REWIND FEATURE: The Department of Culture, Media and Sports new guidelines could spell an end to extra features.

Recently, the Department of Culture, Media and Sports introduced new guidelines in an attempt to help put an end to overly sexualised music videos. However, these new guidelines will also have an adverse affect on what studios will be required to submit to the BBFC to be expensively rated, especially when it comes to extra features. We contacted several of the United Kingdom's leading independent studios for their thoughts on the matter, and this is what they had to say.

Arrow Films

The new legislation has serious implications for niche labels where our audience is very much on an international level and so we must compete with territories that do not have to contend with such costs. Whether we choose to include content for our releases has a whole new set of financial considerations which means we are at a significant disadvantage to our competitors, yet all this content could go on YouTube with no classification and that would be ok. The BBFC's remit is to protect children but these new guidelines only cover home entertainment media not anything on the internet, which is where most children will see offending material whether they be watching music videos or films/TV so instead of protecting children it's really just penalising companies that still have a vested interest in physical media. This is especially crushing for smaller companies operating on tight budgets.

The BBFC also does not take into consideration the kind of film or TV show being submitted, a studio tent pole which will sell hundreds of thousands of units vs a niche film likely to sell less than a thousand units pays the same and if that film is long, say Jacques Rivette's celebrated OUT 1, at 15 hours long would incur a BBFC fee of £6570. With an expense like this distributors are not going to license risky films meaning many UK cineastes will simply never see films that are freely available in other countries which is a terrible shame.

New Wave Films

Firstly it now drags in roughly 50% or more of non-fiction titles into paying £600 - £1000 a pop. Where the over PG line is drawn is very vague and could pull in all sorts of general interest titles from all over the spectrum - nature docs with animals eating/mating with each other, war newsreel compilations, footballers using unparliamentary language, suggestive fitness videos - the list could be as long as the prurience of trading standards officers. This side of it has been hardly commented on.

On extras it obviously affects some labels much more than others. Long extras on horror titles will become marginal but it will be very hard to make a public case to amend the proposed legislation if the only titles suffering are ones with buckets of blood. It will be like Evil Dead/Driller Killer all over again.

Making Ofs on most films should still be largely exempt (providing clips of anything not exempt arenít included), shorts had to be classified already, interviews with directors/cast etc should be OK - if they mind their language.

I read the consultation document from the DCMS (on which of course itís too late to comment, either a cynical ploy, or more likely just plain incompetence), and the whole thing could employ mílearned friends for years as to what on earth itís supposed to mean. For instance - stick men assaulting vegetables non-sexually is still OK for minors to watch it seems...

I canít see itís realistic to get the proposals dropped altogether unless whichever politician started this falls out of favour, but I have a suspicion it was Cameron, who still has a year left.

The pricing of all this is still up to the BBFC however, so a compromise might be to charge for extras not on the video tariff, but on the digital tariff which is 60% cheaper.

Soda Pictures

Whilst many of us would agree that the BBFC have been commendably progressive in recent years and respondent to distributor feedback, it is disappointing that the Board has not responded more aggressively against the changes in the VRA implemented by the DCMS and the real, credible threat it presents the UK indie sector. These detrimental effects do not stop at undermining our commitment to the enduring survival of physical media, but also have immediate ramifications to VOD distribution, the overall viability of commercially "difficult" but worthy documentary films, as well as generally affecting our bottom line.

Of course, the worst consequences would be to diversity in the marketplace; these additional costs mean little to a major studio releasing multimillion-dollar blockbusters, but for smaller companies like Soda attempting to innovate by introducing new voices and showcasing unconventional cinema, the difference can be vital.

Simply put, this is a market that needs less handicaps placed upon it, not more.

Third Window Films

This going through would come close to ending us and other similar labels. In the UK the studios and megastores have over the years dropped prices lower and lower to ship more units. Maybe this doesn't have so much an effect for studios who sell tens of thousands per title, but for the smaller studios who sell only a thousand or two it has massive ramifications. It has been harder and harder through the years to deal with this, especially when in many other large countries dvds are still sold at decent prices and the niche labels can do better. In the UK smaller companies really need to make our titles stand out, so niche labels like ours, Arrow Films, MOC, Terracotta, etc try hard to make our titles stick out by loading them with quality extras and to make nice packages that help us keep the retail price a little more than the already low price that people have been accustomed to with studios selling their blu-rays for £5-8 at many places. It's even harder for us than some other niche labels as with all our titles being from Asia we first have a smaller audience than if they were English language or European, plus all the extras require subtitling which incurs more time and money to prepare.

What the BBFC are doing is 100% going to mean less variety in the market. They already charge some of the highest prices in the world to rate films, which has on many times turned me off from buying a film because of its length so therefore it means that people in the UK cannot see that film because of the costs involved from the BBFC. Japanese and Korean films tend to be much longer so the costs are higher. In fact do they really NEED to charge such absurd amounts when they watch many video releases of films at home? I'd love a job where I got paid £1000+ or so to sit at home and watch a film! Do the BBFC really NEED to have such expensive and lavish offices in one of London's prime pieces of real estate, is that a necessity??

Also talking about necessity and greed, do they really NEED to make us pay to certify the film for theatres and again for DVD? If it's the same film why make us pay twice? I donít believe itís an irrational argument from myself, it just seems greedy and doesnít serve the peopleís interest to make people pay twice to certify the exact same movie.

We were just planning a nice release of the Takashi Miike film Lesson of Evil, but now this is forcing us to rethink the release as it would cost an extra £1300 to certify, and with the film to get an 18 certificate, do the extras really need to be certified? If the film is an 18 then there's not much else higher they can give the film, right? Of course they could ban it completely if there was something ludicrous on the extras but we all know and they could use common sense to see what type of film it is and that the extras couldn't go much further. The lack of extras would cause us to lose sales which would of course hurt us a lot. Also whatís to stop people pirating films if thereís nothing worth collecting in a physical media? VOD doesnít seem to be working so far for indies, so physical media is important, and still works due to the customers of niche labels caring about collecting the title due to its entire content and packaging. I wonder if all discs were barebones would people pirate more? Itís certainly an argument to be had.

What I believe they should be doing, in an effort to promote independent cinema and a variety of cinema in the UK is this: offer discounts on low ship titles - This would help the argument of "how do you categorise an 'independent' distribution company" - This is what they do in Ireland with their film certification company. It is meant to promote small releases by offering a big discount on titles which only ship a small amount. If they were required to charge for extras, they could lump into this discount so they fulfil their certification requirements and still help smaller releases.

In order to find the financial balance (as they are trying to do with these new measures) why not up the prices on the big shipments (the major studio releases for which the BBFC cost is peanuts to them) and lower the cost for small shipments? Maybe if they invited smaller labels into their discussions these alternatives could be found, but maybe they just don't want us involved?

For the sake of the future of independent distribution, which in turn means a VARIETY of cinema being released in the UK the BBFC needs to rethink their pricing structure or they will have a huge impact in the downfall of already struggling independent film distribution companies.

ADDENDUM: Nucleus Films

Marc Morris from Nucleus Films contacted us after this article went live with the following information:

Nucleus the ball rolling with the changes to the BBFC's exemption guidelines. It started with a post I made on Facebook and it quickly spread.

I was initially called in to the BBFC as they'd seen this and the MovieMail piece, and to discuss our concerns about the implications of the changes. Following the BBFC meeting, I contacted Tim at trade mag RayGun and we got all the indie labels together for a meeting a few wweks ago, which included the head of the BVA.

We are awaiting a reply from the DMCS to our concerns.

Final thoughts...

As you can see, these new guidelines could be devastating for film fans from the UK, and those who import. Not only are sales at risk, but so are jobs. It is up to all of us, as film fans, to fill out this contact form and register our dismay with these new guidelines, as well as sign the petition at 38degrees. Get to it!