Rum Runner Bay, Island of the Lost Gold
In Hollywood, movies are big business. Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in film franchises that will hopefully return billions in profits to the studios. But what happens when a film gets pirated? To understand how the illegal movie pirating business works I sailed to the Island of the Lost Gold, deep in the Caribbean, to a place called Rum Runner Bay, to see first hand how these pirates are turning stolen blockbuster Hollywood films into treasure chests of gold.
As I step off the boat I’m immediately struck by the raw beauty of the island. Palm forests cover the softly rolling hills like a blanket. Parrots squawk like protesters at a rally, telling me to beware, dead men tell no tales. The water of Rum Runners Bay is clear as glass. On top, as if they are floating on nothing, sit several galleons, all flying the skull and cross bones of the Jolly Roger. I’m in pirate country.
A rotund man with a peg leg, an eye patch and a parrot sitting on his shoulder greets me as I trudge across the sandy beach. This is Green Beard, one of the movie pirates who uses the island to ply his illegal trade. His bushy green beard hides most of his face, making it difficult to discern if he is smiling or scowling. A sword rests jauntily on his hip and his puffy pants and shirt flap lazily in the warm breeze. “Ar me hardy, welcome to Rum Runner Bay.” He speaks a traditional pirate dialect, over emphasizing the Ars and trailing out the final syllables of each sentence. “So you’ve come to see how we pirate the movies.” It’s at this point that he pulls a jewel encrusted dagger and holds it to my throat. His breath smells of rum and cod. “Ya won’t be telling no one of ar little hideout, will ya?” After I crap my pants and tell him no he seems to ease up and we trudge into the jungle to his studio.
Two hours later we arrive at Green Beard’s studio, a small but surprisingly hi-tech movie studio complete with editing bays and a large screening room. I watch as a pirate, dressed in full pirate regalia sneers into a camera in front of a green screen. On the editor’s computer screen is a scene from Disney’s latest endeavor, The Last Jedi. The editor is digitally erasing Chewbacca and replacing him with the pirate in the other room. I ask how they got the footage. “We came upon a freighter ship, heading for the far east. Ar galleons attacked and we made off with the booty.” Green Beard snarls with a smile. “We’ll be replacing Chewbacca, Rey, Luke and most of the rebel alliance with pirates.” When I inquired about Kylo Ren, Green Beard replied, “Nar, he already looks like one.”
Located in the back of the studio and overlooking a picturesque waterfall, we settled into Green Beard’s executive office for a chat.
How do you choose the movies to pirate?
Ar, we’ll pirate whatever we can get. There ain’t no discrimination. Last year we pirated over forty movies and made a lot of booty in the process.
Yes, you famously pirated Jurassic World, replacing all the dinosaurs with pirates. How was that experience?
That was a difficult one. It took over thirty editors and one hundred pirates. We nearly spent ar entire horde of ruby and emerald encrusted goblets.
Hollywood obviously doesn’t like what you are doing. In fact, you are wanted in over seventeen countries for your pirating activities. Do you ever wish you could come out of the shadows and just make movies for real?
Ar, there was a time I wanted to do things the right way, but pirating is in me blood. Ay, there’s nothing like the thrill of digitally removing E.T. and inserting a dastardly and dirty pirate into the basket of that bike and watching him soar across the moon on his way to his alien spaceship which we replaced with a pirate ship.
You worked with Hollywood one time on the Pirates of the Caribbean series. How was that?
Ar, they saw that we were making lots of booty, so they partnered with us. We used real pirates in that movie and ar treasure chests became filled with gold.
Why did the partnership die?
Jack Sparrow decided he wanted to be a real actor and left Rum Runner Bay for Hollywood. That left a mighty bad taste in me mouth.
What about distribution? How are you getting these pirated movies out into the world?
Mostly the Internet, but we be selling DVD’s on selected street corners in New Yark, Chicargo and Lars Angeleees.
So, what’s next for pirated movies?
Ar, we’re going to start pirating TV shows next quarter. Imagine your favorite shows like NCIS, The Bachelor and This is Us, but with pirates.
After our talk Green Beard took me to see his pirate ship and gave me a tour of his treasure room. After dinner I said my goodbye’s and boarded my boat. As we slipped out of Rum Runner Bay I was treated to the site of the majestic Hollywood Armada as it sailed into the bay and engaged the pirate galleons at point blank range. I wondered if Green Beard made it out alive? We may never know, because dead men tell no tales.