WASHINGTON (UPI) – Two independent filmmakers have blasted the movie ratings code and those who run it, saying small producers must fight “censorship without representation” and often get an undeserved “X rating” for their work.
“Simply stated, an X rating is by and large a curse,” said Jonathan Dana of Los Angeles, because it precludes most mass media advertising and cuts financial returns since many theaters will not play such pictures “regardless of content.”
Earl Owensby of Shelby, N.C., was equally bitter and made similar points in alleging that those who apply the ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America tend to discriminate against independent producers by going easier on films done by big companies.
Both related their experiences with the MPAA Thursday in testimony to a House Small Business subcommittee trying to find out if major studios, distributors or other “insiders” have more clout in the ratings process than independents outside Hollywood.
Panel members said they wanted to view some of the films in question before taking a position.
Dana and Owensby said independent filmmakers have been treated unfairly by the MPAA because they don’t belong to the association.
“We are…living under a system of censorship without representation,” Dana said, adding “drastic revision needs to be made in both the rating and appeal process.”
Dana, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology, complained about an X rating for his movie called “Sandstone.” Owensby was angry about the same rating given to a film he made, “Dark Sunday.”
Dana described “Sandstone” as “a sociological film about an unusual experiment in group living, a community which practiced an open sexual lifestyle,” and he said “various shots of lovemaking” for about four minutes near the end provided “the only specifically sexual activity” in the 80-minute picture.
Owensby said his movie had “absolutely no profanity, nudity or sex…nor was it any more violent than quite a few movies that were currently being shown with PG ratings.”
(reported May 1977)