Tribute to Martin Scorsese
at the John Huston Award for Artists Rights dinner

Congressman John Bryant (D-TX) - - February 16, 1996
(U.S. Congressman John Bryant (D-TX) sponsored the Theatrical Motion Picture Authorship Act in 1995.)

Let me first say a very profound thank you to you as an industry for providing an incomparable service to our society, by holding up a mirror to the rest of us and then taking the heat when we get mad, when we don't like what we see in the mirror. Among the very best at this, I don't have to tell anyone here of course, is Martin Scorsese. And I am delighted to be here tonight to join in honoring him as he receives the John Huston Award.

This award is given to a distinguished person who has worked in the film industry with great distinction, but also to one who has shown great courage in speaking out about the rights of artists. And I can tell you as a member of Congress who has worked in this area now for several years, that I have watched him come up there time and time again, under very tedious circumstances, and spend a great deal of time, and in my view exercised a great deal of courage, in speaking out on behalf of an industry that needs a defense at this time.

My role is to report to you tonight that there are lawmakers new in Washington, D.C. who, notwithstanding the current environment, are continuing to make every possible effort to help you fight the fight that needs to be fought for artists rights. We are trying to remedy an unacceptable situation, one that was just described by Tony Huston, in which an artist-- a screenwriter or a cinematographer, or a director-- can sit by and helplessly watch while the fruit of his creative genius is altered, mutilated, modified, perhaps irreversibly - without that artist being able to say anything about it.

All of you here tonight know the story about the Huston family going to France to protect one of the great works done by their father. How ironic that, in dealing with an original American art form, this American creative genius could not have done the same thing in his own country, the United States of America. That is what we are all about, trying to change.

The movie "Thunderheart," when aired by the Fox Network, had 24 percent of its total content cut out. They cut out the part about Native American culture, but they left in the violent part. All of you know the story of "Rainman." You watched it on an airplane; they cut out the part where the savant played by Dustin Hoffman exhibited uncanny knowledge about the plane crashes. Well, of course, that left the viewer wondering why in the world the two main characters were driving across the desert at great length. In other words, there was no way to determine after that movie was cut, what was going on.

In both instances, the artists were not consulted. No one was consulted. In fact, the artists' name remained on the movie even though it was not the movie that that artist created.

So, I introduced last year the Theatrical Motion Picture Authorship Act. And when I introduced it, standing at my side were Martin Scorsese and Elliot Silverstein.

What does it do? We dreamed it up together. We worked on it together. What it does is simply say that a cinematographer, a director, or a screenwriter, will be able to object and to stop the mutilation, stop the modification, stop the alteration, of an artwork when that mutilation, alteration, or modification is so dramatic as to reflect badly on the reputation of the author.

Now others have these rights already. In Europe they have these rights. They don't view it as a big deal. In fact, they view it as a big deal that we don't have them. Well, we're about the business of seeing that our artists in America have them.

The industry is very much against it. The industry is very much against it. They say that it will destroy the American Film Industry, although there is no logic to back that assertion up. There's no experience to back that assertion up.

As a matter of fact, the film industries thrive in other countries where artists have moral rights. They exercise them very sparingly and they do so in countries where the people believe that the work of the creative people that put these films together is an art form. And the audiences demand to see the creative genius unchanged by commercial pressures.

Well I think we in the United States should move in the same direction. And the Artists Rights Foundation and its great work in the effort, is making great progress - and Martin Scorsese has led the way time and time again, standing there at the microphones, putting up with the people rushing up to him in Washington D.C., pressuring him for autographs and so forth. But to stand there, and to fight hard for us day in and day out - to make this pass and for that - I am here tonight to say thank you.

Let me complete my comments simply by saying this: we are temporarily in a very tough environment in Washington, DC. I don't have to tell anyone. I don't think we are going to pass this bill this year, although we have a lessened version which we've offered up to the M.P.A.A. in hopes of trying to reach some kind of a compromise.

But do not despair. I see change around the corner. I see a public that is not happy about the fact that they cut the National Endowment for the Arts by 50 percent, and National Endowment of Humanities by 50 percent. The public is not buying that.

Do not despair. I am convinced that the U.S. Congress that you have seen in 1995, is not the original version. This version has been formatted to suit the taste of a very narrow audience. If you want to see the original version, tune in in 1996 - after the elections.

Thank you very much for having me here tonight. Thank you.

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