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BC Furtney talks censorship

“Censorship is a way for the corporations to ultimately expand their advertising base.”

BC Furtney

If you haven’t managed to sit down with a copy of BC Furtney’s print debut Scarla then write 1 August into your diaries for the paperback release. Those who have had the opportunity to indulge will know that this pulp-horror-erotica hybrid is not for those of a nervous disposition or weak stomach. BC Furtney doesn’t hold back in this literary mind rape.  I decided to catch up with BC and discuss censorship.

BC Furtney is writer-director of New Terminal Hotel. He has a multitude of award winning short films including Mister Eryams and Disposer. He lives with his wife and two dogs.  

Is there ever a point when censorship is acceptable?

BC: Simply put, no. The very concept of censorship indicates a corporate presence and business concerns and frankly, whenever those influences enter the mix, art diminishes by degrees. We live in an era where even artists themselves treat that little three-letter word like it’s somehow dirty. It’s not i-fucked-your-mother-up-the-ass-and-will-do-it-again-tonight-while-you-watch, it’s a-r-t. One syllable, real easy, rolls right off the tongue, should lighten life’s burdens and make us feel something outside ourselves. But we’ve gotten lost somewhere in our status-crazed world, and creating works of art has somehow gotten fused with the selling of those works. Those are two distinctly different actions, ideally done by two separate entities. And while the peddling of our own stuff is sometimes necessary or even preferred, the idea of one should never invade the creation of the other. That’s not to say we should strive to create controversial or objectionable material just to push the envelope, but as creators, we’ve gotta realise that even the vaguest idea of a do not cross line cuffs our wrists and mutes our voices before we’ve even brought the idea to fruition. I’ve said it before, our most important function is to run with the muse and create, plain and simple. Wild, free, at full throttle, with reckless abandon. Everything else comes after. Let the bean counters figure out how to market and sell. That’s their job.

Is there a basic moral code that forbids us from writing about certain subject matter such as a paedophile from the voice of a sympathetic narrator? If we are aware of the potential repercussions are we ultimately responsible?

BC: Obviously, a writer with bad intentions and/or sympathy for the devil, so to speak, is a wild card when you throw the flood gates open and welcome anything that rolls through. But should we chain the free man to hinder the madman? Do we apply blanket rules & restrictions to protect the innocent from what-if scenarios? I don’t think so. I think the playing field should give the benefit of the doubt to humanity and to the arts.

“While it is true something bad will pop up sometime, it will regardless of whether we’ve screened for it or not.”

Everything finds its way through to the surface, especially when the human mind looks for an outlet. If one doesn’t present itself, we’ll use something else as inspiration, making it what we want it to be. The Beatles begot the Manson Family, after all.

Imagine a world with no censorship. Do you think it would be a better place to live in and why?

BC: How about a three-fold answer?

Regarding corporate censorship, yes. The world will forever be better without the meddling of middling, oblivious, talentless suits who only have an eye for their own bottom line. They are middlemen, servants, and should strive to catch our gaze. They should work hard to please us, but sadly, we allowed it to get flipped around by allotting them way more power than they deserve. It’s an illusion, of course, because artists can snatch the power back anytime they want. An artist only needs an audience, after all, not a nickel & dime car salesman. We should hurry up and neuter those junior accountant bastards before things get any worse. Remaking Blade Runner? Come on.

Regarding crowd censorship, the masses have always been a force to reckon with. If they decide they don’t want us on their screens or on their pages, they have every right to pull us down and drag us off to the guillotine. This is fine. I think Amazon’s content template is great, actually. They allowed that lunatic’s molestation how-to book to go on sale last year, then they listened to public outcry and threw the shit out. That’s not a case of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater, that’s an example of a sick fuck being exposed for what he is. That guy’s in jail now for child crimes, if I’m not mistaken, and awareness of his book is one of the things that set the authorities on him. That’s a case of the audience detecting a bad seed and eliminating it.

BC FurtneyEvery artist needs a constituency and public opinion keeps us on our toes. When we rely on their dollar to put food on our table, the peoples’ say becomes even more important.

“An approving audience is an artist’s equal. He who loses sight of that, loses the game.”

Regarding self-censorship, it really depends on the individual and how he/she works best. We can handcuff ourselves just as easily as we can set ourselves free, creatively speaking, by applying guidelines in our own heads. Know yourself. Personally, I work best with no limitations on length, style, or genre.

Is censorship simply another way of controlling the masses?

BC: No, I think religion and politics are still the biggest ways of controlling the masses and always will be. Censorship is a way for the bean counters and the corporations to acquire, assure, and ultimately expand their advertising base. Advertising dollars make the entertainment world go ’round.

Is media blame culture a reflection of a nation too cowardly to stand up and account for their own actions? A society where people bring law suits against McDonalds for spilt coffee or weight gain.

BC: Man, your question just made me spill my macchiato. I’m calling my lawyer and you’re gonna pay for these pants (39.99 USD), my pain & suffering (1,000,000.00 USD), and my salary for the work I’m unable to do (your pocket change will do, it’s been a slow year).

But seriously, people are fucking pussies. It seems to come from feelings of helplessness or victimisation in their own lives, at least that’s what it seems to me. In the US, kids are practically raised to believe talent is inherent and fame is a birthright. When it proves to be harder work than they were told, they go right for the shortcuts, and their character (or lack thereof) dictates how low they’ll sink. There are many incredibly disciplined talents too, the generation’s not completely lost (just most of it), and they find their own way through. Personally, I try not to live in a world of excuses. Nose to the grindstone wins the day every time, in my experience. Fuck the excuse-makers.

Whilst over the top gore has its place there is a value to be had in implied horror. Do you relate to this and how would you apply this to your work?

BC: I agree, in that what personally scares me are the things that are left to my imagination. My psyche creates shit so much more terrifying than anything I’ve ever seen, it’s not even close. And I can’t even say what those things are, because I don’t know!

BC Furtney and Stephen Geoffreys“The subconscious is intangible. Fear’s primal and the greatest fear is the unknown.”

That said different stories require different styles. Some work strives to scare, some strives to gross-out, some strives to titillate. If the desired effect is scares, I’d say imply. If it’s the gross-out you’re after, make it as realistically gruesome as possible. If arousal’s the name of the game, well, that covers a wide spectrum. I enjoy tits, myself.

If a scene is more effective with restraint, go for implied. If it packs a punch with no holds barred, go all out. It all depends on the idea, and the creator should know which route is best. If he/she can’t tell, then let’s face it, the work’s probably shit.

You are against blanket rules, but do you believe there is a time when censorship has a place?

BC: Well obviously, there are niche areas that cater to specific audiences. You wouldn’t take your giallo to a rom-com distributor, they’d put you out on the street. On a broader scale, different societies have different norms and it might benefit artists to create with those defining characteristics in mind. Half of the censorship debate is up to the creators to answer. It’s not simply a matter of, “I wanna push the boundaries and they’re holding me down!”

As writers, we should have some handle on who our crowd is and how far they’ll follow us, in regard to particular topics or images, unless our goal is strictly to antagonise. So when I say no censorship, it’s really with an implied self-awareness on the part of the artist. Don’t go to the school board meeting juggling missing childrens’ severed heads, in other words. You’ve gotta build an audience before you can test it or tear it down. Letting people know what you’re about helps, exposing your work to receptive arenas helps more. Other than that, you just need to stay true to the idea and follow where it leads.

Is it possible to gross out without gore?

BC: The gross out’s a pretty subjective thing. Some people have triggers others don’t, so to plan on it is almost designed to fail in the large scheme of things. Even with some of the extreme action in Scarla, I’ve never sat down and said, “now I’m gonna gross ’em out!” It just doesn’t work when you take that approach. Or it doesn’t work for me. If your story leads you to a place of such graphic descriptives that the best way past is through, then we owe it to the story and the reader/viewer to lead them through things blow-by-blow and not spare the rod. Again, it comes down to a judgment call. On the creator’s part to know where that line is, and on the audience’s part to decide if they’ll cross it when asked… and if we suspect they may not follow, we can always cheat and nudge that line back a bit. There are always tricks to get our vision in their heads in all its glory, despite reservations.

What is it that makes you want to gross out the audience?

BC: Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve never consciously tried to gross people out, I just follow my characters to logical conclusions. Some go further than others. They speak to us for a reason, so I’ll go wherever they want. When I stick to that, I know things won’t go wrong.

What is it that attracts us as readers and viewers to the gruesome?

BC: Hopefully, for a shot of something we don’t get in our day-to-day lives. An escape. Even if it’s unsavoury, it’s still fun. We can stop, turn out the light, slip under the covers, go to sleep and know the wild and crazy stuff’s on the shelf whenever we feel like climbing back on. Not because we relate to it, ideally. It’s best seen as escapism. If anyone reads Scarla and thinks, “yes! It’s exactly like that!” I’d advise them to close the book immediately and consult a psychiatrist.

BC Furtney

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