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MPAA pitches indies on new liaison

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PARK CITY -- MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman reached out Monday to independent filmmakers gathered at the Sundance Film Festival as he announced the appointment of a filmmaker liaison, whose job it will be to guide distributors, producers and directors through the ratings system.

Many indie filmmakers consider the Classification and Rating Administration -- operated by the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners -- the enemy, forcing them to make unwanted cuts in their films.

But Glickman told a gathering of indie power brokers that they have a new friend in filmmaker liaison Scott Young, a 19-year MPAA veteran who has been serving as a senior rater.

CARA chairman Joan Graves, who accompanied Glickman to Park City, has long been the go-to person for filmmakers asking questions about decisions made by the board.

"Some filmmakers are afraid to call the chairman with their questions," Glickman said. "We want someone with experience in communicating with directors and filmmakers. Scott understands the movie process, and now this will be his primary job."

In addition to his new duties, Young will retain his position as senior rater. "He's not an advocate for filmmakers," Glickman said. "He's a conduit for information."

HDNet Films co-president Jason Kliot, one of the filmmakers attending Monday's meeting, said that while the MPAA listened to the community's concerns, "they didn't give many specifics" on the proactive steps the liaison would take in the indie film community.

"The liaison seems to be a very proactive person, and that never was really in place before," Kliot said.

Among the filmmakers present were Paramount Vantage executives John Lesher and Nick Meyer, Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard, This is That producer Ted Hope and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

"I applaud Dan for taking baby steps, but meaningful baby steps, to enhance the process," Sarandos said.

At a luncheon after the meeting, Glickman outlined several of the reforms he is instituting at CARA to make its workings more transparent: Rules and regulations will be posted on an MPAA Web site so that they will be easily accessible; the identities of the senior raters will be made public, though other raters' identities will remain confidential; the size of the appeals board will increase; and filmmakers will, for the first time, be able to cite precedents in other films when making an appeal.

However, not everyone applauded all of the MPAA's efforts to open up the process.

Kirby Dick, director of the documentary "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," which offered a critical look at CARA when it bowed at last year's Sundance and which bows today on DVD, said he supports some of the organization's new initiatives, like allowing the use of precedent in the appeals process. But, he added, "Having this kind of liaison doesn't address systemic problems. If the ratings system doesn't change, there will still be a bias against independent and gay filmmakers."

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