The Office of Student Life and the Learning Studio asked students to revise the first drafts of FilmFest scripts after several scripts had curse words and other content that violates the Student Handbook.
This year’s structure for the film competition involves an editing process from Student Life and FilmFest advisers before scripts can be approved, sponsors said. Tom Craig, director of student activities and productions, said the Learning Studio now handles FilmFest operations and functions while Craig’s office provides feedback and approval of scripts.
“When subject matter is considered sensitive,” Craig said in an email, “student film producers are mentored in how to deal with those subjects with sensitivities to the demographics of the primary audience, which is the ACU community. Student film teams are also instructed that all film content has to fall within the parameters ACU Student Handbook.”
Most of the scripts that were not approved contained curse words, Craig said, and FilmFest guidelines prohibit any profanity. The guidelines also state, “Delicate subject matter can be dealt with and alluded to, but NO nudity, sexual contact of any kind, alcohol consumption, tobacco or drug use, or profanity may be portrayed on screen.”
Student Life prohibited one student from including a homosexual relationship in a film script. Michael Scales, senior multimedia major from San Antonio, said while his film does not center on the topic, it does include two characters in a homosexual relationship. He started working on his script in September, then in October he asked Craig for feedback specifically for the inclusion of the homosexual characters. Craig emailed Scales saying the same-sex relationship would not fit with the boundaries of the student handbook.
The student handbook currently states: “Abilene Christian University affirms the biblical model, in which sexual relations are experienced only within the marriage bond between a man and a woman. Relationships or their behavioral expressions outside of this example are not condoned by Abilene Christian University and are subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action.”
Scales said Dr. Chris Riley, vice president of Student Life, also read the initial draft and said the script seemed to be “promoting” a same-sex relationship.
“My goal was never to showcase sex or anything explicit,” Scales said. “I didn’t feel like I was promoting it.”
Scales said he revised the script to make the characters friends rather than in a same-sex relationship, which did not affect the film’s plot. The script has now been approved.
“They’re doing their job,” Scales said. “Tom Craig was trying to help me out because he knew that I really wanted to get this film into FilmFest. And Chris – I don’t think he was against it, I just think he was just trying to make sure what was being put out there didn’t hinder anybody’s job. The last thing that I would want to do is cause issues, but I didn’t realize my script was going to be this controversial.”