Thursday, February 18, 2010

Studio Stories VI - Terry Gilliam & The Naked Lady

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.

In Gilliam on Gilliam, Edited by Ian Christie, Faber and Faber, 1999, pp. 44 & 49, writer-director Terry Gilliam described some censorship troubles he experienced when he was doing animation for ABC’s The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine:
There was a piece of animation I was doing on fat, and I wanted to use a Rubenesque nude, but everyone said,
“Oh, I don’t know if you can do that, this is for US television.”
I said,
“But these are classical paintings!”’
So they referred it to the [network] Standards and Practices lady and it was duly censored... I hunted around and found a rear view of a [Francois] Boucher reclining nude. And it came back with a half-crown circle around the offending area, the crack in her bum:
“If you can cover this up we can do it.”
Well, I wasn’t going to do that, and by now I was really pissed off, so I got one of (comedian, Ronnie Barker’s) nudes - it was a naked lady sitting with her legs crossed - and I cut out her breasts and then a fan shape out of her groin, and put her against a background. You could see through all the naughty bits. The Standards and Practices lady still said,
“So I can’t show the naughty bits, and I can’t not show the naughty bits?”
I went berserk:
“That’s it! I’m finished.”
The answer came back:
“But you’ve got a contract.”
So I started doing cartoons as revenge. One animation had a full minute of no movement... I did another one in which someone rushes into a room, turns the light off and everything goes black. The scene is played with sound effects—animated radio. That was my response to their ridiculous censorship, and I have to admit it produced some interesting cartoons: when the blood starts boiling some of the best ideas come pouring out.
Oh, yeah. Been there. #
Lee A. Matthias

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