The Man Who Made Film Censors Watch Paint Dry—Literally
It’s his heroic (and boring as hell) protest against the prohibitive costs of indie filmmaking.
Our Unsung Heroes series brings history’s unknown badasses out of the footnotes and into the spotlight.
The guy who paid his $200 parking ticket in pennies did a pretty good job sticking it to the man, but that protest pales in comparison to Charlie Lyne’s giant middle finger to the British Board of Film Classification. Lyne, fed up with what he considered an outmoded and socially regressive body, decided he would turn the BBFC’s own rules and regulations against them in a brilliant, benign coup. His plan? Make censors watch paint dry, literally.
The BBFC is a nonprofit whose only revenue comes from what they charge filmmakers for official classification. The fee guarantees those filmmakers that two “examiners” will watch whatever is submitted, regardless of content or length. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Ratings help parents decide what’s right for their children to watch. It’s not like anybody is burning books.
Lyne disagreed. On the Kickstarter campaign he used to fund his project, he explained why the BBFC deserved punishment:
“The British Board of Film Classification (previously known as the British Board of Film Censors) was established in 1912 to ensure films remained free of ‘indecorous dancing,’ ‘references to controversial politics’ and ‘men and women in bed together,’ amongst other perceived indiscretions. Today, it continues to censor and in some cases ban films, while UK law ensures that, in effect, a film cannot be released in British cinemas without a BBFC certificate.”
“Each certificate costs around £1000 for a feature film of average length,” Lyne explains. “For many independent filmmakers, such a large upfront can prove prohibitively expensive.”
He didn’t know how long his final product — aptly titled “Paint Drying” — would be. The film board charges roughly $10 USD per minute, plus a submission fee of approximately $120.
Turns out, people agree with Lyne. By the time his campaign closed, 686 backers had donated just under $9,000. That money was enough to stretch Lyne’s masterpiece to 10 hours and 7 minutes — no titles, no credits, just a single shot of white paint drying on a wall.
The BBFC, initially silent, released a diplomatic statement to Mashable which tried to debunk, or at least loosen, some of Lyne’s arguments. They pointed out the Board was set up by the film industry itself back in the day, they provide a valuable rating service, and — get this, Mr. Lyne — you actually can screen an unclassified movie in British cinemas. You just have to get permission from local authorities beforehand.
After the film was submitted, a spokesperson for the BBFC shrugged off Lyne’s symbolic (and super boring) gesture: “Examiners are required to watch a very wide variety of content every day, so this didn’t faze them.” If your employee is unfazed by watching paint dry for 10 hours, you might want to think about the type of people you’re hiring.
Bravo, Charlie Lyne.