Over the past couple of years, I have had several people ask me about what was left on the "cutting-room floor" during the editing of TLC: Year With a Leather Club. Below is a rundown of some of the material that was cut, along with some of the reasons:
Discussion on Janet’s Firing
Janet B., during the shooting of the video, worked for a CD music store. Near the end of shooting, when she returned from the March on Washington, she was informed that she was being terminated from her job for not being a "team player". Janet felt that the firing was the result of her public work with the March on Washington and various Gay/Lesbian causes in the Greensboro area. The firing was written up in Ms magazine, the Raleigh, NC Gay/Lesbian newspaper, The Front Page, and other publications.
Janet appeared on the Jenny Jones television program on Gay/Lesbian employment practices. The firing was also featured in a local television news report on WFMY-TV. I contacted the producers of Jenny Jones for a copy of the program and to seek permission to use an excerpt, but that particular program, again, was not aired by the time the video was being edited. WFMY-TV refused permission for use of an excerpt of their newscast on the incident, saying that the station did not allow any use of their material by independent video or filmmakers. (Another station, WGHP-TV, did allow use of footage featuring TLC members at the NAMES Project.)
decided not to include a discussion of Janet’s firing because no outside
materials were available that showed the position of her employer on the
matter except a public statement in the form of a letter.
During the shooting of the video, several items appeared in magazines and newspapers about the growing popularity of body piercing. Also, SM imagery began appearing in publications, films, and on television as interest in the subculture was growing. I sought permission to use a short shot of a Spy magazine cover that featured a photo-composite of Hillary Clinton dressed as a Leather dominatrix. Spy wanted a $200 fee for use of the cover; I declined.
I sought permission to use shots of two Akbar and Jeff "Life in Hell" cartoons by Matt Groening that appeared during the shooting ("Akbar and Jeff’s Piercing Hut" and "Akbar and Jeff’s Tattoo Hut"), but was turned down by his distributor. ("Mr. Groening was pleased to learn that his work is appreciated and flattered that you would consider including it in your filmmaking efforts. Regrettably, due to contractual restrictions, we are unable to grant permission at this time.")
Newsweek magazine declined use of shots of an article on the popularity of body piercing that they had in a 1993 issue. "Headlines that are removed from the context of the entire Newsweek page or cover represent a distortion of the material that my mislead the viewer or reader as to the context in which the material was originally published." (Funny, I thought I asked to show the entire page.)
no source material to show the growing interest in body piercing and the
appearance of SM imagery in popular culture, the discussion was omitted.
During the Leather/SM/Fetish Contingent meeting at the March on Washington, I was not allowed to shoot the vendor space that was in operation during the event by the Contingent organizers. The organizers wanted to protect the privacy of individuals at the space.
video would have included a broader view of that event (ie, the speeches,
workshops, and "Leather capitalism") if the shooting could have been done,
but the feelings of the organizers is understandable considering the biased
coverage of the March by media outlets such as the 700 Club.
I obtained a videotape of WUSA-TV’s coverage of the March on Washington, along with tapes from the Christian Broadcasting Network’s 700 Club, as well as coverage of the March and rally on C-SPAN. WUSA-TV turned me down, saying that they did not allow independent video or filmmakers to use their material.
After the experience with all of the TV outlets and publications so far, I decided to drop the discussion of public reaction to the March since I could probably not show any of the published or televised material about the event.
If Only There Was Time
The time constraints of fitting over thirty-two hours of rough footage into an 80 minute package forced me to make some tough decisions on what to keep in the video. One of the best sections in the rough cut of the video dealt with some of the entertainment that club members did for various gatherings. Steve W., in his interview, discussed the evolution of his stage character "Rev. Happy N. Harness, the Leather Evangelist", and I had two of his routines for consideration. ("If you love Leather, say AMEN! If you love money, say HALLELUIAH!! If you spend lots of money on leather, say OH MY GOD!!!)
Also omitted were some performances by Gil F. (in particular, his version of Monty Python’s "Lumberjack Song", turned into "She’s a Lesbian and She’s Okay" and a performance-art piece featuring Handel’s "He Was Despised", played on accordian) and a member of another club who made elaborate large puppets (imagine a four-foot tall goose singing Tammy Wynette’s "Stand By Your Man" and you get the picture).
While looking at the final cut, the material just didn’t seem to fit and took focus away from the main theme of the club and it’s work as a group, so this was some of the last material to be omitted.
The Jim P. Interview
Jim Prezwalski, author of Kiss of the Whip, was interviewed for the documentary shortly before he left for England. Jim, while living in the Triad, had been involved with the group for some time. Early on, I decided not to use the interview, since Jim isn’t seen anywhere else in the footage (he left for England just days after shooting began). Practically all of the long-form interviews for the piece were done near the end of the shooting – Jim’s interview shows some of the topics I initially wanted to cover early on in the project before a more concrete script and focused approach had been achieved.
Two interesting notes about some of the broadcast footage you didn't get to see in the documentary bear some consideration in this discussion and have potential for short documentaries in their own right. The 700 Club presented a condeming view of the March that concentrated almost exclusively on the Leatherfolk and "drag" queens at the event and the footage is still being used extensively during the program's fundraising campaigns. It should be noted that I ran into several Leatherfolk during and after the March who were approached by reporters that specifically identified themselves as representatives of "CNN" or the "Cable News Network" with cameras and mics bearing CNN logos. These interviews were eventually seen on the 700 Club -- I have been unable to verify if the 700 Club has been using CNN footage of this event or if reporters for the 700 Club mispresented themselves to participants at the March. These could, of course, be misunderstandings or rumors spreading within the community and should be checked further by individuals with better access to personnel of these media outlets.
During the shooting of the March on Washington sequences, a friend in North Carolina videotaped live coverage of the March on CNN and C-SPAN for me. After returning home and looking through my original footage and notes, I did a comparison of CNN's coverage of the March, C-SPAN and my own footage. One of the big debates about the March was the number of Gay people who participated -- interestingly, CNN did not include any shots of the expansive of people on the March route or gathering on the Mall. At particular points in the footage from all three sources -- which can be "synched" by time of day markings and speechers or entertainers heard on the soundtrack -- CNN had their cameras trained on parts of Washington that were not a part of the March, such as the Lincoln memorial, while my own footage and that of C-SPAN shows large crowds of people. A full analysis of the coverage may be posted on this Web site at a later point.
During the production, I contacted several people in the legal and entertainment industry to find out just what "Fair Use" means – the definition depended entirely on who was doing the talking. The experience taught me that the vagueness of the current copyright laws on this issue makes for a very dangerous situation, where independent video and filmmakers are unable to confidently present and comment on materials from very powerful media concerns without fear of legal reprisals for "unauthorized" use of copyrighted materials.
Frankly, considering how omission of many broadcast and print materials changed the finished product – making it less balanced in showing the public perception of Leatherfolk – I would probably go ahead and use the materials under "Fair Use" provisions of US copyright law if I were editing the piece again.
Randy A. Riddle, 8/10/97