AUSTIN – The sign to the right wasn’t the best way to start my first day at South by Southwest. But one of the rules of attending (and covering) film festivals is you gotta roll with the punches. There are a million moving parts, and sometimes they don’t always line up as planned.
Which is not to say that the panel that Tarantino and Roth were supposed to highlight wasn’t without its moments. “Directing the Dead: Genre Directors Spill Their Guts” still boasted an impressive collection of horror directors who know how to cover the screen in blood.
The most fun topic of discussion was actually the first one, in which the directors discussed their battles with the MPAA ratings board. As it turns out, there are tricks to making sure you hang onto that R (or PG-13 in the case of Cloverfield director Matt Reeves).
Robert Rodriguez said in movies like From Dusk til Dawn and Sin City, he’ll put an insanely graphic scene right up front to get the ratings board worked up. He knows it’ll probably get cut, but the benefit is everything after that seems mild in comparison and can probably stay. Sending the MPAA a print in which the color of all that blood is desaturated is another trick of the trade. Once they give the thumbs up, feel free to crank the red back up before shipping it to theaters.
Comedy also helps. Ruben Fleischer says he didn’t have to fight too hard to preserve anything in Zombieland. But he knew that a PG-13 (and the extra dollars that come with it) was out of the question.
“We were an R [from the beginning] because if you shoot a zombie in the head – which you pretty much have to do – you’re gonna get an R,” he said.