ISSUES – Statement of Robin Bronk

Executive Director of The Creative Coalition

House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection
Tuesday, September 26, 2006, at 2:00 p.m.
2322 Rayburn House Office Building

Good afternoon Chairman Stearns, Ranking Member Schakowsky and members of the Subcommittee.

My name is Robin Bronk, and I am the Executive Director of The Creative Coalition. I am honored and proud to be called upon to testify at this hearing and – as a working mother — I thank you for your time and efforts on behalf of America’s families

The Creative Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Founded in 1989 by prominent figures in the creative community, The Creative Coalition works to educate and mobilize leaders in the arts community on issues of public importance. Our members are actors, actresses, writers, producers, directors, and others involved in America’s creative arts.

I thank you for having me here today to address this issue that is so important to so many members of my organization.

Article I of the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the authority to protect intellectual property in order to promote the sciences and the arts.

This construct has been SPECTACULARLY successful – AND TIME TESTED I MIGHT ADD — in protecting and nourishing the arts which are essential to a flourishing American culture.

Nowhere, perhaps, is America’s contribution to the arts more pronounced than in cinema.

Movies are an American art form. It’s NOT just another business. It’s NOT just about money. It’s NOT about a PAY DAY.

Yet, too often, there’s a tendency to view filmmaking that way.

We don’t seem to have this same problem when discussing literature or sculpture.

Just think how different this discussion today would be if we were talking about for-profit companies censoring America’s great novels to omit material that someone found objectionable.

Moviemakers are artists, and the creative choices that they make are at the heart of their artistic expression.

I’d like to talk for just a moment about my personal experience dealing with the artists involved in making motion pictures.

While the media seem obsessed with big budget movies and blockbuster releases, the truth of the matter is that most moviemaking is an antithesis of a guaranteed, get-rich-quick scheme.

My members dedicate years of their lives to getting films completed –and a message…a lesson…a moment in history…in front of the public.

In many instances, actors — even the most lauded in the business — work for scale wages just to ensure that pictures get made, and messages are heard.

Directors pour themselves into projects that – if they ever looked at the statistics – they’d know never to expect to make much, if any, money at all.

I mention this because discussion of these new technologies often turns quickly to how movie studios and artists don’t necessarily lose money due to the release of these unauthorized edits.

If this were just about money, however, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Absent any involvement from Washington, there are already tremendous economic pressures in Hollywood to make movies that can get G or PG ratings because those movies have the broadest possible paying audiences.

Why then are these artists making movies with content that some find objectionable, KNOWING they’ll get ratings that will limit their potential audience?

They do it because – as ARTISTS – they’re working to tell a unique story, to convey a specific feeling to the audience, to reflect an image of our reality back to us.

And for many artists, including material that some may find objectionable is essential to telling a story or making a story believable to an audience so that the movie screen doesn’t act as a barrier between the filmmaker and the viewer.

The old axiom IS true: art imitates life.

Walk the halls of this building or the sidewalks of Washington, and you’ll hear language that finds its way into films.

If you read the morning newspaper or watch the evening news, you’ll see violence that some would object to in films. And love stories are universal.

Subjectively editing movies can change effect and meaning.

Filmmakers have historically gotten into enormous fights about edits with the studios, which are paying for production, because edits can change the essence of the art.

That IS why it is so important to all of us as consumers, as citizens and as filmmakers that art not be subjected to unauthorized altering and then marketed under the artist’s name without permission.

At the same time, the members of The Creative Coalition would be the first to tell you that all content may not be appropriate for all audiences. Writers, directors, and actors, they have kids of their own. In fact, my members routinely make movies they don’t allow their own children to watch.

It’s not rocket science; it’s Parenting 101 that teaches us that not everything that is appropriate for an adult is appropriate for a child.

The creative community has supported the ratings system. A few years ago, the ratings system was expanded to give parents more specific information about why a movie received the rating it did, all in an effort to give parents information and user-friendly resources they can use to make decisions for their own families.

And last year’s Family Entertainment and Copyright Act gave parents additional choices for controlling what their families watch. Ultimately, people don’t have to watch a movie if they don’t want to see what’s in it. If you don’t want to see statues with nudity, just don’t go to the classical art museum.

The same idea holds true for film, which – like sculpture – is art. I firmly believe that we can achieve the objectives that all here seek without interfering with the artistic vision that our freedom of expression and our copyright laws exist to foster.

And, frankly, giving a darn doesn’t cut it, when you just have to give a damn.

I thank you all for your time and look forward to your questions.

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