I am speaking on behalf of the seven senior film producers. It has come to our attention that the administration intends to censor the senior film such that all the four letter words are bleeped out.
We certainly appreciate the administration's priority to approve only of a film that conforms to its guidelines of decency and good taste, and we respect that priority. It is my belief, however, that you have made the mistake of assuming our film was designed with the intent to shock and offend, and based on that assumption, instituted a censorship protocol that is nothing less than punitive. Given our and especially my own lapses in judgment over the antecedent four years, this assumption is reasonable; however, again, it is incorrect.
We urge you to watch the film in its entirety. You will see firstly that the film is the result of an unprecedented effort. Second, you will appreciate that though the dialogue is certainly peppered with expletives, it is in the name of humor and is in no way gratuitous or excessive. Moreover, the content of the film wouldn't cause the average moviegoer to so much as raise an eyebrow - the dialogue is no more objectionable than a garden variety PG-13 flick and our film is devoid of nudity or violence.
The MedTV people claim that the bleeping will cover up not only the vocal track but the music track; given that roughly 80% of the two-hour film is over music, you can imagine the effect that these bleeps will have on the viewer. After dedicating literally thousands of man(and woman)-hours to this project, we deserve better than this on the day we reap the harvest we have sown with our cumulative efforts.
We ask that you reconsider your decision to censor the projected film on its debut; we are certain that the strong majority of attendees would prefer an unedited version and, in addition to the warning on the posters, we would be happy to make clear to all eventgoers that the film contains strong language (with signs, for example). Furthermore, we ask that those who want a copy of the film be given a choice as to whether they prefer a censored or uncensored version.
We appreciate your consideration in this matter and would like you to keep in mind that we all managed to graduate and in two weeks will be out of your hair forever.
reuben and the senior film crew
cc: Asad Kirmani, Seth Toomay, Billy Young, Brandon St. Amant, Eric Carlisle, Alisa Carman
Dear Reuben and other Senior Video Producers,
I am responding to your email regarding the decision to edit selected language in your production. I will try to respond to all of your points although not necessarily in the order you raise them.
You draw a comparison between your production of the senior video with commercial movies, suggesting that the language in your production is no different than what one might experience in a PG-13 movie. Perhaps that is so, but it ignores a very important difference - namely, the UT Southwestern Senior Video is not a commercial production. The Senior Video is a production of UT Southwestern Medical Center, using resources made possible through UT Southwestern and bearing the name of UT Southwestern along with the acknowledgment of those who have made financial contributions to the project. These names include the Southwestern Medical Foundation along with faculty and staff and parents, all of whom are delighted to continue a long tradition of the UT Southwestern Senior Video but would expect and deserve some adherence to the most widely shared definition of acceptability.
If you were making a commercial film, unless you were funding it yourself, you would interest potential investors either with a script or with a concept supported by a body of work. With the Senior Video there is no script when funding is arranged so the collection of 31 years of senior productions constitutes the body of work and forms the basis for deciding to fund this project.
Given that this production represents UT Southwestern (and its supporters) to many viewers, it is appropriate for us to exercise some judgement with respect to the taste and tolerance of a broad audience. This is the reason that we met with you in the Summer of 2001 to discuss the general guidelines you should follow as you prepared your script. Moreover, this is why we rely on Medical Television through David Bullock to interpret these guidelines for you as the scripting and shooting proceed.
Your email acknowledges the appropriateness of our role when you write, "We certainly appreciate the administration's priority to approve only of a film that conforms to its guidelines of decency and good taste, and we respect that priority." But then you go on to suggest that by doing so we are acting to punish either because of misinterpreting your motives in including such language or for prior instances of inappropriate language. Such is not the case. It is not that complicated. Our motive is to insure a product that is minimally offensive to broad audiences.
With regard to your assertion that the questionable language is less offensive when taken in the context of the entire video, I don't agree. As a matter of fact, it is interesting to note that even you and your colleagues were aware of the controversy this language would create as indicated by your own unsuccessful attempt to obliterate the language yourselves.
You suggest that our decision to edit should take into account the 1000's of hours you have spent on this project or the fact that our editing will eliminate music track as well as vocal track. Neither of those facts overrides the most important consideration of releasing an appropriate version suitable for a wide audience.
While it's clear that we disagree on this issue, I can't believe that you're surprised by our decision. You've had the benefit of David Bullock's advice coupled with previous videos from which to gauge what was acceptable. You took a risk with the full knowledge that we would probably have to do these edits.
With respect to the loss of the music track in the editing process, this less-than-optimum editing method is the result of your missing previously established deadlines. If you had allowed more time for editing it would have been done in a better way.
Insofar as having two versions of the video is concerned, that is not possible. We are going to release one version. UT Southwestern would not be agreeable to other versions and would exercise its copyright privileges on all footage collected on this project.
Finally, yes, I am mindful that you all managed to graduate. No one doubted that would happen. With regard to your soon being "out of" my "hair", I don't view it that way even though I have less and less hair to be out of. This is not about me or you. This is about striking a balance between your personal tastes and what I must do to assure the continuation of a long-standing Southwestern tradition.
You and UT Southwestern are linked for your lifetime. UT Southwestern will always strive to maintain a relationship with each of you. It is our hope that you will do likewise.
I understand that an enormous effort and energy that has gone into this production, far more than I can even imagine. I do not believe that what we do will diminish at all the positive response to your work.