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Violence Talks at WGA, DGA: Guilds Meet with Valenti to Review Lawmakers' Moods

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(BPI) LOS ANGELES-In closed-door meetings at their respective guilds, many of Hollywood's top writers and directors met with MPAA chief Jack Valenti to discuss the ever-burgeoning issue of violence in programming and entertainment.

Valenti requested the meetings with the Writers Guild of America West and the Directors Guild of America to ensure that they were updated on Washington's latest stance on violence in Hollywood.

Among the issues discussed at the two-hour, back-to-back powwows were what writers and directors would say if they were subpoenaed to discuss their views on the role violence plays in films and television.

The group of writers who met last week with Valenti included Scott Alexander ("The People vs. Larry Flynt"), Chris Carter ("The X-Files"), David E. Kelley ("The Practice,"), Frank Pierson ("Dog Day Afternoon"), and Aaron Sorkin ("A Few Good Men").

Directors included Michael Bay ("Armageddon"), John Carpenter ("Halloween"), Ron Underwood ("Mighty Joe Young"), Taylor Hackford ("The Devil's Advocate"), and Paul Mazursky ("Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice").

During each of the guild's discussions with Valenti, writers and directors claimed that they had felt pressure from producers and studios to punch up the violence in their projects to levels they felt were unnecessary.

"No one was dismissing this. We aren't avoiding responsibility," DGA president Jack Shea said. "We are very concerned about First Amendment rights being trampled. We can't defend every picture, but we would defend their right to make it."

Writers Guild president Daniel Petrie Jr. said writers expressed similar views, adding that the WGA was discussing the possibility of an industrywide conference on the issue by the end of the summer.

This week, proposals were struck down in the House of Representatives that would have eliminated First Amendment protection on violent or sexual material as well as legislation that would have required the video game, film, and television industries to create a common labeling system for violent content.

However, the House voted in favor of a resolution that was highly critical of violent entertainment's producers, as well as a proposal to have the surgeon general investigate the impact of violent entertainment on children.

"Hollywood is an easy target in what's gone wrong," Petrie said. "It's the easiest target and the one that will have the least effect on any real change."

Dana Harris writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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