Features Philly Film — 06 March 2012 » Written by
Censorship at the Philadelphia Film Office UPDATED

A friend of Cinedelphia who you may know (she’s one of the Bravissimo Burlesque gals and a fixture of the local film production scene) is starting work on a new project, featured below, and thus she logically submitted a casting call to the Philadelphia Film Office’s website.  Here’s the response that she received:

I’m sorry but your notice isn’t appropriate for film.org.  I see that you say this isn’t porn but nudity and simulated sex comes under the banner of stuff we choose not to post. Sorry, and we’re happy to help next time on a project that is more appropriate for us.

And thus interesting questions are raised.  Should our city’s Film Office refuse to support local productions based on their content?  Should they have the right to deem certain projects more appropriate than others?  Where else can the Philadelphia-area’s independent productions turn for help in the event that their film contains nudity and simulated sex (remember Shadowboxer)?  Are these questions unnecessary since we already know that the Film Office only supports certain kinds of independent productions?  Discuss.

Watch the project’s pitch video below and visit their Kickstarter page here.


Greater Philadelphia Film Office director Joan Bressler (no relation, my last name has one “s”) just sent us the following message:

Hi Eric,

I am responsible for choosing not to post the hotline notice referenced on your site.  For the last 20 years, I have carefully tried to determine, with the MANY notices I receive every day, what is in the best interest of the community. Apparently my judgment was not good on this one.  The Film Office does not stand behind my decision.  Censorship is not acceptable to any of us; we are simply trying to serve the community in the best way that we can.  I’ve been instructed to move into 2012 and lighten up, which I am happy to try to do.  So, please, no backlash about posting notices that are deemed exploitative. We receive those as well. I obviously can’t please everyone but will continue to try.  I am asking the filmmaker to please accept my apology and resend the notice. I will post it.

Please share this information with your readers.

And I’ll just leave it at that.


About Author

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He's served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

(8) Readers Comments

  1. Nudity! Simulated sex! Won’t someone think of the children!

    • Somebody get these people some Nick Zedd/Richard Kern films.

    • Eh, I’d rather shows kids full frontal nudity instead of another Shyamalan suck-fest.

  2. Im basically floored by the film office’s response. the public at large may not have the agency to prevent anti-protest legislation from being passed, but they DO have the agency to determine what art they want to encounter, support, or involve themselves in. Philadelphia is not a puritanical city. Far FAR from it. And many an institution has hosted some affronting and transgressive cinema for a wide audience. The Danger After Dark program alone has pushed things past the brink. For the Film Office to insist on a “squeaky clean test” for the content of art, thereby denying artists the capacity to source collaborators (and vice versa, limiting the projects available to artists and technicians seeking work), or forcing artists to compromise their vision at the outset, is a farce.

    They are aware that the video only MENTIONS nudity, sex, and violence, right? There’s more ACTUAL sex on the billboards lining I-95, and more ACTUAL violence on the streets themselves. I guess they want philly to be an “rom-com” kinda city.

  3. The Film Office’s move is problematic because they are a quasi-governmental agency. The filmmakers should contact a First Amendment lawyer.

  4. They are a non-profit organization that receives city funding as a result of their claims that they serve the general artistic community of Southeastern Pennsylvania. And as a non-profit, they have a full board of directors that should theoretically have input into how the organization is operated, even an organization as insular and incestuous as the GPFO. I would suggest that the filmmakers re-contact the individual who refused to list their casting call, ask if the office can suggest reasonable alternatives, and then also ask to speak to the film office’s board of directors at their next scheduled board meeting. Otherwise, what they’re doing does effectively amount to a form of creative censorship (and I would also suggest that the filmmakers draft a press release that they then submit to the arts editors at the City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly). I doubt there’s much I could do on my end, but as the eleven-year curator of Danger After Dark, if they want a letter of recommendation or any assistance, please feel free to tell them to get in touch with me.

  5. Thanks for the comments everybody! It’s an unfortunate situation, but we’ve since moved on to Backstage, who had no problem with the ad. I’m hoping they change their stance on this matter in the future, but for now I don’t think we need to pursue further action. There have been tales of local horror productions not receiving the PA Tax Credit due to content. Now THAT is something I would fight for. For now, I’m just happy that people are aware of the situation.

  6. I may have been too quick to pass judgement on the film office, if their reconsideration and apology is any indication. That was a commendable move on their part, and I have to give them credit for it.

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