'Illegal downloads don't matter'
"I've never read a novel so I don't know why I'm here," US film director David Petrarca joked at Perth's Writers Festival at the weekend.
But the man who has directed episodes of Game of Thrones, Hung and True Blood had a lot to say as a member of a panel discussing the rise of premium cable TV channels and its challenge to novels as a format of storytelling.
The filmmaker said while novels were presented as a finished product, it was not known how long a television show might last, and so, it was constantly evolving.
Panel mediator Rosemary Neill noted Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of 2012 and that 10 per cent of the downloads came from Australia.
But Petrarca shrugged and said the illegal downloads did not matter because such shows thrived on "cultural buzz" and capitalised on the social commentary they generated.
"That's how they survive," he told the crowd gathered at the University of Western Australia.
Petrarca joked that it took Steven Spielberg several years to produce Oscar- favourite Lincoln, but that it could have been made within several months on a channel like HBO.
He said while Hollywood was taking note of the success of cable channels, there was a "false line" between cinema and television.
"Everyone wants to do premium cable now," he said.
Even revered director Martin Scorsese was directing hit TV series Boardwalk Empire, not as a step down from Hollywood, but as merely another artistic format.
"He's not sad about it," Petrarca quipped.
He said HBO alone had 26 million subscribers in the US and 60 million worldwide, which meant there was plenty of money filtering in and allowing the channel to produce high quality content despite any illegal downloading.
But Petrarca did not think novels were in danger from premium content channels.
To illustrate his point, Petrarca held up his iPad to the audience and said he could use it to read or watch a television show in bed.
He said the success of shows like Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy and Mad Men - other than their great writing and production - came down to the fact that viewers could watch each episode in their own time.
Game of Thrones will be screened on Soho from April 1.