Colorizing law pitched in D.C.

Directors and screenwriters this week renewed their pitch for legislation requiring film studios to notify consumers if pix are colorized or materially altered.

Prominent helmers and scripters used the inauguration of President Clinton as an occasion for pressing the film labeling request. The groups feted lawmakers at a post-inaugural buffet dinner Wednesday night.

Issue of whether consumers should be notified if films are altered for video or TV has prompted a messy squabble between studio bosses and film creators.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America staunchly opposed the bill, claiming it could hurt industry sales. Consumers might balk at viewing pix perceived as being anything less than original, MPAA has argued.

That argument has played well on Capitol Hill, where MPAA topper Jack Valenti never fails to remind lawmakers that motion pictures are a prized U.S. trade asset.

For directors and screenwriters, the issue comes down to creative integrity and consumer protection. Consumers should be warned if films are changed in a way that does not reflect the intent of their makers, they claim.

Writers Guild of America West prexy Del Reisman said the message sent to Congress this week is, “Jack Valenti is not the only presence in Washington representing the creative community.”

Reisman called Valenti a “brilliant lobbyist” who has presented “marvelous argumentation” against film labeling. “But we want Congress to know there’s another side to the story,” Reisman said.

The Writers Guild recently hired veteran D.C. lobbyist Liz Robbins to tell its story on Capitol Hill, per Reisman.

Reisman said he expects Sens. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) to reintroduce film labeling legislation that died in committee last year. Writers and directors also are looking for new House members to take up the fight. Rep. Robert Mrazek (D- N.Y.), who championed their cause in years past, resigned to launch an ill-fated run for the Senate.

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