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I guess we found out there’s no such thing as a free…
My apologies for the difficulties many of you had this weekend trying to watch “Extrapolations” — the excellent new streaming series from director Scott Z. Burns which we had told you about on my podcast and Substack, and that Apple was allowing the public to watch for free this past week.
We were given the wrong information. We quickly learned it was not just as easy as one click and it was “free” — that to watch it there was a quid pro quo involved and the quid was that you couldn’t watch it for free unless you shared your personal confidential data with Apple. While I applaud Apple for making “Extrapolations” and wanting to make it free to everyone during the UN Climate Summit Week, I was not informed of the hoops the public would be asked to jump through — and if I had been, I would not have encouraged my audience to go through all of this. My guess is that the good people at Apple meant well and wanted to participate in helping to save the planet — but one lone guy in accounting or I.T. said to himself, “hey wait, let’s grab some free data!” And that’s often how the cookie crumbles.
We immediately removed any mention of it being “free” from my own site, from the podcast, from the title and description of the podcast, and I also removed all references made during the podcast by my guest and myself assuring you that Apple had made it available for “free.” Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of you tried to access this urgent new series but were not allowed to do so without first signing up to obtain an “Apple ID,” and in some cases forking over your credit card number. And if the device you were trying to watch it on wasn't made by Apple, it was even harder. Wow. What a time we now live in.
Fifteen years ago, I took some footage I had filmed during the 2004 election year and turned it into a feature documentary called “Slacker Uprising.” I decided I wanted to make it free to everyone, hoping it would especially encourage young people to vote in the 2008 Obama-McCain presidential election. I had heard that Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple (with Steve Wozniak), made his private email address public. I also heard his phone number was listed. I didn’t believe it.
So one day I thought I’d call him. And he picked up! Surprised and stammering, I told him I made a documentary to get out the youth vote. Was there any way he’d consider making it free on Apple’s iTunes? He said, “sure, send it to me and I’ll decide.” I sent it to him — and a few days later he called me. “Yes, I will make it available for free on iTunes for the next three months until after the election, and then we will leave it on iTunes for people who want to rent it.” I was floored. I did not expect this response. I was very grateful.
Of course, Steve Jobs couldn’t let me off the call without giving me some “notes.” He went through the movie, scene by scene, telling me what worked “beautifully” — and what needed “some work.”
“I liked it,” he said. “Quite good. I give it a C+ !”
“Um, well, um, wow… thank you!”
He told me it would be the first feature film iTunes ever offered gratis to everyone, free of charge. It was called “Slacker Uprising” and tens of thousands of people downloaded it for free. Completely free. No credit card number required. Easy-peasy.
So here we are in the future, and like so much else, things are not what they used to be. On my podcast on Friday I told you that there was this new wonderful series, “Extrapolations,” whose director came on the podcast to talk about making a drama set in the extinction event we are now in and how we can maybe turn the planet’s collapse around with a whole different mindset — oh, and you can watch it all “for free” on AppleTV+!!
But by the next day I started hearing from many of you that while the paywall may be down, there was still a large shrub and an invisible dog fence that prevented you from just clicking play and watching it for “free.”
So, my apologies. Please don’t let this glitch kill your desire to see what I assure you is a minor masterpiece. Again, it’s called “Extrapolations”. It’s on Apple TV+ — and you can watch it if you already subscribe to their streaming service. Or maybe a friend does. Or maybe Apple will truly make it free for everyone! No sign-ups, no IDs, no codes, no credit cards — just free — because the planet is in free-fall and everyone needs to see this series. Because that’s what Steve Jobs did for me all those years ago when, I suppose, he thought that after 8 years of George W. Bush, the idea of Barack Obama in the Oval Office was a good enough reason to make my “get out the vote” doc available COMPLETELY for free — no need for either Apple or me to make a dime off it. The times were that desperate then. They’re even more so now.
Here’s hoping Apple will truly be a mensch, and that all of you get to see Scott Burns’ “Extrapolations“ as promised.