This video from ReasonTV shows you an interview with filmmaker Clay Epstein.
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Censorship and Slashers
Ted Balaker: Hi, I’m Ted Balaker with Reason.TV thanks for joining me. Today I’ll be speaking with Clay Epstein, VP of Sales and Acquisition for The Little Film Company. You may know The Little Film Company from such films as An American Haunting and Tsotsi, a redempted tale about a south African street folk which won the academy award for best foreign language film in 2005.
Clay thanks for joining us.
Clay Epstein: My pleasure Ted, thanks for having me.
Ted Balaker: So talk to me about The Little Film Company and what you do for them.
Clay Epstein: My job primarily is -- I’ll break it down to three responsibilities. One, is to find movies for us to produce, executive produce, and then the marketing of the film and then the distributing or the selling of the film. In selling, not necessarily to the consumer but to businesses around the world that we’ll then distribute the film, which means put it in the theatre, put it on the video and put it on the television.
Ted Balaker: What’s it like selling films to China?
Clay Epstein: It’s interesting. You have a different set of challenges when you sell a film to China. Every film that’s released in China has to go through censorship, approval, they have a censorship board. They have one that’s -- for films that are going to be released theatrically and they have a different one for DVD and for television.
Ted Balaker: Can you explain China’s attitude towards releasing films that have anti-government themes?
Clay Epstein: I haven’t seen any written guidelines of the censorship board in China but from what I understand and for what films you see being released and accepted it’s once that do not talk about anti- government or that are about speaking out against government.
Ted Balaker: That it doesn’t matter who the government is, right?
Clay Epstein: Right. And ghost stories. Ghost coming back to haunt the kids, that type of story is not going to be allowed.
Ted Balaker: Something like The Others, they would --
Clay Epstein: Yeah, The Others, I don’t know for sure if it was released in China or not but I would think it probably wasn’t. And those films that are made in China are usually made with the censorship; usually they send a representative from the censorship division or censorship board to visit the set. They read the script 02:21 if it is a set, they work with the filmmakers.
Ted Balaker: And people think censorship that China is probably one of the first nations they think, are there any other nations or territories that come to mind?
Clay Epstein: Yeah. I mean a lot of the Southeast Asian countries have censorships. Malaysia has censorship, Indonesia has censorship, India has censorship.
Ted Balaker: What kinds of things won’t get through this?
Clay Epstein: Each country is a little bit different. I mean, Malaysia is a Muslim country so that it in and of itself is going to probably have certain - - their censorship board is looking for certain things. Thailand has a censorship board, and it changes a lot. I mean sometimes I’ll get a call from distributors saying “Well, we used to be able to show people smoking in a film,” and then they come, they called and say “Listen, you have that film and you know the protagonist.” If he’s smoking away in the movie and you know the Thai government has now passed a law that we can’t show that openly in films because we don’t want to promote smoking to young kids. So it’s everywhere. Censorship is everywhere. But that was one that happened in Thailand a year or two ago. I don’t know if that ban has been lifted or not but you couldn’t show smoking openly. You can show someone I think holding a cigarette but not taking the hit and blowing the smoke out. And they were --
Ted Balaker: That’s a different -- corruption.
Clay Epstein: Yes. If you’re just holding it maybe you’re not -- maybe, right. But this, you’re blowing a smoke out, you’re getting the -- you know -- you’re getting the toxins.
Ted Balaker: Some of that movement is a 03:48 here in the States as well, yes.
Clay Epstein: But it’s -- there’s a movement but it’s not the government saying “You can’t release the movie of someone smoking.”
Ted Balaker: To what extent are movie goers tease universal versus culturally specific like when you come across a script do you ever say “Oh, this would kill in Korea” or “The Germans are really going to love this.”
Clay Epstein: That’s how we -- after we read the script to see where the value of it is. There was a big rise in whore films the past few years just completely saturated with whore films because they work everywhere culturally. You don’t have to explain to someone who doesn’t speak English and did not grow up in America that is someone is chasing with an axe it’s scaring -- you have to get the hell out of the way. There’s no cultural understanding there. You know exactly what’s going on in that film. So the opposite side of that is probably comedy where Borat may not have been a successful in Japan because the Japanese just may not get a lot of that humor, it may not get the jokes.
Ted Balaker: Yeah, something like Bollywood in India where they’ve got you know huge indigenous industry right there. Are there any other kind of movers and shakers that we’re going to see in the next few years.
Clay Epstein: Korea. There was a movie called The Host which was phenomenal. The effects were great and the story was very Hollywood, it was all Korean. And it was released here and it didn’t do huge numbers but that was one of the first ones. In the past few years Korea’s film industry has boomed. It’s really, really grown very fast. And it actually it’s direct competition you know the company, the client will say to me “I can’t buy your film because I have -- I’m already releasing 15 Korean movies that I’m really going to make money on in Korea and three big studio films in the US, where do I put your independent film? I can’t make enough money on your independent film because the audience wants Korean movies or big Hollywood studio films.”
Ted Balaker: You see the emergence of eastern Europe even as a -- people go into Romania to make films, Lithuania.
Clay Epstein: Yeah. Well, they are going -- in every place you mentioned it’s a little bit different scenario going on. I mean studios, people from all over the world are going to Lithuania or Romania to make movies because it’s cheaper. Bottom line they’re going to go where it’s cheaper to make a film.
Ted Balaker: In terms of these choices or everything that’s out there is this a good time to be a film buddy.
Clay Epstein: I think it is a good time to be a film buddy. But you have movies from Korea now to choose from, and from China, and from Hong Kong and all over the world that countries that weren’t making films before. Because films are cheaper to make on the independent side for instance if you know someone could just go buy a $4,000.00 camera making film, so I think it’s a very good time to be a film buddy. Accessibility, you have access to films all over the world.
Ted Balaker: And you can check out Reason.TV and --
Clay Epstein: Exactly.
Ted Balaker: Fascinating talks about that. Clay Epstein everyone, thanks for stopping by.