if I take a look at your stack?” and “what do you want for this film or that one?” The large selection of films that ultimately switched hands nicely reflected the diverse taste that many of us have.
Last week a similar thing occurred again, but on a much smaller scale. It provided me a chance to move a few titles that were simply sitting idle in my collection. As much as I loved Jodie Foster’s performance in The Accused, there is rarely a lazy Sunday where I think “I could go for a good legal film about rape right about now.” Instead of letting the film sit idle on my shelf like a deformed toy that has been passed over for a shiny new gaming system, I opted to trade it as part of a package deal. Unlike, say fantasy sports, the swap was a win/win deal for both parties.
By the end of the night I had returned home with almost the same number of discs that I had left with. The only film returning to the shelf was my unopened director’s cut of Oliver Stone’s Alexander. Of the new additions, it was a mix of films I had seen before (The Conversation, Gladiator), others I vaguely recalled seeing years ago (Lawrence of Arabia), and films I had heard of but never got around to watching (Barry Lyndon, Withnail & I). Not a bad haul at all.
Now I get that physical media is slowly losing its appeal in the eyes of those who the favor a more streaming based form of home entertainment. However, as film lovers, should we not be making better use of the DVDs we already have in our possession? Instead of letting them gather dust, and lamenting the fact that something we paid top dollar for upon their release is now being sold in the Wal-Mart $5 bin, we should be using the films as a form of bartering currency.
When I was a kid, trading things was an integral part of the discovery process. Whether it was swapping my peanut butter and jelly sandwich for that exciting pastrami sandwich, trading a Toronto Blue Jay’s baseball card to nab a Cecil Fiedler card, or finding new bands in my teens through mixtapes, there was always value in the process. However, somewhere along the line, the notion of collecting and hoarding items seemed to supersede this.
It is strange in an age where social media has connected film lovers across the globe in ways we could not fathom ten years ago, the simple act of physically sharing titles still seems somewhat foreign. One of the benefits of having a monthly film pub night in town is that you mention a film you haven’t seen and someone surprises you with a copy to borrow the following month. Obviously “borrowing titles” is much harder to achieve across continents, but the process of trading titles that you no longer want is rather simple. In fact all it would cost is the postage which, in most cases, is a minor inconvenience.
Really, it cannot be any worse than having the DVDs/Blu-rays filling up landfills or sitting on a shelf waiting for that day when they are officially considered obsolete like a dust laden stack of VHS cassettes. So maybe we should put more thought into treating our DVDs and Blu-rays like currency as films need to be shared and not merely collected.