This Film Is Not Yet Rated teaser poster

Poster Branding

In the new documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, filmmaker Kirby Dick takes a look at the MPAA and controversies surrounding the film ratings system. The documentary investigates why the mysterious MPAA film ratings board can be an endless source of frustration for filmmakers. From the film press release:

This Film Is Not Yet Rated asks whether Hollywood movies and independent films are rated equally for comparable content; whether sexual content in gay-themed movies are given harsher ratings penalties than their heterosexual counterparts; whether it makes sense that extreme violence is given an R rating while sexuality is banished to the cutting room floor; whether Hollywood studios receive detailed directions as to how to change an NC-17 film into an R while independent film producers are left guessing; and finally, whether keeping the raters and the rating process secret leave the MPAA entirely unaccountable for its decisions.

The IFC web site (the Independent Film Channel is releasing the documentary) released two This Film Is Not Yet Rated movie posters. The two one-sheets each feature a naked torso (one nude male, one nude female).

MPAA R Rating logo
MPAA Rated R Restricted logo

The This Film Is Not Yet Rated movie film title treatment is based on the design of the MPAA R Rating logo being branded into the naked subject’s skin.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated teaser poster
This Film Is Not Yet Rated teaser
The IFC web site and promotional materials featured these copylines about their print campaign:

“Take a look at the ad they wouldn’t let us place.”

“See the poster they wouldn’t let you see only at”

With headlines like that, one might assume the “they” in this case would be the MPAA, which approves all theatrical key art for films being rated. This movie poster approval process can result in one-sheets being banned, which we have covered several times in the past. In the case of what the IFC is calling their “uncensored” This Film Is Not Yet Rated movie posters, were the female branded and male branded versions of the one-sheet submitted to (and rejected by) the MPAA’s Advertising Administration?

The answer is no, these ads were never submitted to or censored by the MPAA. The “they” referenced above turns out to be various newspapers and media outlets around the country refusing to run the ads. According to Evan Shapiro, executive vice president and general manager of IFC:

The NY Times and The LA Times (among many others) both rejected our ads, because they said they were “vulgar”. Also, we had to alter the artwork for outdoor, as Clear Channel would not allow a clear shot of an ass.

However, Premiere Magazine and Time Out NY allowed the ads, as is, as did all of the alternative weekly publications, such as the Village Voice and the Boston Pheonix.

Originally This Film Is Not Yet Rated was given an NC-17 rating, meaning it could not play in many theatres around the country. After a failed ratings appeal to the MPAA’s CARA (Classification and Ratings Administration), the producers decided to release the film (natch) unrated. With the movie being unrated, the film key art is not subject to any approval by the MPAA, since the film and it’s advertising do not carry an MPAA rating.

This “ad they wouldn’t let us place” claim seems a bit misleading — while making statements like “the poster they wouldn’t let you see” and labeling these posters as “uncensored” may be technically true, wouldn’t many assume they were referring to the MPAA given the film’s subject matter? The LA Times refusing to run an ad featuring a bare female ass isn’t exactly the same thing as an unchecked governing body censoring content from the public.

A documentary film about problems with MPAA ratings system, which is being released unrated because of the very ratings system it criticizes, being marketed with “uncensored” movie posters “they wouldn’t let you see”… Is this what advertising executives refer to as branding?