The Voluntary Rating System Promotes Free Speech

by Orit Michiel 10/24/2013 11:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

For over 90 years, the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. has championed freedom of expression and repelled calls for government censorship of movies by creating a system of self-regulation.
 
One of the MPAA’s cornerstone accomplishments in protecting free speech came in 1968 when the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) and voluntary film rating system were created.  This system allows filmmakers to create the stories they want to tell – unfiltered – and gives audiences information about those movies so they can decide if they want to see them.
 
Before the rating system was established, filmmakers were encumbered by a bureaucratic system of local, state and federal boards that mandated strict “moral standards” for films in order to be exhibited to the public. These standards often destroyed the artistic integrity of films or, in some cases, kept them from being shown to audiences altogether. 
 
For example, in the early 1920’s, a pregnant woman could be shown in a film in New York, but could not appear onscreen in Pennsylvania.  Even nearly identical regulations were inconsistently administered depending on the board.  This inefficient system was unduly restrictive on filmmakers and even the production code meant to protect filmmakers’ freedom of expression grew outdated and lost its original intent.
 
When the industry adopted self-regulation, government censorship of films became pointless.  The voluntary rating system, which according to former MPAA President Jack Valenti “freed the screen” of regulations and restrictions, has endured for over 45 years because its basic tenets have remained the same, while adjusting to the changing mores of American parents.  The system serves to educate parents and families about the content of films and leave to them the choice of whether a particular movie is right for their family.  The system’s appeals process provides a check and balance, giving filmmakers the opportunity to seek a lower rating if they believe the film was incorrectly rated.  The filmmaker presents argument to the appeals board, which determines whether a lower rating is appropriate.  Generally, of the up to 800 films rated each year, fewer than one dozen seek appeal and, of those, one-third are overturned. The availability and process of appealing a rating decision and the voluntary nature of the rating system continues to protect and promote the creativity of generations of filmmakers that have made this one of the most important American industries.
 
To find get more information about the film rating process you can visit http://filmratings.com/.  
 

Floyd Abrams Visits the MPAA to Talk About the Freedom of Speech

by MPAA 10/23/2013 12:26 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Yesterday, renowned First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams came to the Motion Picture Association of America’s office in Washington, D.C. to speak about the ongoing need to promote and protect the right of all Americans to express themselves freely that is enshrined in the First Amendment.
 
The discussion, sponsored by the MPAA and The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, was part of the National Free Speech Week programs going on around the country this week to celebrate and promote this fundamental right.
 
Well known for his Constitutional expertise and characterized as “the most significant First Amendment lawyer of our age,” Mr. Abrams has argued some of the most noteworthy First Amendment cases in the United States Supreme Court in the last four decades from the Pentagon Papers to the ability of  journalists to protect the identities of their confidential sources.
 
Over the course of the nearly hour long discussion that was moderated by Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Policy Journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Mr. Abrams talked about the current state of Free Speech in America, saying that right now “it’s pretty good times,” because “we have a Supreme Court that is especially protective of First Amendment rights.”
 
He also went on to say that things have never been “more democratic in the sense of open to the world, free, unedited, and available to the public at large. Never had we had that sort of ability for individuals to have their say” that exists today thanks to the enormous leaps forward that have been made technologically in recent years.
 
But with the growing ability to not only express yourself through online avenues such as Facebook and Twitter also comes a growing ability to steal from others.  The idea of copyright and the Copyright Act exist to protect peoples’ artistic creations.  According to Abrams, “the whole theory of the Copyright Act is to encourage the arts,” and when those works are threatened he says that “it is constitutional in some cases to get a restraint on the use of someone else’s work” in order to protect it. 

Barbara Cochran and Floyd Abrams

Photo Credit: Joy Asico

Celebrating Cinema's Broad Reach at the Tokyo International Film Festival

by Michael O'Leary 10/22/2013 08:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

This week, the 26th annual Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is drawing artists and filmmakers from all across the world to Japan to celebrate this remarkable art form that is loved throughout the globe. On Monday,  I had the opportunity to speak to the men and women attending this year’s festival about the ongoing innovations and technological developments that are transforming the world of film and television.

As I told the TIFF audience, thanks to new technology and the massive power and reach of the Internet, we now have the ability to watch the movies and television shows we love in more ways, on more devices than ever before.  And in an increasingly connected world, where more and more people are gaining access to broadband Internet, the online marketplace is showing itself to be a truly vital one.

Today, there are over 400 unique online services throughout the world that viewers can use to legitimately watch full-length films and TV shows.  In Japan alone, there are more than 30 services including Hulu, GyaO! (Yahoo!), Nico Nico Douga (niwango) and Youku Tudou. And this explosion of innovative viewing options is continuing on a daily basis as members of our industry, along with the tech industry, are working to develop still more new and innovative legitimate platforms for delivering the content audiences want to watch. 

Basically, thanks to the imagination of creators and engineers alike, no matter who you are, what you want to see, or how and where you want to watch, there is a service for you. 

And the business models that support these services are equally varied – you can pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited access, you can pay only for the movies or shows you want to see, or you can watch on sites supported entirely by advertising – and everything in between.

The choices that these new platforms and services are creating go beyond just the viewing experience – they also give the creators and distributors of content entirely new avenues for getting their work in front of audiences.  These opportunities allow creators to experiment with how they make and distribute their work, expanding our understanding and appreciation of the art of the motion picture, and leading to a filmmaking revolution that is creating bolder storytelling from new voices and top talent, both in front of and behind the screen. And many of those fresh new voices and top talent are on display this week in Tokyo.

But just as important as these new opportunities are for the creation of new methods for creating stories on screens both large and small, these new online distribution methods are helping to ensure that talented people creating these films and TV shows that audiences love are compensated for their work.

Millions of people around the world make a living working in this industry – from the set-builders, costume makers, and special effects creators behind films like the ones at TIFF, to those working in television, home video, and online distribution.  And legitimate online distribution models not only create jobs themselves, they contribute to the entire process of film and television production, ensuring that everyone involved in a production are paid for their work.

Unfortunately it’s all too easy in today’s online world to make different choices, harming rather than supporting these jobs, the industry, and the economy. 

As an industry, we know we must continue to strive to provide more options to consumers so that they can view our content when they want it, where they want it.  Many others in the Internet ecosystem are stepping up to the plate too, working towards voluntary solutions that will help foster creativity and innovation. 

It’s not a short road, nor an easy one.  But in the long term, the growth of legitimate online services will not only enhance existing services and new ones, but it will mean less infringement, more high-quality content for audiences, and solid, steady, well-paying jobs for those who make their careers in the film and television industry around the globe.

For those who love film, this really is a very promising and exciting time for the industry and our audiences around the world. These online distribution services are opening up new opportunities for both traditional and innovative forms of filmmaking that were unthinkable just a few short years ago.  And although we clearly have more work to do, both to improve the quality and access to online models in places like Japan and others, the MPAA and the studios that we represent are committed to continuing to create new and innovative ways for audiences to view our content online when they want it, where they want it, and on the devices they want to view it on.

 

 

MPAA’s History of Fighting for Free Speech

by Senator Chris Dodd 10/21/2013 12:47 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

As a longstanding champion of the First Amendment, the Motion Picture Association of America proudly joins with businesses, associations, and educational institutions across America to honor our nation’s most treasured right as we celebrate National Free Speech Week. This annual program, first created by the Media Institute, seeks to raise awareness of our First Amendment protections through activities such as vigorous discussions, mock debates and exhibits.

As an industry that thrives on the freedom of creators to tell the stories they want to tell and of audiences to be able to watch what they want to watch, the American film and television industry has long stood as a leading voice for freedom of expression. Without it, our films and TV shows could never have the cultural and social impact that they have been celebrated for over the past century.

And it is something that we have been fighting to protect for nearly 100 years, since 1915’s Mutual Film Corporation vs. Industrial Commission of Ohio when filmmakers fought against the state’s censorship board. But despite such efforts, it was not until 1952’s landmark Supreme Court decision in Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson that motion pictures finally became recognized as a form of expression protected by the Constitution. 

Since that historic ruling, the MPAA has fought tirelessly to ensure that films and other creative works are afforded the full First Amendment freedoms to which they are entitled. The MPAA fought against censorship boards in cases like 1954’s Superior Films, Inc. v. Ohio Dept. of Education and 1960’s Times Film Corp. v. City of Chicago. And we have, and continue to, protect creators’ ability to make the films they want, whether it’s fighting “Son-of-Sam” laws that restricted criminals from profiting from their crimes by telling their stories to the media and denied filmmakers an important source of ideas and information in 1991’s Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. New York State Crime Victims Board.  And we have championed creators’ ability to draw inspiration from real people and events in the still-pending case of Sarver v. Chartier, among others.

The ability to express oneself free of the fear of censorship or government reprisal is a fundamental right that is cherished by all Americans. As the world continues to change and the evolution of technology challenges the boundaries of free speech, the MPAA will continue our longstanding tradition of standing as First Amendment champions.  

 

Launching the Creativity Works! coalition

by Chris Marcich 10/21/2013 10:24 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

More than 150 creators, creative sector organizations and EU policy-makers came together this past week to celebrate the launch of Europe’s new Creativity Works! Coalition.  This new alliance of directors, publishers, designers, broadcasters, and creators of all kinds is seeking to promote an open-minded and inclusive debate among politicians, decision-makers and other important stakeholders about the importance of creativity in the digital age.

The creative community stands as a vital component of both current and future economic growth across the European Union. More than 14 million people make up Europe’s creative community.  IP-intensive industries contribute 26% of employment and 39% of EU GDP, within which the copyright-intensive industries play an important part. Europe’s cultural and creative sectors also make a significant social contribution, communicating cultural and social values, creating shared experiences throughout and beyond Europe’s diverse population.

Bringing together such a diverse group of people to champion creativity is a worthy endeavor.  Listening at the event to the various contributions made by creatives from different sectors, it’s clear we are all united by the one challenge we face: how to build an online world where artists can flourish; where the brightest ideas become winners; where content and the platforms that deliver it are equally important; and above all, where consumers have a stake in the process. This is the best contribution the creative sectors can make to cultural diversity, growth, jobs and ultimately the strength of the European Union itself.

 

Director/Writer Philip Kaufman, a Man who has ‘The Right Stuff’

by Melanie Gilarsky 10/16/2013 13:16 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Today is the 30th anniversary of the world premiere of the space epic, The Right Stuff. To mark this occasion, which aptly took place here in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center in 1983, the MPAA hosted a screening and discussion with the film’s director and writer, Philip Kaufman. The Right Stuff, adapted from Tom Wolfe’s best-selling novel of the same name, tells the story of the breaking of the sound barrier and the Mercury space program. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, and won four.

The Right Stuff has been an inspiration to a generation of astronauts and scientists. In his opening remarks, Senator Christopher Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, shared the story of Astronaut Mike Massimino, part of the team that made the final repairs to the Hubble Telescope. Dr. Massimino once said that while looking out the window on his first mission he thought to himself, “This is the view that I imagined in that movie theater all those years ago.”

The moderator for the discussion was Columbia University Film Studies Professor Annette Insdorf, who has written a number of books on filmmaking including her monograph, Philip Kaufman. During the discussion, Insdorf lauded the achievements of Kaufman, "It is an honor to be in the same room with someone with such integrity, modesty and really the 'right stuff' as Philip Kaufman."

Kaufman first began working in film in 1962 with his directorial debut in the mystical comedy Goldstein. In addition to The Right Stuff, Kaufman has directed such classics as 1977’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers; 1990’s Henry and June; 2000’s Quills, which was nominated for three Academy Awards®; and last year’s Hemmingway & Gelhorn, which was nominated for 15 Emmy® Awards. 

Prior to the screening, Kaufman shared his philosophy on filmmaking and his approach to The Right Stuff.  In translating Tom Wolfe’s novel to the big screen, "I tried to be true, in my way, to his book…but…we tried to make the film in an artistic way."  Kaufman said his goal in portraying the characters was that "virtually every scene in the film is about the quality…of the right stuff….I like films where the characters are the plot; I think a lot of great movies are made that way."

Philip Kaufman and Annette Insdorf

Philip Kaufman and Annette Insdorf

Photo Credit: Joy Asico

Premiere of “The Walking Dead” Shows Piracy Is A Complex Problem

by Kate Bedingfield 10/15/2013 13:31 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

This past Sunday, AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie thriller The Walking Dead returned for its fourth season and 16.1 million fans in the United States tuned in to watch – up more than 5 million viewers from last year’s premiere.  Both AMC and the show’s international distributer Fox Intl. Channels worked to make the premiere widely available: through the end of this month viewers can visit AMC’s website and stream the premiere episode for free, and, less than a day after first airing in the U.S., it was released to viewers in 125 countries across the globe.

But despite these efforts to make it as available to watch as possible, over 500,000 people around the world still chose to illegally download Sunday’s premier within 16 hours of first appearing online – with the highest percentage of downloaders coming from here in the United States according to Variety.

Every day our industry is hard at work developing innovative ways to bring our content to audiences when they want it, where they want it, on the devices they want to watch it on and at a fair price.  We are unwaveringly committed to it.  But the experience of The Walking Dead’s season premiere is an unfortunate reminder that content theft is a complex problem with no one-size-fits-all solution.  And it is a problem that needs to be taken seriously.  Gale Anne Hurd, the CEO of Valhalla Entertainment and Executive Producer of The Walking Dead, recently discussed the problem with The Hollywood Reporter , saying “Piracy [keeps me up at night.] If people aren’t paying for content, the content creators and the financiers will not continue to create the content.  Anyone that’s not staying up at night worrying about this has not faced the facts.”

Protecting the hard work of the creative people who bring you shows like The Walking Dead will require comprehensive solutions – solutions that incorporate all stakeholders in the Internet ecosystem.

‘Lights, Camera….Music?’ An Evening with Music Supervisor Randall Poster

by Melanie Gilarsky 10/11/2013 13:26 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

The MPAA hosted GRAMMY® Award-winning Music Supervisor Randall Poster as part of our ‘Evening with’ series. Poster is one of the most active music supervisors working in film and television today, with upcoming work in Labor Day and Carrie.

Over the past twenty years, Randall Poster has worked with some of the biggest filmmakers in the industry including Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Harmony Korine, Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Todd Phillips, Sam Mendes, Jason Reitman, and Wes Anderson whom he has collaborated with on all of his films to date. In addition to his work on the big screen, Poster has expanded into television as the Music Supervisor for HBO’s hit period drama, Boardwalk Empire.

Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, introduced Poster at this week’s event. “This is a highly innovative and imaginative industry and tonight you are going to get one piece of that,…the great emotional driver in many ways.”

Poster began his presentation on music in film by taking the audience back to the silent era. "In January 1923 there were 15,000 silent movie houses in the United States, and the music was left to the theater owners to provide." The advent of 'talkies' and their accompanying sound track made the music an integral part of storytelling. Poster demonstrated the use of music in film by treating the 'Evening with' audience to live music with a pianist, playing scenes from Boardwalk Empire with and without music, as well as clips from other movies. 

Poster summed up his passion for the role of music in film during the Q&A. "I’ve been very lucky that I still have an amateur's enthusiasm for music."

Randall Poster and Senator Chris Dodd

Randall Poster

Photo Credit: Joy Asico


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