Season Of The Banned - Interview With Craig Lapper A Senior Examiner At The BBFC
By James Whittington, Sunday 13th November 2011

BBFC LogoThe British Board of Film Classification was established in 1912 and at that time it was known as the British Board of Film Censors. Their role – as their mission statement says - is it classify and empower the public into making informed viewing choice and protect the public and especially children from content which might raise harm risks. As we're having a season which contains some movies that were originally banned we thought we should chat to Craig Lapper, a Senior Examiner at the BBFC about his role and the BBFC as a whole.

HC: What sort of background do you need to become an Examiner for the BBFC?

CL: There is no specific background or set of qualifications required in order to be an examiner and we have examiners from a wide range of backgrounds. However experience of a working environment and a broad knowledge of film is required, as is as an ability to analyse the various issues and to set those down clearly in detailed and well-argued reports. It helps if you have some experience in areas that are relevant to our work, such as the law, child development, or other forms of media regulation, although this is not essential. What is certainly essential is the patience to sit through hours and hours of film and video material every week.

HC: How did you decide that you wanted to have a career at the BBFC?

CL: I don't think you can decide to have a career at the BBFC. It's a very small and specialist organisation. I was interested in cinema and in censorship and simply responded to an advertisement in a paper when I saw it.

HC: You're a Senior Examiner, how does that distinguish you from other Examiners?

CL: Examiners spend the majority of their week viewing film and DVD material and writing reports about what they see. Their viewing takes in a wide variety of material, including trailers and adverts, children's programmes, TV series, straight-to-video features, pornography, mainstream cinema films, and unsubtitled cinema films (viewed with a translator). By contrast, Senior Examiners are responsible for reading the reports submitted by examiners, viewing any borderline or contentious material, and deciding whether works needs further consideration, for example by the Head of Policy or the Director. We also undertake advice viewings of unfinished films, so we can give companies an early steer on any changes they need to make to achieve their preferred category. Sometimes we undertake readings of scripts, more normally for adverts but sometimes for proposed features. We also spend time liaising with distributors, either when they have queries about what they can and cannot do, or when we have queries about issues that have arisen in their films, such as the way animals have been treated or the age of performers.

HC: Have you ever started examining a film that, over its duration you've found so objectionable that you've refused to view the rest of it?

CL: I've certainly found some submissions more difficult to view than others, although what one person finds difficult can be very subjective. However, I've never found anything so objectionable I couldn't watch it, after all, it's my job to watch what's submitted. Having said that, we have developed an internal policy on hardcore pornography which states that if a porn film features more than 10 minutes of sustained abusive material, we can abort the viewing and return it to the company. It's partly a matter of protecting our examiners but it's also about giving up when something is so clearly and obviously unacceptable and putting the ball back into the distributor's court.

HC: How important do you think the BBFC is in a world where uncut versions of movies can be downloaded or imported?

CL: It's always been possible for people to see 'uncut' films if they are intent on doing so. Before the advent of the internet, people managed to obtain uncensored VHS tapes, whether from a boot fair or from 'the man down the pub', or from overseas. Even before the dawn of VHS, cinema goers could go and see 'uncensored' films at certain venues, such as cinema clubs, or in parts of the country where local councils were more likely to license films than the BBFC. However, the fact that something can be obtained by the determined doesn't mean there is no point in having restrictions at all. By and large, the role of the BBFC is to reflect the mainstream of public opinion and the fact that something can be seen, if you really want to, doesn't automatically mean the BBFC should give approval to it. There are various laws to consider, as well as public opinion, and it's our role to reflect that. Having said all that, the BBFC is very conscious of the public's general feeling that adults should be free to chose their own viewing, provided the material is neither illegal nor harmful, and we no longer place restrictions at the adult level on the grounds that something’s simply shocking, disgusting or offensive. Our role has certainly shifted away from attempting to arbitrate on matters of taste, towards an emphasis on providing information through consumer advice, extended classification information, and our various websites, so that people can make an informed choice. We’re now extending our work into the online world as well. A lot of people, parents especially, find information on media content useful and recognise, understand, and trust BBFC classifications.

HC: The recent decisions on A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede 2 have made international headlines, how much time and effort were put into making decisions on these films?

CL: Films of that nature are seen by Senior Examiners, the Director and the Presidents. Of course, a lot of thought and debate goes into such decisions, and it's useful to have a range of views expressed within the BBFC so we can test out the range of opinions that are likely to arise outside our offices. Of course, we never make decisions lightly when it comes to censoring material for adults. Not only because the public generally expect to make their own viewing decisions, provided the material doesn't breach the law or raise harm risks, but because the Human Rights Act imposes a duty on the BBFC to be proportionate in any restrictions we place on freedom of expression. So both of those cases involved a lot of viewing and discussion. What's interesting about both of the films you mention is that controversy and concerns have not been limited to the UK, with cuts and bans occurring in a number of other countries.

HC: You've been with the BBFC since 1997, what changes have you seen not only at the board but the public's response to your classifications?

CL: When I joined the BBFC, it was still a pretty secretive organisation with a fairly opaque decision making process. We weren't very good at explaining the decisions we made and we often took far too long in reaching a final decision. The introduction of published Classification Guidelines, themselves the result of major public consultation exercises repeated every few years, have made it far clearer (to the public and to the industry) what standards we apply and why. The introduction of a dedicated Press Office, and the introduction of various websites (and now our iPhone and Android apps) has also made the Board feel more open and less remote. I think our increased transparency and our increased willingness to respond to and engage with the public, have made our role less mysterious and better understood. That's not to say that members of the public don't disagree with us anymore. Of course, they always have and they always will. But at least now they know what standards we're applying and why and they know those standards derive from what the public tell us.

HC: What's your personal opinion of the Video Nasties era of home video?

CL: The concern that developed over the unregulated nature of the video market in the early 1980s was perfectly understandable. After all, there was nothing to stop irresponsible retailers supplying some quite extreme horror titles, or even pornography, to children. Furthermore, because video was a fairly new and unknown technology, a lot of parents weren't fully aware of the nature of what their kids were watching, because there was no effective system of guidance in place. Of course, the video industry had attempted to set up a voluntary classification scheme, which the BBFC was part of, but there was no real means of controlling those distributors who insisted on working outside of any system that was put in place. The initial response to the problem, by prosecuting a wide range of disparate titles for obscenity, brought about mixed results. This was probably because the titles listed by the DPP ranged from the seriously nasty to some rather silly gore titles, some dating back as far as the 1960s, that juries might well think were unsuitable for children but which they weren't convinced were actually corrupting for adults. By contrast, the system introduced by the Video Recordings Act simplified matters considerably by ensuring that titles would be dealt with consistently by a central body, that they would be correctly labelled with relevant age restrictions, and that no material would be released without vetting. That might have been unwelcome news to some of the smaller independent labels who used the lack of censorship as a selling point, but the mainstream industry was generally pleased to see things being cleaned up, and the public were reassured that they knew what they'd be getting in future. Of course, it's undeniable that not all 'nasties' were equally nasty, and it's also true that attitudes (and special effects) have changed over the years, which has allowed us to permit a number of formerly listed titles as acceptable for adult viewing. However, even now there's still a hard core of 'video nasties' that continue to cause concern for the BBFC, especially those that deal with sexual violence rather than straightforward gore or horror, and some of those were the same titles that raised the initial concerns in 1982.

HC: How do you relax, do you enjoy going to the movies or is that a bit of a bus man's holiday?

CL: I'm probably less inclined to go to the cinema immediately after work than I might once have been, but I do still go to the cinema and watch DVDs at the weekend. It's nice to be able to choose what to watch! Other than that, I enjoy reading, listening to the radio, going to the theatre, and going to the pub!

HC: Craig Lapper, thank you very much.

Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Mickey Fisher 1

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.

The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?

MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...

Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Gary J. Tunnicliffe doing SFX make-up on the set of Hellraiser Judgement

Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.

HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?

GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...

Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Director Chee Keong Cheung

Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?

CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...

Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020

On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.

HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?

SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...

Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Concrete Plans poster

Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.

Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!

HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?

SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...

Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2020

A special ops team on a mission in a war-torn country find themselves trapped on a never-ending staircase that they must climb - or they die! This is the premise for Tom Paton's superb, action-packed horror The Ascent which is having its UK TV premiere at 9pm on October 23rd. Here its star, Shayne Ward tells all about his career to date and how he became involved in this sci-fi shocker.

HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?

SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown...

Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Fried Barry

Anyone who as been to Grimmfest will know that the team behind the event try their very best to bring to their audience films that challenge and push as many envelopes as possible. Fried Barry from director Ryan Kruger is such a movie. Packed with mind-bending imagery and and emotional punch, this polarizing movie has to be seen just for its creativity and strong storytelling. Here, Ryan chats about this incredible movie.

HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?

RK: Fried Barry was born out of total frustration where I was in my career. I am known in South Africa as a music video director for doing narrative story telling within music vids and sharp visuals. Although I al...

Interview with Deiondre Teagle, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
thumbnail_Brandon Blood

Grimmfest 2020 is packed with new talent and one actor that stands out is Deiondre Teagle who styars in Charlie Steeds' grindhouse homage, Death Ranch. Here Deiondre explains his role and what it was like being part of such a bold movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?

DT: I've definitely known my whole life I've wanted to be an actor. One of my favourite movies of all time is the original Men In Black. When I was little (about 3 or 4 years old), I would re-watch my VHS copy of that movie over and over and over again. I would re-enact every scene. Since then, my love for acting and film has just grown. I have such a love for the...

Interview with Faith Monique, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020

Grimmfest 2020 is packed with world premieres and none so bold as Charlie Steed's Death Ranch. We chatted to one of its main stars, Faith Monique about her role in this brutal and brilliant movie.

HC: Was there one person you saw at a young age who inspired you to want to become an actress?

FM: Funny fact, I grew up without a TV! So, at a young age, I never had an actor that inspired me and to this day I still don't. Acting did not become a dream of mine until 2016 and for inspiration, I like to dig deep into my own soul to find truth to bring into each character.

HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies and were you aware of grindhouse and e...

Interview with Charlie Steeds, writer and director of Death Ranch
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020

Horror movies and controversy always go hand in hand but when they tackle serious issues by using extreme violence to hammer home a point they can be very worthy. Death Ranch from Charlie Steeds is having its world premiere at Grimmfest so we chatted to him about this very strong movie.

HC: What inspired you to write Death Ranch?

CS: I'd always wanted to try making a movie with a 70s Grindhouse/Exploitation style and was watching old Grindhouse trailers for inspiration. I came across the movie Brotherhood of Death, where black characters fight back against the KKK for some of the film (the tagline is 'Watch these brothers stick it to the Klan!') and that conce...

Interview with Nicholas Santos, writer and director of It Cuts Deep
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
It Cuts Deep Image 2

At Grimmfest we're used to comedy horror but none as well written as It Cuts Deep from writer/director Nicholas Santos. Here he chats about this true dissection of a romance going terribly wrong.

HC: Have you always been a big horror fan?

NS: I've been a big horror fan since I was a little kid. Some of my favourite childhood memories are seeing Event Horizon with my dad when I was in second grade, being absolutely terrified by Chucky from Child's Play at every waking moment and watching Psycho for the first time on VHS when I was 7 years old.

HC: Where did the idea for It Cuts Deep come from and did it take long to write?

NS: It Cuts Deep is a hor...

Interview with Robert Woods, director of An Ideal Host
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Robert Woods

Ever had the dinner party from Hell with people you don't really relate to and seem alien? Well this is the premise of the the hilarious horror comedy An Ideal Host from director Robert Woods. Here he tells Horror about this cracking movie.

HC: What did you think of the script when you first read it and what made you decide that this would be your first project as a director?

RW: Tyler and I had been writing theatre together for a decade, but movies are our first love and we wanted to give it a crack as well. Tyler came up with the initial idea but we worked on the story together and it evolved a great deal from the initial pitch. As it was my first time directing, I think we were j...

Interviews Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
Lost City Raiders
Sunday 23rd May
6.30 PM
Friday 21st May
9.00 PM
Tuesday 18th May
9.00 PM