Many independent filmmakers don’t see the MPAA as a group that represents their interests.
On the contrary, the MPAA is often disliked for their aggressive censorship regime. Not SOPA-style Internet censorship but film censorship, allegedly used to protect the interests of the major studios.
Aside from leading the war on piracy, the MPAA is also the moral judge who decides what films the public is allowed to see. Through its ratings system they can make or break films. Just ask South Park creator Matt Stone or watch “This Film is Not Yet Rated” to get an idea of what’s going on behind the scenes. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Another filmmaker who came out against the MPAA recently is small-time film director Heather Ferreira who wrote a flaming rant directed at the MPAA on Quora. According to her, pirates are not the threat – it’s the MPAA that’s killing creative filmmaking through its censorship regime.
“What I see when I examine the MPAA is not a friendly guardian of feature film directors’ rights, even at the studio level. Instead, I see a very large lobby that began as a Christian right-wing organization instituted to keep minorities off motion picture screens, promote racism and homophobia, and restrict creative freedom in America,” she writes.
Ferreira feels left out in the cold by the movie group, and gives several examples of trivial censorship rules filmmakers have to abide by today.
“The Motion Picture Association of America has never written me a paycheck for anything. They’re not backing my picture. These are not nice guys. They are not in this business to help filmmakers at all.”
“They’re censors waiting to pounce my film and yours with an NC-17 rating for violence or for showing two consenting adults laughing while enjoying sex (rape however is okay), while curiously no one censors the news media for showing [..] eight-year-olds Paris Hilton’s latest upskirt with very little pixellated out,” she writes.
“Isn’t that pauseworthy? If there’s no censors for the news, why for dramatic movies and television?”
Eventually, Ferreira gets to answering the original question and then it becomes evident that she dislikes the MPAA much more than those who download her work. “Thanks. I hope you enjoyed it,” would be her response to pirates who download her work.
“What the MAFIAA fails to realize is p2p is not a black and white issue of ‘piracy is wrong; all of it; and if you didn’t pay us, you’re a criminal’,” she writes.
Ferreira then goes on to note that the MPAA could better address piracy by stopping killing the creativity of filmmakers, and offer reasonably priced and top quality films. After all, pirates are potential customers.
“They’re a potential paying future audience member. The technology has changed. The playing field is different now. We need to adapt to it, not it to us,” she ends.
Although the above is just a single example of a filmmaker’s disappointment with the MPAA, a rather extreme one too, Ferreira is not alone. The lobby group represents the major studios who themselves are also guilty of crushing the creative dreams of independent filmmakers.
Just last week a former film student detailed how his career was ruined by a major movie studio. In 2001, the student found inspiration for his thesis in a short story from Isaac Asimov’s that was part of the book “I Robot.” But even though he had consent from the Asimov estate, a major studio threatened to take him down if he dared to bring it out. Turns out that studio was working on a film titled “I Robot.”
This week another major studio sued the Corleone estate because they want to publish a “Godfather” sequel. The studio claims that it’s to “protect the integrity and reputation of The Godfather trilogy.”
It would be kind of weak to say that the questionable censorship practices described above are an excuse to go and pirate movies. However, they are examples of how common protectionism and censorship is among the biggest players in Hollywood, and that this may be more detrimental to creativity than piracy will ever be.