Thursday, November 20, 2008

But Wait, There's More!

Meanwhile, the discussion page is back up at the TPoP promotional site. It would seem that some visitors are a bit miffed at the astronomical price the producers charge for it.

So Robert Wosnitzer offers this labored explanation, which I'll take the liberty of fair use to bring you. It's a bit dated but reveals a couple of interesting things:

"Hi everyone -

I am the Associate Producer and Co-Writer of The Price of Pleasure, Robert Wosnitzer. Generally speaking, we've set up this forum for people to address issues, raise questions, make comments, etc. about the film and the related topics. As a user forum, we've agreed that we, as the filmmakers, will seldom respond to the discussions, in deference for people to voice their opinions freely and engage some of the questions that we've tried to raise in our film. We don't want to stifle any conversations or debates, and believe in our audience to engage one another however they choose.

On occasion, we will, of course, respond to specific questions, and try to clarify some points about the film, and address concerns. Clearly, the concern being expressed in this thread is one of those "warranted moments"

We completely understand and empathize with the frustration of those of you who wish to buy and/or view the film and find themselves unable due to the high cost of the film from MEF. So let me address both the reasons for this, and the solution that is forthcoming:

1. Media Education Foundation has been the distributor for all of the films we've produced in the past. They've provided us with extensive logistical support over the 4 years of production, marketing, and packaging of The Price of Pleasure. As some of you know, Media Education Foundation primarily distributes to university libraries, academic departments, and non-profit groups. As these organizations are very large, the institutional price reflects the norm for licensing these institutions to allow the institution to screen the film as often as they like, and to allow people affiliated with the institution to see the film as often as they like, in perpetuity. So, it is a very different agreement than the agreement for individual sales.

We've committed to pursue this distribution strategy at this time, as we do feel we are able to reach a large audience in an efficient manner.

At the same time, we do realize that this strategy prevents an even wider audience to see the film, which is painful for us, and for potential supporters of the film. Individual sales will be available after a requisite amount of time to allow the institutional market to respond to the film.

I know it is frustrating, but please be patient, and we will let all of you know when the individual copies will be available for purchase at a nominal price.

2. The Price of Pleasure is currently being considered for several film festivals in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. Film festivals (typically) request that to be considered for selection, individual sales are not made until after the festival screenings. We make no money from being selected into film festivals, and we see it as an opportunity to reach a larger audience, and to bring them into the conversation of the film. So until the film festival circuit has been completed, it is one more reason we're unable to offer individual copies at this time.

3. We're doing our best to schedule as many screenings in as many cities as possible so that many people will have an opportunity to see the film, and, importantly, to participate in the panel discussions with us after the screening. We recently screened the film in Austin, Texas, and the film recently premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival. There are screenings scheduled for the following cities, with some details still being worked out:

Chicago: Tentatively scheduled for October 10.
New York: October 17
Los Angeles: October 30

At these screenings, we are contractually permitted to sell a limited number of individual copies at nominal prices. If you can attend any of these screenings, it would be great to see you all!

4. Briefly, I wanted to address the tension of "profits" and the social activism we strongly advocate. We have completely self-financed this project, with very limited outside support. We chose to self-finance this project for several reasons, primarily because we felt it is a film that needed to be made no matter the cost. Secondly, it is monumentally difficult to attract financing for a project that incites such strong reactions, agendas, and political passions. We also wanted to remain independent so that the film's content is our voice, and was not inscribed with agendas that we either found unpalatable or narrow. Third, we are committed social activists with various projects in production across a range of issues (racism, sexism, globalization, poverty, etc), and any "profits" generated from this or any other of our films funds these other projects. As academics, we are financially supported by our institutions (salaries, benefits, etc), which does allow us to not only make films such as The Price of Pleasure, but also to make films that wouldn't otherwise receive funding or have a built-in large audience. Our position as salaried academics allows us to not privilege profits over production, which is why we, personally, do not profit from any of our projects. We fully understand the privilege we have as academics and the support we receive from our institutions, which is why we also try to fund projects that we ourselves do not produce. Clearly, revenues from The Price of Pleasure and our other projects further this cause, enabling ourselves and other media producers to make work that we find imperative.

Also, MEF deploys a similar strategy. While certainly their prices appear exorbitant, it is not only in-line with institutional rates, but the revenues generated by the films in their catalogue enable them to continue to produce and distribute films with vital social and political content that would otherwise be left out in the cold. So while it is frustrating to see those prices at this time, we hope you can consider some of these elements that occur "behind the scenes".

5. When we are permitted to engage in individual sales, we will be sure to make a large announcement on our website, and contact those of you who have expressed interest.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this, and I do hope it provides some context and clarification. If there is anything else that I can answer or clarify, feel free to email me or Chyng anytime (our emails are on the "Filmmaker" page). And to reiterate, this is a rare occasion where we will respond to postings on this site unless directly asked.

All the best


You will note that the producers make no secret of their intent to distribute TPoP to the general public. They are already doing so at screenings, per Wosnitzer's stated intention in paragraph 3.

You will also note that in paragraph 5 he promises "to make a large announcement on our website, and contact those of you who have expressed interest," when sales are opened to one and all."

In what way do these stated intentions square with the very limited exemption for educational and institutional use of 2257 regulated materials under the law? Advertising this schlock on the Web and selling it to all consumers unquestionably puts TPoP's producers in the same category as producers and distributors of commercial pornography.

Wosnitzer proudly promises to violate federal law with this product as extensively as possible at the earliest possible date.

If anyone in our business made a similar pronouncement, it's not hard to imagine what would follow. Even with the F.S.C. injunction in place, I seriously doubt that any producer using the same material that appears in TPoP could boast of future plans to flood the market with it regardless of the blatant non-compliance of its presentation without receiving an immediate visit from the feds.

I'll be looking forward to that "large announcement" on their Web site. At that point, any meaningful distinction between what these people are doing and what John Stagliano was indicted for will vanish. And Stagliano's material is, in fact, fully 2257 compliant.

Looking at the facts, TPoP's site shows a trailer for sexually explicit material that can be viewed by anyone, minors included, and will soon be using it to market said sexually explicit materials to general audiences. That's the key issue in dispute in the Evil Angel case.

How many laws will these people break before something is done about it? I guess we'll be finding out soon.


  1. Thanks for staying on top of this, Ernest. These people really put me at a loss for words.

  2. Well, sometimes you get that feeling that something is really going to be bad news.

    I had that feeling the first time I talked with Chyng Sun on the phone, and it never went away. The more I heard about this project, the more I began to see it for the sharp-edged weapon it's rapidly demonstrating itself to be.

    To those of us who actually know something about pornography, it's as bluntly deceptive as Reefer Madness would have been to say, a jazz musician from New Orleans back in the day.

    But while we now regard Reefer Madness as campy and quaint, and all pretty much know what the jazz musician knew when it first came out, it was a powerful tool for building public support behind the Anslinger drug laws from which we inherit the disaster known as "The War On Drugs" today.

    To us. TPoP is completely preposterous, but to people who know nothing about the realities of pornography, and are young enough or credulous enough to be swayed by sensationalism unmediated by either reason or experience, it might prove dangerously convincing.

    And that's why I've been fighting this thing since it first came around. I knew even then that the eventual target audience would be college kids and MSM viewers. I'm not the least bit surprised to find that this idiocy has now worked its way up to ABC. Those who made it, who are after all "media studies" experts, know full well the significance of sweeps week and that there will always be a slot for alarmist anti-porn infotainment when that week comes around.

    Very shortly, a new administration will take the wheel. It will need a roadmap for every policy direction it chooses to pursue.

    My concern is that TPoP not become that roadmap where policies related to pornography are concerned.

    I find myself reduced to campaigning against this reel's methods and tactics as a sort of damage control, when what I really wish is that we could operate by the principle, in which I deeply believe, that the correct response to bad ideas is good ideas.

    The problem is that those who think porn should continue to enjoy the protections it now does, and that it can be a constructive and creative part of the culture at large, have done a poor job, if any, of making that case to the general public.

    The question we need to be asking ourselves is where is our documentary that effectively debunks TPoP? Sure, as Wosnitzer more or less boasts, he and his colleagues have cushy academic gigs that afford them the time and money to make their products and we enjoy no such privilege. But that's not much of an excuse.

    This whole coast is loaded down with student filmmakers and others with access to the necessary support resources to make an honest and believable picture that acknowledges the problems that do exist with the porn industry as it is, but still explodes the more lurid myths that have been woven around it.

    Nobody took the opportunity to do that. The other side marshaled its capabilities and did.

    And that's why we're losing political ground because of one hour of utter nonsense committed to film by those whose agenda matters more to them than the truth. We did not step up.

    The question that remains unanswered is, who is "we?"

    Certainly, the porn industry could commission a video hit-piece of some kind to take on the claims made by the growing anti-porn lynch mob, but how much credibility would such a production have? Would the average viewer take the word from GM about auto safety? I've argued for years that the industry needs to put more time, money and energy into P.R., but that only goes so far in terms of convincing skeptics.

    Porn consumers are certainly no help. They're not motivated to publicly defend a private enthusiasm about which they have, at best, very conflicted feelings. I don't expect effective rebuttals to originate there.

    All we've really got are a handful of academics and die-hard civil libertarians like Linda Williams and Nadine Strossen, who have no dog in the fight other than a powerful belief in the importance of honest research and freedom of speech.

    If those voices are to be heard above the din created by the likes of Jensen and Dines, our side will need a megaphone at least as noisy as TPoP, and I just don't know where it's going to get made.

    I'd be happy to shoot that doc for any non-industry funding source that would cover the expense, but I can't picture anybody writing that check in the current atmosphere.

    Right now, we are at a serious strategic disadvantage, and the success of junk like TPoP is evidence of the weakness of our own defenses.

    We're going to need to do a lot better than we have so far if we're going to hang onto the freedoms we now enjoy.

    For too long, this battle has been perceived mainly in terms of resisting criminal sanctions imposed by law enforcement. Our political consciousness will have to become much more sophisticated to combat the kind of social hostility being raised against us now, and the broad-brush policies that could arise from it.

  3. You bring up a very good point. I think so many workers in the sex industry are of the "live and let live" persuasion and "to each their own", so perhaps that is why the PR machine isn't working? We don't want to push our preferences, proclivities, etc. onto other people (despite what we're labeled as) so in a way having that PR working could be seen as just that by folks inside and outside the industry.

    That is, after all, what the antis do. Push and push and push their agenda.

    But your point needs to be heeded because the opposition is working with EVERYTHING they have as you pointed out and they will not stop until this industry and all other "outside the norm" folks are completely silenced and marginalized.

  4. It's never an easy thing when all you want is to be left alone and some organized pressure group is prepared to go to any lengths to make sure you aren't.

    The natural impulse is to simply avoid such people, but they won't be avoided. That's the problem we've had here for years, and I've been making a lot of noise about it for as long as I can remember.

    We should be sending out our best to meet them, and until recently, it's been pretty much the opposite. I have nothing at all against Ron Jeremy, who is much smarter and better educated than he seems, but the fact that this industry has been content to let him be its most visible face for years says something about our priorities. It was as if we'd considered the battle for public opinion lost and were satisfied with Howard Stern as our most ardent defender.

    Only Larry Flynt, with all his faults, has taken the opinions of the outside world seriously, not surprisingly considering his own experience, and he has remained willing to be a lightning rod for the hostility his combativeness attracts.

    But I don't think combativeness alone helps us much. I can't deny I enjoy pushing back against the constant bullying to which we're subjected, but somehow we need to break that cycle and get some more positive message about ourselves out there. Simply ripping up the other side's arguments, which is easy enough to do, flimsy as they are, doesn't seem to be helping our side much.

    Neither does attempting to sugar-coat the realities of what we do. The HBO Late Night approach to porn coverage hasn't swayed the unconverted because they instinctively understand that the process of making porn can't be without its problems and portraying it as all cotton candy simply isn't credible.

    We're going to need to find a way to admit to and address our own shortcomings without surrendering our insistence on our right to exist. That's a fine wire to walk, but if we don't get out there, the antis will continue to occupy the center ring effectively unopposed.

    Of all the things I found disturbing about the ABC piece, nothing was worse than the utter absence of an articulate opposing view, or even any sense of need on ABC's part to go out and find one.

    We need to work on that ... fast.