In 2005 I read an article in WIRED Magazine titled “The Shadow Internet.” I was already familiar with file sharing and the virtual bazaar of games, songs and movies available online, but I had no idea what was really going on behind the curtain. I was amazed by the inner workings of The Scene, an underground network that acquired and distributed pirated files using private servers that are essentially invisible to the public.
The subject stuck with me long after I put the magazine down, and it occurred to me that it had the potential to be an interesting, modern day crime thriller. Here was a vast conspiracy that engaged in the theft and distribution of millions of dollars worth of product, run by rival groups who competed for prestige and bragging rights rather than money; the scope and sophistication involved seemed to rival that of any modern criminal enterprise. The time seemed ripe to update one of my favorite genres – the heist film – and bring it into the digital age. Surely it was possible to make the theft of a Hollywood blockbuster just as interesting as a complex bank robbery, a lost shipment of drugs or the disappearance of a mysterious case?
It was challenging to adapt the article into a narrative format, but I soon found myself with a rogue’s gallery of misfits, geeks, cyberpunks and paranoid hooligans. I wanted to both celebrate and skewer the outlaw ethos of the online culture, where reputations change on a keystroke and identity itself is an illusion. How do you find trust in a world where people can be anyone they want to be?