Process more clear for parents, filmmakers
Looking to reform and demystify the ratings system, the MPAA and National Assn. of Theater Owners are planning a series of changes, including a new admonishment to parents that certain R-rated movies aren’t suitable for younger kids, period.Another key change: For the first time, a filmmaker will be able to cite another movie when waging an appeal. Along with specific rule revisions, the campaign to make the ratings process more user-friendly and transparent for parents and filmmakers includes an extensive outreach and education program. Campaign officially kicks off Monday at the Sundance Film Fest when MPAA topper Dan Glickman and Joan Graves, chair of the Classification & Rating Administration, will meet with indie filmmakers, producers and specialty arm execs to go over the alterations. (CARA is operated by the MPAA, which reps the major studios, and NATO.) A year ago at Sundance, Kirby Dick made noise with his docu “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” which took direct aim at the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s ratings system for being shrouded in secrecy and, hence, lacking accountability. At the time, Glickman had already been meeting with and gathering input from various stakeholders in the ratings system — including filmmakers, guilds, parents’ groups and Washington lawmakers — but Dick’s film had an impact. “The documentary made it clear that we probably haven’t done as much as we can to explain how it all works,” Glickman told Daily Variety, adding that the voluntary ratings system–devised and implemented by Jack Valenti, his predecessor — is a “gem,” even if it needs some polishing. To that end, the public soon will have access to information previously unavailable. That includes:
- For the first time, CARA will post the ratings rules on the MPAA Web site, describing the standards for each rating. The ratings and appeal processes also will be described in detail, along with a link to paperwork needed to submit a film for a rating.
- Most members of the ratings board will remain anonymous, although CARA will describe the demographic make-up of the board, which is composed of parents. The names of the three senior raters have always been public; now, they will be posted online.
- A filmmaker who appeals a rating can reference similar scenes in other movies, although the appeals board still will focus heavily on context.
- CARA will formalize its rule that a member of the ratings board doesn’t stay on the board after his or her children are grown.
- CARA also will formalize its educational training system for raters.
- When the CARA rules are implemented later this year, the MPAA and NATO will designate additional members to the appeals board who don’t come from the MPAA or NATO fold. (Indie filmmakers might be one possibility.)
- NATO and MPAA will occasionally be able to designate additional observers from different backgrounds to the appeals board.