Re: student work and lab regs

From: Walter Ungerer (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Apr 16 2010 - 13:21:07 PDT


I taught film production in the graduate film program at Columbia University
in the 1960ıs. Several times New York labs denied students prints of
processed film because of nudity in the material. So the students went
elsewhere to obtain work prints. There were more labs big and small then,
and students took their chances. If a lab held back questionable original
film from a student, it sometimes turned into a dragged out event getting
the lab to release the material. From my experience I donıt recall any
student not able to eventually recover her/his work.

Iıll relate one incident where the Westchester Police confiscated a
studentıs camera and the film used to shoot a risqué scene for a short film.
The student had arranged with three actors to shoot the scene at a cemetery
in Westchester County on a particular day in the fall. In the scene a priest
begins to get amorous with one of the two nuns accompanying him through a
cemetery. They climb onto a marble slab, disrobe, and begin to make love.
The second nun becomes excited and climbs on top of the priest.

The student had chosen a remote location on a weekday to shoot the scene.
Unknown to him students did not have school that day because of teacher
conferences. Three young boys had spied the scene in the cemetery. They
passed some local firefighters testing their equipment. The firefighter
overhearing the boys laughing and giggling. Questioned them. They called the
local police who investigated and discovered the production scene.

I was contacted by the dean of the art school a few days later to get
clarification of the incident. He was my production student. Columbia
University had been notified by Westchester County authorities. The camera
with the film still inside had been confiscated. It belonged to Columbia.

On the day of the hearing for the student, the dean, one of Columbia
Universityıs lawyers, and I met with the presiding judge and the countyıs
district attorney in the judgeıs private chambers. Thirty minutes of
discussion ensued, mainly between the district attorney and the universityıs
lawyer. The district attorney and the judge wanted to instill on us the
strict moral code in the county. Once accomplished the topic of discussion
turned to the camera with the film. The Columbia lawyer insisted the
Columbia property should be returned and unopened. That seemed reasonable
to the judge. He had already made his point. Each side was comfortable. The
Westchester authorities with their emphatic stand on moral responsibility;
and the Columbia University lawyer protecting the universityıs territory.

In my teaching experience Iıve encountered other similar situations. I have
found calmness and wisdom to always be helpful. Indignation leads to
arrogance. I have asked students who were in a predicament with a lab as you
have described, ³Whatıs your objective²? Of course itıs to get the film
back. I have always suggested to them to enlist the help of the professor
for the course, department chair, dean or higher authority.

I would say itıs always a good idea to let all involved parties know whatıs
going on. The student should be informed about lab policy before he/she
sends off their work. The lab should be contacted to learn about their
policy and how they deal with situations. Itıs good public relations. Of
course thereıs always the first time situation for which there was no
preparation, or it could not be anticipated. Then, as always Iıll go with
calmness, common sense and wisdom.

Everyone on this list, please excuse my lengthy cemetery tale. It made me
laugh when the student told me about his predicament in 1968. I still smile
when I try to visualize what occurred that day.

Walter Ungerer
Dark Horse Films, Inc.
Camden, ME 04843
Tel. 207-236-0278

From: Joan Hawkins <email suppressed>
Reply-To: Experimental Film Discussion List <email suppressed>
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2010 12:28:28 -0400
To: <email suppressed>
Subject: student work and lab regs

HI all, I've run into a problem this term and I guess I'm wondering how
common it is, and how you handle it.

I teach film history and criticism courses, but in my avant-garde classes I
always allow
students to do a film as part of their final project. In the past, I've
never had any problem, even when
content as well as style was provocative and edgy. This semester one of my
students, who is also enrolled in advanced production, sent footage--enough
for two class films' worth of shots-- to a lab for processing and printing.
 The lab processed the film but refused to print it because they found the 
material objectionable.  

From what I've been able to piece together from the production prof's report
and the student's account, there are suggestive scenes
but no actual sex, someone in a corset and about 5 secs of full frontal male
nudity. We're sending the processed film to a different lab in LA or NY for
actual printing, the student is calling to talk to them first and then the
production prof and I will provide documentation, if necessary, that this is
for a 
class project (actually 2 class projects).  Ironically, this entire brouhaha
broke the day I was planning to discuss the NEA Four and the culture wars of
the 80s/90s in class, so we had quite a "teachable moment," as my husband
wryly called it.
I haven't been able to persuade the production prof to tell me the name of
the lab that refused to print the film; she only says the lab
is in the South.  She did send me their printed disclaimer, which I'm
pasting in below.  What I'm wondering is how common this is and how 
you all handle similar situations.  Should I make a practice of warning
students that they need to alert the lab first if there's suggestive
And what in the world counts as suggestive material?-- this disclaimer
covers much of what goes on in mainstream Hollywood movies and television.

As a caveat, I haven't SEEN the film yet, so I don't know what the footage
actually looks like, but the description I got from both
the student and my colleague make it sound like stuff you could see any
night on cable.  Thanks for any suggestions you can send. Joan

The published lab caveat is as follows: 

We realize that the artist has full and total choice of expression. However,
we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. As a policy, we do not and
will not process, print, repair, or transfer any film containing: nudity,
pornography, sexual acts (either real or simulated), lewdness, satanic,
occultic, religiously blasphemous, exploitative of children, debasement of
women, containing S & M, anything illegal, or in any way extremely offensive
to us. Nor will we participate in the desensitization of or the
glorification of killing, rape, violence, gore, suicide, torture, profanity,
etc. whether in visual or audio form. "

Joan Hawkins
Indiana University
Dept of Communication and Culture
800 E. Third St
Bloomington, IN 47405
office phone 812-855-1548
__________________________________________________________________ For info
on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.