April 29, 2021 | HFerris | Blog

How do TV and Film Keep their Secrets Safe?

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tv remote pointed towards tv police drama

In this day and age of television on demand and people binge watching TV shows, the TV and Film industry have had to up their game to prevent spoilers coming out before shows and films are released.

There’s a rumour that Amazon have employed military style security to guard the secrecy of their new Lord of the Rings series. It seems there is a ‘bunker’ with a security guard on the door and fingerprint scanners, all to protect the writer’s room. Sceptics might say that the overdramatic security is a publicity stunt to peak people’s interest in their new TV show. Either way it’s a drastic way to keep the details under wraps. This is not a new trend however, the TV and film industry have been closely guarding their secrets for a long time and it seems the bigger the show/film, the bigger the security.

Television

The whole country seems to be caught up with Line of Duty fever at the moment and with the finale airing this Sunday, viewers are clamouring to find the secrets to the shows ending. Being one of the most popular TV shows in the country, you’d think they would have all kinds of tactics to keep the information safe. However, their security protocols are pretty old school. Everyone involved has to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) meaning they could get sued if they tell anyone information (this does include spouses and family!). They also film in Belfast, which means they avoid a lot of the paparazzi that you would find in cities like London or Manchester. One thing that might surprise you is that the cast, even the main actors, are not told the shows full plot line. They are often only given their own lines, or parts of the scripts and they are NEVER given the script as a whole. This means that they are in the dark of what will happen when the show actually airs. For a show that is so popular and one of the few shows that comes out weekly, they do pretty well to keep the endings of the police drama a secret.

You might remember how the whole country became obsessed with Broadchurch a few years ago? Well, this meant the security had to be tightened on the subsequent series. Scripts were sent out with false titles (Tea and Sympathy) and the head writer Chris Chibnall used an alias and had alternative scripts written. All this so the public could be surprised by the twists and turns week to week.

One of the most closely guarded secret in the UK television industry is the identity of the new person playing The Doctor in Doctor Who. For years the speculation around this makes the headlines, bookies suspend odds and people scramble to find out ahead of time who it could be. The BBC employ classic tactics such as having people audition for fake parts, with fake names and over skype to stop any chance of a spoiler leaking. They will also take any person who leaks a spoiler to court, hopefully deterring anyone else from doing it.

 

Hollywood

You might think that the UK TV industry goes to some extreme lengths to protect their secrets, but it’s nothing compared to that of what the Hollywood film industry do to stop movie spoilers coming out. Part of the difference is that the American press are more intense when it comes to finding out spoilers. Flying drones over film sets, bribing crew members and hacking laptops are only some of the techniques that have been employed to find out the plot twists of the most recent blockbusters. So, it makes sense that the big movie companies invest heavily in security tactics to prevent leaks.

The most well-known film franchise of recent years is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these films have employed some radical techniques to prevent leaks. The actors weren’t allowed to take any scripts home with them and all scripts would be accounted for at the end of every day and destroyed. This made sure that human error wouldn’t mean the script was lost and then leaked. Actors would also only be given the scripts for scenes that involved them, meaning they were in the dark about what was happening in the rest of the movie. The cast were also banned from taking any photos from behind the scenes, in case any information could be gained from the images.

Disney had a similar technique on the set of the new Star Wars films, they would print their scripts on red paper, meaning that if anyone attempted to photocopy it or scan it, it would be completely unreadable. On one major Hollywood film, the actors were sent scripts electronically and they would self-delete after a certain amount of time. They were also cautious of drones flying overhead with cameras (as information had been leaked this way before) so sometimes actors would have to cloak themselves in blankets to walk to a covered set.

Big film companies also add things like unique watermarks, or slight changes in the script, so if there is a leak, studios can identify where the leak came from. Studios also have the ability to block sites that share leaked information, and stop them from showing up in searches. Google recently revealed that they receive over 2 million take down requests per day. Studios can also sue websites that feature leaked, confidential information. This means that even if they did receive spoilers, they may not want to publish them anyway.

 

So, it seems that movie and television studios are going to more and more extreme measures to keep their secrets from being leaked. Do you think that these measures are appropriate? Or do you think it’s all one big publicity stunt?

 

References:

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-movie-studios-prevent-leaks-2016-1?r=US&IR=T#studios-protect-alter-watermark-and-destroy-film-scripts-3

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/apr/09/spolier-alert-tv-and-film-protect-their-blockbusters

https://screenrant.com/hollywood-script-security-leak-prevention-2013/

https://www.cinemablend.com/new/How-Far-Marvel-Now-Going-Prevent-Leaks-86497.html