DGA Task Force on Violence and Social Responsibility Statement in Response to FTC Report on Violence

September 14, 2000

Statement calls for overhaul of ratings system and “zero-tolerance” policy towards underage admissions by theatre owners; encourages industry-devised code of conduct for marketing motion pictures.

The Directors Guild of America’s Task Force on Violence and Social Responsibility released the following statement at a 10:00am press conference today at DGA Headquarters in Los Angeles. Attending the press conference were DGA President Jack Shea, DGA Secretary-Treasurer Gil Cates and DGA Task Force members Paris Barclay, Wes Craven, David Fincher, Walter Hill, Rob Reiner, Gary Ross, Brad Silberling, and Mark Tinker. [A complete list of Task Force members follows this release.]

The Directors Guild of America and its members understand the concern of parents regarding violence in the media; indeed, many of us are parents—and grandparents—ourselves. This is why in June of 1999 the DGA’s National Board of Directors formed a Task Force on Violence and Social Responsibility. We’ve fostered a dialogue within the Guild and with scholars who are respected for their work in this field. We have also held discussions with Jack Valenti about making the rating system more effective. In light of our extensive involvement in this area, we have decided to make this statement today to address the Federal Trade Commission report.

As filmmakers, we are storytellers who seek to tell our stories in the most evocative manner possible. Our stories, like the culture they often reflect, may contain scenes of violence. This has been true of storytellers and cultures throughout history, from Homer to the Bible to Shakespeare to Hemingway. Depictions of violence do not inherently mean that our stories promote violence, and indeed many are doing the polar opposite. Often our stories are intended for an adult audience, or for those mature enough to understand the nuances of the storytelling.

DGA Task Force on Violence and Social ResponsibilityWe believe in freedom of speech and expression as social values of the highest order. At the same time, as responsible members of the community, we believe that there are steps we as an industry can take to ensure that our movies are seen only by the audiences for whom they are intended.

We believe that it is ultimately the obligation of parents and legal guardians to protect their children from exposure to material they deem inappropriate. For this reason:

  • We believe that parents and other consumers should have access to a more useful and elaborate self-regulated ratings system (or systems). A simple, clean and detailed rating should apply to all.
  • We advocate a system (or systems) that would give parents and other consumers the most detailed information possible regarding the true nature and content of a film (or other media) and the reason for its rating, so that they can make informed decisions for themselves and for their children.

Such a system will allow us as filmmakers to tell our stories to the audience for which they are intended.

In strengthening the ratings system, we urge the industry to adopt references that more clearly delineate the film’s intended audience. For example:

Under the current system all children under 17 are treated equally. However, while some films may be appropriate for older children to see with parental accompaniment,some are inappropriate for younger children under any circumstances. This problem needs to be addressed either through public education or through a new rating system that would prevent younger children from being exposed to material that is inappropriate or harmful for their age group.

For films intended solely for adult audiences, we urge the Motion Picture Association of America, theatre owners, video stores and advertising outlets to develop, nurture and stand behind a rating that will allow filmmakers to tell adult stories without the fear that minors will see them, while at the same time ensuring that films so rated will not be unfairly stigmatized. The NC-17 rating that currently exists has been an abject failure: many films that should not be seen by minors are re-cut so that they receive a “hard” R rating. This has the effect of not only compromising filmmakers’ visions, but also greatly increasing the likelihood that adult-oriented movies are seen by the very groups for which they are not intended.

We believe this new rating system would best be developed with the active participation of the creative community, and we offer our members’ services to help make it as effective as possible.DGA Task Force on Violence and Social Responsibility

We understand and agree that parents also should be able to look to the industry to assist them once they have made their decisions.

No filmmaker wants his or her film to be seen by those for whom it was not intended.

We call upon all theatre owners to employ a zero-tolerance policy with respect to allowing underage children to enter the theatre playing a movie that has been deemed inappropriate for their age group.

We further support an industry-devised code of conduct governing the marketing of movies intended for mature audiences, and encourage all who produce and distribute such materials to develop these policies as soon as possible.

The DGA and its members are pleased that the Federal Trade Commission Report recognizes that the First Amendment requires that creative decisions about content be left to artists and their distributors, and that the FTC's recommendations build on self-regulation, not government intervention. The FTC has recognized that self-regulation can be effective, and we commend the agency for resisting the temptation to call for government intervention. We think it would be both inappropriate and unconstitutional for any government agency to regulate or enforce any potential ratings system through civil penalties, criminal prosecution or other means.

We are committed to ensuring that the stories we tell find the audience for whom they are intended. The Directors Guild is not going to stop at this statement: we plan to continue our efforts to examine what we can do to improve this situation, and will gladly join others to seriously address the concerns raised in the FTC report. We owe this to ourselves, to our children, and to the society we are dedicated to serve.

Directors Guild of America Task Force on Violence and Social Responsibility

  • Jack Shea, Chair
  • John Badham
  • Paris Barclay
  • Michael Bay
  • LeVar Burton
  • John Carpenter
  • Duane Clark
  • Wes Craven
  • Bill D’Elia
  • Bill Duke
  • David Fincher
  • Taylor Hackford
  • Walter Hill
  • Albert Hughes
  • Allen Hughes
  • Mimi Leder
  • Michael Mann
  • Sydney Pollack
  • Rob Reiner
  • Gary Ross
  • Ed Sherin
  • Brad Silberling
  • Betty Thomas
  • Mark Tinker
  • Lili Zanuck

 

Contact
Lily Bedrossian -
Director of Media Relations
(310) 289-5334
lbedrossian@dga.org