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Ratings outfit aims to ease process for directors

The organization responsible for rating movies announced changes Monday aimed at making the process more meaningful to filmmakers.The Motion Picture Association of America said a longtime employee will become a liaison to filmmakers to offer advice on scripts and explain the ratings process.“We can’t guarantee a rating, but we can provide guidance for them,” said Joan Graves, who heads the M
/ Source: The Associated Press

The organization responsible for rating movies announced changes Monday aimed at making the process more meaningful to filmmakers.

The Motion Picture Association of America said a longtime employee will become a liaison to filmmakers to offer advice on scripts and explain the ratings process.

“We can’t guarantee a rating, but we can provide guidance for them,” said Joan Graves, who heads the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration.

“Nothing is more devastating to a filmmaker than having to take his work apart at the end rather than crafting it from the beginning,” she said.

The announcement came after a private meeting Monday between filmmakers and MPAA officials at the Sundance Film Festival.

“It’s an attempt to listen and build relationships and see if there are some things we can improve,” MPAA chief Dan Glickman told reporters.

The meeting followed MPAA’s recently announced plan to make the ratings system more open and understandable for filmmakers and the public.

“There’s an impression we haven’t been as accessible or approachable,” Glickman said.

Scott Young, a member of the MPAA’s ratings administration for 19 years, will be “filmmaker liaison.”

He “will be the focal point for filmmakers of all types,” Glickman said.

A revolving board of seven parents, along with three more permanent viewers, decides whether films should be rated NC-17, R, PG-13, PG or G.

It is common for filmmakers to sign contracts promising they will deliver a film that will garner a certain rating, Graves said.

During the meeting with filmmakers, there was discussion about creating another type of R rating that would denote stronger R content, rather than giving films an NC-17 rating — the “kiss of death” for selling tickets, Glickman said.

A rating between R and NC-17 would help people distinguish between adult content and “smut or pornography,” said Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, who attended the meeting and welcomed the talks.

“I think it bodes very well for progress,” he said.

Critics have blasted the ratings system as an overly secretive process that leaves filmmakers in the dark.

One of the major changes announced last week will give directors more leeway in appealing a rating by allowing them to cite similar objectionable scenes in other movies.

The MPAA plans to inform the public with more information on its Web site. Ratings rules and standards are available there, and parents can receive the “Red Carpet Ratings Service,” weekly e-mails with reports on new films.