My film career is short and undistinguished, limited to an extra’s spot in an 1985 flop horror scifi. So that qualifies me as a movie producer, no? No? How about my investment in British filmmaker Charlie Lyne’s latest epic?
Paint Drying is, ahem, exactly what it says on the tin, a 607-minute movie of white paint drying on a wall. The film was crowdfunded by myself and scores of others in late 2015, to support a protest against the arguably excessive cost of certificating films for independent filmmakers who want to exhibit their work in the United Kingdom.
The money was to cover the nearly £6,000 in fees to get the British Board of Film Classification to issue the necessary certificate and a rating. This week, the BBFC sat down and watched every minute of it. They gave the film a “U” certificate, for “no material likely to offend or harm” as you see above.
A film effectively can’t be shown in the UK without a BBFC certificate, but the cost is prohibitive for the country’s established band of independent moviemakers. The only alternative is to seek a licence from a local authority or show it to a members’ only film club.
The strict system makes it harder for artists who aren’t backed by major studios to get their work seen in public. He was also concerned that the system encourages censorship.
“One of the most striking things for me has been the number of responses from people in other countries, chiming in with complaints about their own censor boards,” Lyne said told the Washington Post’s Intersect blog on Tuesday. Filmmakers from Australia and India seem to be particularly supportive. “Maybe they can all crowd-fund their own regional Paint Drying remakes,” he suggested.
As you can imagine, Paint Drying is well, unwatchable. Quizzed during a Reddit AMA, Lyne confessed he has not even seen it all the way through. The BBFC sets its fees by the length of the film in minutes, and it has to watch every submitted movie all the way through, before assessing its content and assigning a rating.
The fee is £101.50 per film, with an additional charge of £7.09 pounds for each minute of the film’s length. That cost typically runs at about a thousand pounds per feature film, Lyne told the Post, a cost that can be “prohibitively expensive” for independent filmmakers who distribute their films themselves.
“I self-distributed my first film, Beyond Clueless, earlier this year, which meant paying for the BBFC certificate myself,” he added. “It cost £867.60, which was about 50 percent of the entire distribution budget. I know of several planned releases that have been abandoned for exactly that reason, which is terrible for British film culture.”
The film, ironically, was supposed to be even longer, but Lyne did not account for VAT on the BBFC’s bill, so he had to cut it to a length that the raised funds would cover. So look out for the full “directors’ cut”. Someday.