Awesome Stuff: Let's Bore The Censors

from the rate-this dept

Film ratings and content warnings seem like a perfectly harmless and sensible idea in theory, but in practice they become a tool of censorship and industry protectionism. The UK has its own issues in this regard that are not unlike the ones we see in the US, and one filmmaker has come up with an amusing idea to fight back: crowdfunding a long and uneventful film of paint drying, to at least bore the censors to tears.

The British Board of Film Classification (formerly known as, yes, the British Board of Film Censors) is the UK equivalent of CARA, the film-rating portion of the MPAA. Both were formed by the industry to avoid government-administered content regulations, but where the MPAA’s ratings stranglehold on the industry is based almost entirely on an economic monopoly, the BBFC’s is backed up by ratings requirements in UK law. Where the MPAA can’t actually ban films (instead forcing them to choose self-censorship or economic suicide), the BBFC can.

But the BBFC has one weakness, of sorts: it has to watch the films, even if it decides not to let anyone else do so. In fact, it seems to be quite proud of its commitment to watching every minute of footage that is submitted for classification. This gave Charlie Lyne, a London filmmaker and critic, an idea for how to take a dig at the BBFC while also sparking conversation around this under-discussed issue: force the censors to watch a very long, very boring, very pointless film of paint drying.

One of the most interesting things that this stunt highlights is the pricing system, whereby filmmakers must pay a per-minute fee for work they submit to the board — a fee that is trivial for a big studio production, but not so much for an indie working with a shoestring budget. Of course, in this case, Kickstarter neatly takes care of that problem: the final film will be scaled in length to the amount raised, with the crowdfunded cash paying the per-minute fee. Lyne has 14 hours of footage ready to go, which he figured would be plenty (it would cost a little over £6000 to get all that reviewed), but he’s prepared to shoot more. And it looks like he might have to, since the campaign is past the halfway mark of using up all that drying paint. If it hits 13 hours, it’ll snag a record too, becoming the longest film ever reviewed by the board.

A fan has even set up a website where you can track the length of the film based on the money raised so far. With 24 days still to go in the campaign, it looks like the BBFC is going to be staring at that paint for a very long time. Of course, it’s easy to wonder if they actually will, but at least they confirmed to Mashable that they do watch every minute of submitted footage — plus, it’s always possible someone slipped some objectionable content in at hour 7, right? What choice do they have?

So if you’d like to bore some censors and help spark conversation around the issue of movie ratings — which many people just assume are a system that works reasonably and fairly in the background, rather than a powerful and determining factor in the movie industry — head on over to the Kickstarter page and contribute a minute or two to this groundbreaking crowdfunded film.

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Comments on “Awesome Stuff: Let's Bore The Censors”

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Paul Renault (profile) says:

Re: A suggestion

Librivox has a series of readings, the Insomnia Collections, which would be perfect for this.

For example, Nicholas James Bridgewater does a stirring rendition of Moluvee Roshun Ulee’s Ta‘tīlāt or A Treatise Concerning the Permutations of Letters in the Arabic Language. Other gems can be found in the Collections.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, I think it’s largely about calling attention to the fee structure, and the general problems with the rule in principle.

If you’ve gotta have censors, I suppose it’s best to have thoughtful, measured, reasonable censors — but there’s still a bigger argument for not having them at all. Plus, when you’re forced to pay the censors by the minute, it’s a bit galling, and it unfairly punishes small filmmakers (a few thousand pounds is nothing to a major studio picture, but could easily represent a double-digit percentage of an indy’s entire budget).

Jake says:

Re: Re: Re:

True, true. Still, if it comes to a choice between a government body deciding age-ratings and leaving it up to an industry association run by the big studios… Well, who do you think is more biased against the independent filmmaker?

And “a few thousand pounds” is a significant exaggeration, I might add. A bit of fiddling with the fee calculator suggests a 90-minute film would cost just under £750 to review. That’s not an insurmountable burden even for a pure hobby-project.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You’re right, I was distracted by the numbers in the campaign. Though, there are still a lot of projects for which the amounts while surmountable would still be significant (keeping in mind also that if you end up needing to make changes, you probably have to pay the fee multiple times – though I admit I’m just guessing that, maybe UK bureaucracies are friendlier…) At least this filmmaker clearly takes issue with it.

On the other subject: as far as I understand it, the BBFC is not actually a government body – it’s an organization founded by film studios, much like the MPAA/CARA. The key difference is that in the UK, there are actually laws that prevent or limit the sale/screening of unrated movies, and which designate the BBFC as the ratings authority, but the government doesn’t actually control the board — whereas in the US, film ratings are “voluntary” but there’s an oligopoly of cinemas and retail stores that all play along and making selling an unrated film essentially impossible.

The result for the filmmaker and the public is pretty much the same in both cases — though I’m not surprised to learn that the BBFC may be somewhat less subservient to industry whims than CARA. I’d also be curious to know what it’s like interacting with them, as one of the biggest problems with the MPAA ratings is the opaque process that gives filmmakers few hints about how to get the rating they want.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It seems mostly about being childish and not being able to mount a proper campaign against something. Instead, they force an innocent worker type to have to deal with their stupid movie to try to make a point. The only point they seem to make is that they know what a meaningless gesture is.

Apparently this person has no problem paying thousands of pounds to bore an employee. Seems they doth protest too much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It seems mostly about being childish and not being able to mount a proper campaign against something. Instead, they force an innocent worker type to have to deal with their stupid movie to try to make a point. The only point they seem to make is that they know what a meaningless gesture is.

So kind of like an open, honest, one-time version of your presence here in the comments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Seems they doth protest too much.”

If you cared at all about artists the BBFC and the expensive requirements to get a film to screen would be the first thing you would complain about. You would be here, like the rest of us, protesting and complaining how stupid it is to have such arbitrarily expensive requirements to get a film to screen because that hurts artists. But no, you don’t care at all about artists so instead you waste your time complaining about someone that’s at least trying to do something about it.

Every opportunity you are given you either side with the distributors or you fail to focus your complaint on how the system is so broken to harm artists. Instead you focus your attention on how the person that’s trying to fix the system is wrong and childish.

While I agree that raising funds to the BBFC to make a statement is counterintuitive (making a statement by funding and hence financially supporting them) and if it were me I would probably be tempted to make a documentary about how the BBFC are a bunch of scumbags and how these scumbags should quit their jobs or else feel guilty about how they are getting paid to contribute to a social harm, the fact that your focus seems to insult those that are trying to fix the system (ie: calling their efforts childish in opposed to giving them criticism in a constructive manner with a tone supportive of their cause) instead of delivering your message in a way supportive of their cause suggests that you don’t care about artists at all. You never focus your efforts on supporting something pro-artist. Here is a perfect opportunity to show how much you care for artists by expressing your outrage at these expensive requirements and instead you focus your efforts on calling someone that’s trying to fix the system childish. Everything you do seems to be pro-distributor. How do you expect to convince anyone that you are pro-artist because if you really are you sure could have fooled me into thinking otherwise. and how do you expect your posts to actually contribute to your cause when all they do is give people the impression you don’t care at all for artists, the public, or the art but you only care about the distributors. Your posts are only harmful to your cause. It’s unbelievable that you don’t have the competence to see that.

A somewhat relevant quote

“But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

The truth is those supportive of IP laws don’t care about the artists or the public or the quality of art. The error is that they do. When IP extremists come here and present themselves the way you do they are only harming themselves because it allows the truth to collide with an error giving people a clearer perception and livelier impression of truth. The truth presents itself much stronger when presented side by side with an error. At the very least you can try to minimize that effect by at least pretending you cared for artists but you won’t even do that.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well I read the whole thing and I saw a whole lot of stuff that ought to be kept away from children, but nothing that adults shouldn’t be allowed to watch*. I mean, are we adults, or not? Seems the British government believes its citizens are children who need to be protected by a parental government. On the other hand, most did not look likely to be good movies.

* IMO there’s no expression outside of narrow criminal bounds such as fraud and threats that should be banned

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I dunno, that’s really hard. Can you explain it just one more time.

You say ‘expression” in thread about movies, but it’s not about movies?Even though you are listing two things you specifically say that adults should not be allowed to watch – that fraud and theft films should be banned.

Yeah so tell me how you weren’t talking about movies.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Even though you are listing two things you specifically say that adults should not be allowed to watch

Fraud and threats are a form of expression. They are a form of expression that is appropriately illegal. Here is my quote again: “IMO there’s no expression outside of narrow criminal bounds such as fraud and threats that should be banned”. If I had been talking about movies, I would have said something like “IMO there’s no expression outside of narrow criminal bounds such as movies about fraud and threats that should be banned”. I emphasized the difference to make it stand out more. If you still cannot understand the difference I’m afraid I don’t know how to make it any clearer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

But what you wrote was a footnote to a sentence about movies. Read as one you say…
“… but nothing that adults shouldn’t be allowed to watch, IMO there’s no expression outside of narrow criminal bounds such as fraud and threats that should be banned”

See you were talking about movies ( and if you weren’t then what context are you talking about, and why did it shift so suddenly)

Again, still interesting that you can condone all the acts described in the banned movies list, esp incest, but have a bugbear about fraud and threats.

Anonymous Coward says:

Multiple Releases

Wouldn’t it be more of a pain to the board to split the film up into minimal lengths? Sure boredom is painful but how much of a pain would it be to sit there and have to review a boat load of slightly different filtered paint drying for 2 minutes, slightly red filtered paint drying for 6 minutes, Blue filtered paint drying (reversed its now getting wet!) for 3 minutes. Each and every time having unique audio of some profane some just mind boggling boring. Can you imagine the paperwork to deal with that?

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