Plenty of PR speak in his interview with the Freakonomics guys in the New York Times, but he does highlight some honesty about the MPAA, issues with rising movie costs, and natural tensions between the studios, filmmakers, and distributors.
For example, regarding NC-17 films, he says:
As we’ve seen in recent years with films like Lust, Caution (which received an NC-17), these are wonderful and innovative films that adults want to see. Our partners at the National Association of Theater Owners polled their members, and they overwhelmingly said that they were willing to run NC-17 films in their theaters; so it’s ultimately up to distributors to decide how to release them. I hope we can get past the stigma associated with this rating because it will help bring to this art form an even greater diversity of creative visions.
I love that he deeply understands what the rating was designed to do, but I’m confused by this poll regarding the National Association of Theater Owners. They are willing to run them? So what’s the stigma? I always thought the problem was that certain major theater chains wouldn’t run these films, and certain newspaper wouldn’t run ads for them. I’m concerned that he’s being a little coy here.
He also addresses some previous silliness that had been in the rating system before he arrived:
Q: According to the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, in the process of appealing ratings decisions made by the M.P.A.A., there is a rule saying that people appealing the rating of their film cannot cite other films’ content. What do you think are the merits of this precedent? And, conversely, what are the drawbacks?
A: Last year, the Classifications and Rating Administration, which oversees the rating process, changed the rules to allow filmmakers to make these arguments in the appeals process. My view is that this was a constructive change — for filmmakers and for the rating system.
Don’t paint me as a fan of the MPAA yet, but interviews like this, and the semi-transparency that they offer, are at least a step in the right direction.