Russell Fox’s post on International Cinema at BYU and the responses to it inspired us to ask Travis Anderson, IC’s director, to do 12 Questions for us. Here is the first installment, answers to four questiosn.>
1. What is the mission of BYU International Cinema? Have technological advances like the DVD and the large number of foreign films now available for rent, sale, or online viewing modified that mission or altered what you show at BYU IC? Have those changes altered the general public’s relationship to film? Isn’t International Cinema a bit of an anachronism now that so many video stores in town have excellent selections of foreign films, and services like NetFlix offer even more choices? Are there still good reasons to have an International Cinema program, and if so, is the place of IC in the BYU community changing–and narrowing–overtime?
ANSWER: Outside of NY, LA, Paris or some other first-world metropolis, it has always been a challenge to keep abreast of art films in general and foreign films in particular. And even if you do live near a venue for viewing great cinema, it requires a certain dedication to pass on the latest attention-grabbing blockbuster and take a chance on an unassuming foreign film. Salt Lake City’s Madstone theaters came and went almost before anyone noticed, and every time I see a sparsely attended art film at the Broadway or Tower theaters, I wonder how much longer they can stay afloat. Despite all the vocal support among the cappuccino crowd for theatrically released foreign films, things don’t seem to have changed a whole lot since my friends and I(and occasionally Jim Faulconer, who was our favorite teacher) used to make a near-weekly pilgrimage to The Blue Mouse, SLC’s art house cinema (dingy little fire-trap that it was) during the late 70s and early 80s—most people still aren’t as willing to plunk down their hard-earned money for foreign films with subtitles and challenging subject matter when the same time and money will buy them 90 minutes of Hollywood produced, adrenaline-pumping escapism, especially if they have to drive a long way to do it. So, I’m sure that the convenience of widely available and affordable DVDs, and services like NetFlix have facilitated the dispersal of filmart. And I suspect that more people are viewing foreign films than ever before, especially in areas of the country (and globe) where art house cinemas are rare.
But even so, foreign language DVD sales and gate receipts (even in foreign countries—more on that later) are still almost eclipsed by Hollywood fare. I am amazed every time I introduce a film at a BYU International Cinema screening or our annual freshman Honors Orientation Film Night by how many audience members and especially incoming students have never before seen a foreign film, not even one—despite their affordability and availability. So, I’m inclined to think that the people who buy and rent foreign films on DVD or watch them online are pretty much the same people who would patronize them at the box office (just as Jim and I and others in our circle would rent tapes of foreign films as well as see them in the theater)—a relatively small percentage of the movie-going public, in other words. And thus, exposing people—especiallyyoung people—to the merits of international cinema still seems to me to be a worthy and necessary task
As to whether home theater viewing has displaced the big screen, I would say it depends on the movie. Any foreign films that I haven’t seen at a festival and that look to be promising I try to see at the theater, since I’m seldom sure I’ll get a chance to see them later. But ever since films started coming out on videotape soon after their theatrical release I’ve been prone to being highly selective about what I pay for at the box office. And I doubt I’m alone in this practice. Among English-language films, lush cinematic masterpieces and sweeping epics—films like those of David Lean, Merchant and Ivory, and Terence Malick—are definite big-screen movies for me, as are high quality action and fantasy films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Lord ofthe Rings. In other words, films that take full advantage of the medium are those that I’llcommit my time and money to seeing at a theater. But character studies or comedies I’ll usually wait to see on the small screen. And this is especially true now, when I have to preview 6-8foreign films a week for IC—not counting the 40 or so I see at every film festival I attend. It has to be a really good English-language film to drag me into the theater.
That said, I would rather see any film on the big screen than on a computer or TV screen, and I think most serious film viewers feel the same way. Even with uncomfortable chairs and sticky floors, there’s a huge difference between seeing a film larger than life and seeing it on a small screen, even on a HD plasma screen. Seeing it at the theater allows you to totally immerse yourself in the imagined world of the movie. And I think that’s what an ideal aesthetic experience should be—an experience in which, for a few minutes or hours (or days, in the case of a really good novel), you’re someone else and somewhere else. And film, more than any other medium, brings together all the arts in a symbiosis that approximates as closely as any contemporary venue can, I suppose, the ecstatic transport once characteristic of Greek tragedy, Elizabethan theater, and high opera. For a while, attending a film even had the communal element Aristotle and others attributed to Greek drama—I have very fond memories of Friday and Saturday night midnight shows of Chariots of Fire and Monty Python and the Holy Grail at Provo’s old Fox Theater (as well as a few more colorful films at The Blue Mouse), when the entire audience (some in appropriate costumes) would happily wait (and chat, and sing, and share donuts) in long lines and then participate in the film itself once we all got inside. 20 years ago even less sophisticated fare, like the opening of a new James Bond, would occasion a communal spirit of sorts. But sadly, that aspect of the film-going experience is pretty much dead and buried. Theaters are so small now and social alienation so commonplace that even at films like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, where you would expect the homogeneity of the crowd to produce at least a little amiability, people are more concerned with gabbing on their cell phones and guarding their place in line than in being genuinely friendly with other theatergoers.
But the question remains, have these changes affected IC? And has our mission narrowed over the years? In short, the answer to the first question is “yes” (but not as much as you might think), and to the second it is “no” (our mission has actually broadened). That’s partly because our primary objective has never been to entertain, or even to expose students and locals to foreign films per se (though the latter was certainly an important aspect of Don Marshall’sprogramming choices) Our mission is, and always has been (at least since the program was officially formed in the 70’s), to use film to educate—in a threefold way: first, to afford the multitude of students studying foreign languages at BYU (the single biggest foreign language program of any university, after all) with a chance to experience the culture they’re studying and to hear native speakers speak that language; second, to provide English majors and students taking GE classes involving world lit with a chance to see film adaptations of great literature; and third, to help BYU theater/film majors and Honors students become familiar with great works in cinema. (This mission partly accounts for the “highbrow” trait of IC films many of you referred to in your questions). Of course, we try to choose films that are also morally praiseworthy in some way, entertaining as far as possible, exemplary of fine film art, etc. But those are not our primary goals. In fact, it is not unusual for us to choose a film in, say, Portuguese, that is a real dozer, simply in order to meet our language quota while, on the one hand, avoiding the rut of showing the same films over and over again, and on the other hand, avoiding films that contain problematic material (ironically, now that we can’t edit out a word or two, it is also not unusual for us to have to choose a film that is much less praiseworthy both artistically and morally than many other available films in that language, simply because the others run the risk of “offending for a word”—more on that later, as well).
Could requiring students in a foreign language class to buy a foreign film on DVD along with their texts accomplish the same purposes with less trouble and expense? Well, it might accomplish the purposes of that particular class, and it would certainly accomplish the task with less trouble and expense for the college and for me. But it would do so simply by transferring that trouble and expense to individual students. And more significantly, it would restrict the film experience to that particular class, whereas IC allows the entire university and local community to share those benefits—and to see the film on the big screen as it was meant to be seen. Moreover, and contrary to what some of you speculated on your posts, a significant percentage of the films we show are not available on tape or DVD when we show them (and some perhaps never will be, since despite their quality, some films will probably never enjoy enough demand to prod someone into producing and marketing a DVD version). Every semester we have a few Utah premieres—films that have not yet showed (and sometimes won’t ever show) at any Utah theater. Every once in a while we even have a USA (non-festival) premiere. And every year we show at least a couple of films which are unavailable for viewing except in a 16 or 35mm format. Many film classics and small foreign productions fall into this category—meaning that our film students (and other moviegoers) might never have the chance to see these films were we not able to show them in a theater environment. And rather than our mission having narrowed over the years, we now serve a broader spectrum of university programs and classes than ever before: in response to our efforts at better aligning IC films with curriculum needs, we now receive regular requests from faculty for both particular films (like last year’s Orpheus-themed movies) and specific subject matter (like holocaust-related films, or films about cross-generational issues) to supplement planned coursework.
All things considered, then, while IC no longer offers in most cases an exclusive chance to see foreign films, I think IC still plays a vital role at BYU. And let’s face it, any genuine university should be not only a vehicle for obtaining degrees, but a well-spring of extra-curricular learning and life-enrichment opportunities—and how many universities can boast a program like ours, which shows 30-40 top quality international films every semester free of charge? None.
2. How much does a movie’s notoriety play into its desirability at IC—for example, “The Last Temptation of Christ” or “The Passion of the Christ”? And what about challenging content generally? When I was at BYU in the late 80s and early 90s, IC was the one artistic venue on campus which seemed completely immune to censorship and radical sensitivities. Can BYU folk today still count on IC to show films which push the typical BYU student’s envelope? Or has whatever power it once had to stand impervious to the vague cultural pressures of the place gone the way of the dodo?
ANSWER: I don’t know where people got the idea that IC ever tried to “push the envelope,” but that’s utter nonsense. Maybe it pushed your envelope because you knew little about film or foreign film. But all education should do that—at least in the sense that it should teach you something you don’t already know. But actively seek out controversy? Not a chance. We live on a razor’s edge as it is, thank you very much.
IC (like many other programs at BYU) is not now nor ever was immune to university standards, nor to guerrilla efforts at censorship or radical sensitivities—far from it. If Don Marshall is to be believed, IC came close to extinction on a number of occasions. I don’t doubt that those close calls were sometimes exacerbated by somewhat marginal film selections, since a few of the films I saw at IC as a student, even after being heavily edited, were bound to draw complaints from an ultraconservative audience simply because of the topic, and it never failed to amuse me when Don claimed complete surprise that anyone could find such films offensive. But more often than not, IC’s tenuous position on campus was (and still is) due to malicious attempts by a select and oddball group of students, faculty, administrators and locals to shut down the program for various idiosyncratic reasons: in some cases it is or was as petty as a territory fight over campus resources or space, or rage over students standing in line in front of a secretary’s mailbox, or an offense taken at something Don said or didn’t say in response to a complaint or suggestion, or a chance to sound morally superior in a letter to the editor, and of course, the vast majority of reasons march ubiquitously under the anti-pornography banner—which behavior usually secure sat BYU an immunity from criticism, lest the criticizing party be accused of being pro-pornography. (A perfect example is a recent incident at the BYU Bookstore, where a student claimed offense at a particular book, and demanded that it be removed from store shelves or he would stand in the doorway with an open copy and force every customer to see the offending page. Now, the fact that he was more than willing to expose people, against their will, to material he viewed willingly (and repeatedly), but purportedly considered pornographic, indicates that his motives were anything but pure—nevertheless, his antics succeeded in getting the book removed from easy access.) The complainers in such cases are following a strategy a little like that advocated in a humorous article I have taped to my office door, the last paragraph of which reads: “If all else fails in an argument, compare your opponent to Adolf Hitler. This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: ‘that sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler would say’ or‘you certainly do remind me of Hitler.’ You now know how to out-argue anyone, but don’t pull any of this on people with guns.” Around here, claiming that something is pornographic is more potent than claiming it reminds you of Hitler.
In a community as conservative (and intolerant) as Utah County (remember, people here were willing to contribute or withhold huge contributions to UVSC in order to prevent Michael Moore from even being heard, not just endorsed—legitimating their efforts at censorship by laying claim to their own free speech rights. Go figure.) it’s not just Rodin nudes that raise hackles. Don once told me of a complaint that had been lodged because a film contained the word“consummate” in the dialogue. When I became director of IC I found a letter on file (that had worked its way down to the dean after being sent directly to a church general authority) which accused Don of exposing the audience to “full frontal male nudity” when he showed a film in which (and this vital detail went unmentioned in the letter, of course) a naked newborn was held up for family members to coo over. There was even a letter CC’d to Don from a BYU VP (now retired) who praised a particularly stubborn troublemaker for his “vigilance,” agreeing with him that “foreign films by their very nature are pornographic.” Such astonishing behavior would probably be completely ignored anywhere else, but at a university supremely (and rightly)concerned with treating everyone respectfully (even when they’re wrong), and extremely sensitive to donor pressure and bad press—or threats to generate it—such complaints, even the fabricated ones, are given much more attention than they usually deserve, and often the truth falls victim to the bureaucratic equivalent of a sealed-case plea bargain. What makes matters worse is that the troublemakers know this only too well, so they play that trump card as often as they can and as high up the administrative ladder as they can—often to great effect. Of course, the administration is usually stuck between a rock and a hard place in such matters, and while most administrators here are remarkable people performing remarkably well in an often thankless job, everyone knows that it only takes one mistake to raise a real ruckus, so everyone always tends to err way way on the side of caution.
This makes choosing films for a BYU audience a very finicky and frustrating process. I know exactly why Don sometimes chose the films he did (which, in hindsight, probably included a few questionable titles), and it wasn’t because he craved notoriety—he simply loved film. He was excited about it the way any genuine teacher is excited about his or her subject, and so every time he saw a film that excited him, he wanted to share it with everyone else. And that excitement sometimes got the better of him. I probably preview 40 films for every new one that we show. I myself have a whole list of films I would love to show at BYU—really great films, in my opinion. But not being anywhere near as optimistic and charitable in my estimation of other people’s judgment as Don was, I won’t risk showing them unless they not only completely accord with college media-use standards and criteria, but aren’t likely to draw even unwarranted fire if it might jeopardize IC or tarnish the reputation of the college or university at large. Even so, as in the case of “Hero,” my judgments are sometimes vetoed in favor of greater caution still. So, no, we haven’t had anywhere near the number of complaints since I became director that Don had when he was director, but that’s mostly because I haven’t been willing to fight the battles that Don fought and I’m naturally a lot more conservative in my film choices than he was. But while I genuinely try to avoid films that might legitimately offend a reasonable viewer—and even grudgingly try to avoid those that shouldn’t offend a reasonable viewer, but might offend a few of the unreasonable ones—I harbor very little sympathy for those who eagerly exaggerate or completely misrepresent a film’s faults (and defame a program or person in the process) in order to fabricate or advertise a false view of their own righteousness. And I’ve come to believe that if you grease wheels that are squeaking when they really need fixing, not lubricating, then the usual result is diminished performance from all the other wheels and a whole lot more squeaking from the broken one. In other words, I think we’d have far less problems at BYU if we stopped lending a sympathetic ear to illegitimate and fabricated complaints, and thinly veiled power plays. But to date, my infinite wisdom has drawn no administrative job offers, so things are likely to remain unchanged in that respect—especiallysince my tenure as director is about over.
So, when all is said and done, we choose films for IC based on the foreign language that dominates the dialogue, the moral appeal of the film in question, its artistic merits and cinematic importance (usually in that order), not on its ability to generate controversy or “push the envelope.” In fact, if a film is likely to generate controversy, we studiously avoid it, not only to forestall trouble, but so as not to sabotage our program’s intended purpose.
3. When I went to BYU, the International Cinema was quite a bit less family oriented than the Varsity Theatre, which seemed more heavily censored and was reputed to have used pre-censored films (airline versions or something similar). Most people would agree that some films, like “The Last Tango in Paris,” will never screen at IC, nor should they. But what about more marginal films? Does BYUIC make an effort to obtain cleaned-up versions of somewhat racy films (like the PG version of “Saturday Night Fever”), or do you simply scuttle the showing of any film with lurid or objectionable content? What about relatively minor content concerns, like the sexual sounds in “Hero”—isn’t IC a zone where some of this stuff is supposed to be allowed? What standards or rules (both formal and informal) do you use to determine whether a film can be shown? And was (or is) International Cinema held to a different standard than other campus film programs, like the HBL Library film program, and the old Varsity Theater program, and the program that used to show films like “Psycho” in the old Joseph Smith auditorium—which all had vastly different audiences?
ANSWER: Let me begin by describing the process by which films were edited at IC, so my later remarks will make more sense. Films arrive in shipping canisters and are wound on lightweight and flimsy shipping reels. 16mm films usually come on 2-3 such reels, while 35s usually need 6 or more. They are prepared for projection by removing the protective (extra) film stock at the beginning and end of each reel, called headers and tails (the part with the number countdown on them—harking back to the days when films were shown reel after reel on multiple projectors and had to be cued up), so that each portion can be spliced to the next and then transferred with a loading spooler onto durable metal projection reels (in the case of 16mm films) or onto large horizontal platters (in the case of 35mm stock). The multiple sections of film are spliced together with yellow tape so the joints can be easily found when the film is ready to be broken down and re-attached to the headers and tails prior to return shipping. The same yellow tape was used by IC to mark editing splices, so that when the film was broken down the edited strips could be spliced back in—this time using the clear tape that is used to repair breaks. Clear tape is used so that the repaired and replaced sections of film aren’t later confused for reel change splices, not to hide an edit. Neither kind of tape is seen by the viewer, since you’re not really seeing “moving pictures” when you watch a movie (or you would see nothing but a blur); you’re seeing still frames pass before the lens and stop 24 times a second (which is what makes the clicking sounds characteristic to projected films). So an individual frame partly covered even with bright yellow tape passes before the eye much too quickly to be noticed.
To my knowledge, all the editing for content that IC did in the past was done legally (when I took over, we still had drawers full of letters from distributors granting BYUIC permission to edit) and it all took a great deal of time: the film had to be previewed and stopped at each spot to be edited; the trouble spots then had to be marked (usually by sticking a piece of paper into the rotating reel, just as in “Cinema Paradiso”); and then the whole film had to be run again (though this time it could be run at high speed from marker to marker) and the actual cut and splice editing carried out (and IC didn’t have the benefit of a lightbox editing apparatus as did the Varsity, so it was all done with makeshift lighting and a small hand splicer); finally, the edited film had to be re-viewed and marked for any needed adjustments or further cuts. Don and his projectionists would often work all Monday night editing that week’s films. It was a very labor-intensive process.
People who complained about Don leaving in offensive material have no appreciation for the extraordinary time and effort he invested year after year in editing those films so they could be enjoyed by a BYU audience. And when you understand the process, it’s easy to see how ridiculous it is for someone to claim that films were systematically left unedited without Don’s knowledge (as one of your blog respondents named Greg Allen erroneously claimed on his web site and referenced in his post (here, response 106) to your “Hero” thread—a claim that Don rebutted point by point in a reply to Greg which he wrote and CC’d to me quite some time ago, when he also reminded Greg that his claim to have been a “student manager” at IC was a mistake, since no such position ever existed; the only student employee positions on record that were ever allotted to IC were, and still are, 1 part-time secretary, an occasional temporary 5 hr/wk assistant to the secretary, and 3-4 projectionists—and according to Don, Greg was just a projectionist, and a short-term one at that).
Now I’ll try to answer the question about the differences between IC and the old Varsity Theater Program, which are legion. Really the only thing they had in common was the fact that they both showed movies on campus.
It always surprised me no end that IC drew more fire from the self-appointed media police at BYU than the Varsity, since R-rated movies were a Varsity Theater staple. They edited them, of course—often in very humorous ways, like turning down the volume during profane dialogue, so everyone could still see perfectly well what was being said, but just couldn’t hear it, or by placing a piece of cardboard or a strip of paper over the lens during a sex scene, so everyone could hear what was going on, but just couldn’t see it. They would often cut/splice edit as well, but since editing films is such a long and arduous process, and since one of the Varsity’s primary purposes was to make money (the Varsity wasn’t independently funded like IC; they had to cover their own costs through ticket sales), they didn’t want to bear the cost of projectionist overtime hours, so they would cut corners whenever possible (or so I was told by a former VT projectionist). But even with editing, the Varsity’s shows were almost always a lot more objectionable to my mind than IC’s, since when Don edited a film, at least it was usually a film that had enough artistic merit to justify the cuts. But editing 90 minutes of mindless pabulum just produces edited mindless pabulum—and I happen to think that art (or most anything else, for that matter) should be judged primarily on the basis of its virtues, not solely its lack of grievous vices. The Varsity showed some good films as well, of course, but their bread and butter were popular Hollywood movies that had most of the nudity, sex or harsh profanity edited out of them (which is precisely why the Varsity had to close shop soon after BYU instructed us all to discontinue editing—students simply weren’t willing to pay to see G, PG and PG-13 films (which didn’t need editing to be showable) at a mediocre theater like the Varsity, when they could pay the same price to see the very same movies in a Dolby-equipped state-of-the-art theater elsewhere). When we moved into the Varsity I hauled out box after box filled with film committee review forms for the films the old Varsity had shown, and with the exception of some high quality Disney animation and the infrequent English language jewel like “Ghandi,” they were the same virtue-less formula films I avoid seeing at the local cineplex today. I’m not criticizing the old Varsity program, since their intentions were good enough—like the Wilk bowling alley, they simply wanted to provide students with affordable and inoffensive entertainment. But the fact remains that usually their films weren’t anywhere near as good (or inoffensive) as those that played at IC. And yet, IC took most of the flack.
As some of you noted in your posts, there were other venues on campus where films were shown as well. The Film Society showed Hollywood classics (like Hitchcocks and Capras) in the old JSB auditorium. And there were films shown in the MARB and in the student dorms with portable 16mm projectors. These were the venues where movies like “Psycho” were frequently seen. But since such films didn’t suffer from the stigma of being “foreign” films, they usually didn’t draw fire even when their content was dicier than IC’s. Hitchcock films are a perfect example, since everyone agrees they’re great art and almost no one today finds them the least bit offensive, and yet they’re absolutely full of provocative clothing and behavior, sexual innuendo, sexual situations, suggestive activity, and often, scenes of violence that are still shocking today.
On another note, IC didn’t target films because they were “highbrow” or less “family friendly,” as one of you described them (though I fail to see how James Bond even in an edited version of “Octopussy” at the old Varsity was a more family friendly event than seeing DeSica’s “The Bicycle Thief” at IC). But foreign films (at least the good ones) generally tend to tackle more thoughtful, philosophical subjects, so they end up being less an occasion for mind-numbing entertainment than an opportunity for serious reflection. Like a lot of other people who appreciated IC, I always saw that difference as a good thing, but plenty of people apparently didn’t—and still don’t. Do we try to obtain “airline” versions as did the Varsity? First, I have no way of knowing whether or not the Varsity indeed used pre-edited prints, and second, that’s usually not possible for us, since most foreign films don’t have pre-edited versions. I think the only distributor-edited print we have ever showed was “Glory.” Do we clean-up or avoid lurid films? Actually, we would have no interest in even a cleaned-up version of a “lurid” film, so yes, we avoid them. Is IC a “zone” where we should demonstrate a certain tolerance for great art as well as for views not our own? I think a university should be such a zone. But obviously there are those who disagree.
4. Don Marshall is reported to have claimed that IC wouldn’t show a movie at all if it couldn’t be shown uncut. But some people distinctly remember seeing films at IC that had been edited (“My life as a Dog,” for instance). Did editing become a problem when the industry heard about the Varsity’s practice of editing of movies and consequently threatened legal action (which seems hypocritical, since the industry clearly allows editing for airline films)? Did Marshall ever make such a claim, or did IC indeed edit films? If so, why was the practice stopped?
ANSWER: I’ve already answered this in part, but just so we’re clear: of course IC edited films. There’s simply no way that some of the films shown at IC over the years could have been shown on BYU campus without editing. The program would have been shut down in a New York minute otherwise. I have no way of knowing, of course, what Don said or didn’t say to whoever made that claim about him, but I can see no reason why he would have said such a thing, since he had permission from distributors to edit and it was no secret that he did it. I can remember many times even as a student when I wandered into the Kimball Tower auditorium to speak with Don about one thing or another while he and his projectionists were editing films on Monday afternoons and evenings, and there was never any effort to conceal the practice. And during his frequent film lectures Don often referred to things that had been edited out of a film. Moreover, most of the negative letters to the editor and complaints that IC received during those years (judging both from those I remember reading as a student and those that are still on file) concerned things that had or had not been edited out. So, clearly, it was common knowledge. And that being the case, why would Don claim not to have edited films? Nor can I believe it is true, as I mentioned above, that rogue projectionists systematically managed to circumvent the editing procedure and leave films unedited out of spite or perverse humor. I can’t prove that it didn’t happen once or twice, but Don surely would have noticed a pattern had it happened as regularly as has been claimed—and any grievous or regular oversights would have generated an immediate uproar that could not have escaped notice. On the other hand, it is certainly possible that an occasional intended cut unintentionally slipped by for a day or two, given the complexity of the process. But again, Don was pretty conscientious about watching the films during regular screenings early in the week precisely in order to see the final results of his editing session and catch such oversights. Also, his film students were required to see the films every week, and would have quickly reported back to him about any problems. When I sat through his course one semester, he would ask in almost every class session for reactions to that week’s films, and students were pretty frank with their praise or criticism—and with their observations about what they found interesting, inspiring, or offensive. During my years as a student I attended IC religiously, seeing every film each week. And if it was a film I was particularly interested in, I’d attend every showing to take voluminous notes on the film. And rarely did I see editing oversights—but when I did and brought them to Don’s attention, he would immediately see to it that that were corrected. So all things considered, I think those who have claimed otherwise are simply misrepresenting the facts. And in Greg’s case, since he was wrong about the job position he held (which we can prove), then I think it’s all the more likely that he was wrong about the editing as well.
As far as I know, editing was halted at BYU by the BYU legal team, who feared (or so I’ve been told) that the “Clean-Flicks” controversy (involving the local company that was editing videos for those who purchased them and wanted their copy to be free of objectionable material like the semi-nude scene in “Titanic”) might result in civil judgments against those who edited films, and thus might drag BYU into the fray. As it happened, the industry threats against “Clean Flicks” have not yet resulted in any legal judgments of which I am aware, but BYU stuck with the decision to no longer edit. Some have said that decision was made partly in response to the Varsity Theater program being forbidden by Steven Spielberg’s representatives to edit “Schindler’s List.” If that is true, I know nothing about it.
Lastly, I completely agree with those who think that most studio objections to editing are instances of pure and transparent hypocrisy. We have all noticed that the lion’s share of studios and filmmakers are more than willing to prostitute their so-called integrity and allow editing when airlines and TV networks offer them big bucks to do so. Over the last few months I’ve seen several TV broadcasts of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” in which the entire bridge battle and dying soldier episodes—which arguably constitute the very heart of the film, since there is no reason to judge Eastwood’s character to be “good” without them—were edited out, presumably to shorten the broadcast. 30 minutes or so of critical footage completely gone. Legally. With studio permission. And as everyone well knows, in addition to editing for time, studios routinely allow TV broadcasters to pan and scan, time-expand, edit for content, superimpose those annoying logos and banners over the film, completely mangle the music and credits at the end of a film, and interrupt a film every few minutes for commercials. But apparently they’ve got no problem with that. Not even the most callous and zealous theater-operators or private viewers would hack up films to that degree were they allowed or enabled to edit. So, yes, in my opinion it’s all too clear that studio objections to “Clean Flicks” or anyone else editing or censoring movies are almost never due to concerns over artistic merits; I think they are mostly due simply to the fact that studios aren’t likely to get a significant cut of whatever money might be made by whoever does or enables others to do the editing. If you ask me, it’s all about the money.