Event also featured TV censorship, creativity panel

Martin Scorsese spoke with New Yorker film critic David Denby on Saturday as part of the magazine’s film festival, but the director kept his remarks about Miramax’s forthcoming “The Gangs of New York” on a general-audience level.

He did not address the well-known tensions on the set between him and Weinstein, nor did he discuss the editing process.

Scorsese did, however, take a swipe at studio filmmaking, which he called “all consumer” and said, “if you want to do a serious film, you do it independently.”

And he acknowledged that the higher the budget, the less freedom you have. “If you want to make something really daring,” he said, “you need to make it for really little money.”

An extended preview of “Gangs” included some 20 minutes of footage from the film.

Asked about the ratio of suffering to pleasure when making a film, he said, “It’s the worst experience of your life.”

On his proclivity toward making violent films, he said, “Violence is a serious thing. These are the stories that I am attracted to. My films are not for everyone. We need to deal with who we are as human beings and also as Americans.”

Censorship chatter

Also on Saturday, the many saucy words uttered about network standards & practices departments were left uncensored.

Called “Censorship and Creativity,” the New Yorker fest panel featured “West Wing” creator and executive producer Aaron Sorkin, ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne, “South Park” co-creator and executive producer Trey Parker and MTV Entertainment prexy Brian Graden.

Among many jibes, Sorkin mocked NBC’s censors for making him excise a how-to on the manufacture of amphetamines in an upcoming episode of his top-rated Peacock skein. He also claimed that on his program, the president has been prohibited from saying “goddamn,” an actor can’t order a Jack Daniels and he was fact-checked when he wrote that Jews were slaves in Egypt 5,000 years ago.

But in person, he added, the standards and practices people aren’t so bad.

Meanwhile, he pointed out, the luridness of reality-television is rampant.

“I think we’re two years away from someone being paid a million dollars to play Russian roulette,” he said.

While dirty words and the possible conflicts of product placement took up most of the discussion (moderated by New Yorker staff writer Tad Friend), Lyne probably pointed out the most poignant irony in television: While the language barrier has slowly been broken down, political correctness has created a creative minefield.

“I think it would be difficult to put ‘All in the Family’ on the air today,” she said.

At the end of the discussion, one young questioner had a more extreme response to the vagaries of censorship. “If we just blew up MTV’s antennae and replace them with New Yorker subscriptions,” he pondered, “would the world be a better place?”

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