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Batting Beatty

May 12, 1985

The recent outcry led by Warren Beatty against TV's editing of films made originally for theatrical release is too much like a very pampered poodle biting the hand that feeds it ("Movie Directors Versus TV Editing," by David T. Friendly, April 29).

Film directors will buy a screenplay from its author and then do whatever they want with it, cutting, adding, changing and rewriting. They paid their money and now it's "their" film. Writers have been pushed to insanity by these auteurs .

Then, when a network buys the film, the director turns around and screams bloody murder if it shortens his film. (As it is, "Reds" is as long as the revolution it portrays.)

Martin Scorsese is delighted to see Beatty "lay the foundation for a philosophical dialogue where the emphasis is off economics and onto art." Scorsese's palettes cost upwards of $15 million. It may be art, but someone has to pay for it and Scorsese will take Procter and Gamble's money as quick as anyone else's.

Producers and directors want to get the big fees for television showings, but make their own demands regarding process. ABC was going to pay $6.5 million to screen "Reds." For that price, they can run it backwards if they want.

Network television has its own demands. It shows commercials and it keeps to a fairly rigid time schedule. The film industry knows this. There is no law requiring them to sell their film to television. If the 11 o'clock news generates higher ratings and makes more money than Beatty's "Shampoo," we should be grateful.

The directors' ego is so fragile they think the public blames them for butchered films (Elia Kazan: "They make us look inept"). Anybody who doesn't know that the missing scenes, clumsy cutaways to commercials, narrowed edges or squashed picture and blipped language are all television's doing is somebody who doesn't know what a director does anyway. And doesn't care.

Probably anyone who watches films on television deserves what they get.

Authors can't stop their readers from skipping over the boring parts. Painters don't know where half their canvases hang. Cole Porter couldn't stop Cybill Shepherd from doing it to his songs.

There comes a time when even Final Cut Mega Producing Directors have to let go. When their work of art reaches the afternoon movie between Cal Worthington harangues on the great glass teat, that time has come.


Toluca Lake

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