The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t like me, I’m afraid.
This May 5, a film I wrote and directed called “Look” is being released on DVD through Anchor Bay. “Look” is the only film to ever be shot entirely with surveillance cameras and though predominantly a character drama, it shines a spotlight on privacy issues and how the ubiquity of these cameras affect the lives of everyday people.
The film enjoyed a successful theatrical art-house run for much of the first half of 2008, it garnered wonderful reviews, collected a hand full of esteemed film festival wins and galvanized some impressive champions, including, the Creative Coalition, the Bidens, Kanye West and even TheWrap’s own Sharon Waxman, who was extremely generous about the film — so much so in fact that she invited me to be her guest on NPR’s Politics of Culture when she was guest hosting.
The topic was privacy vs. security. None of that, of course, mattered to the USPS when it unceremoniously pulled our “Look” DVD release postcard campaign and refused to allow it to be mailed, citing obscenity.
Obscenity! The plan was to mail a series of postcards to key media people, each one would be a still from the movie and a factoid about surveillance cameras, i.e. "Did you know It’s legal in 37 states to have cameras in dressing rooms and public bathrooms?"
Imagine our surprise when our second and third postcards were literally deemed to be criminal.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some pretty racy postcards in my time. Hell, every postcard they sell on Hollywood Blvd. is either of a topless babe in a thong, or a naked body builder with a blob of whip cream and a couple strategically placed cherries.
As far as we can surmise, the issue that makes our postcards feel illicit, feel dirty, feel "obscene" is the fact that they’re images presented from a surveillance camera POV. Looking in on someone when they don’t know they’re being watched taps into the voyeur in all of us, and that doesn’t necessarily sit well with everybody.
Peering at people when they’re at their most vulnerable often times is like peering into a truth mirror, and that refection back can be a little more than unnerving.
When I first heard the postcards were being pulled for obscenity I was stunned. Before I knew it word about the incident got leaked and I got a call from the N.Y. Post’s PageSix. My quote was, "Not only is it censorship, but with the post office in such financial straits, it’s ridiculous they won’t mail it.” Other media outlets picked up the story, and before I knew it I was at the center of a mini-media storm.
They say all publicity is good publicity, but since the story surfaced, a most unusual and ominous thing occurred, something that has never happened to me before. Someone violently pried my home mailbox open with a crowbar and stole all of my mail.
Being that mail tampering is a federal offense, I immediately contacted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the federal law enforcement arm of the USPS.
To my surprise, after describing the crime and giving my personal information, I was given another number to call. After calling that number I was told to call the original number back but ask for a different extension, that department forwarded me to another department, who then told me to call still a different division, which led me to more and more ridiculous amounts of dizzying numbers, departments, extensions and pre-recorded messages.
I literally felt like I was the lead in a ‘70s conspiracy movie.
Trying to reach an actual Investigator lasted days and still has remained impossible. Now, sure, maybe the timing is just coincidental, maybe the USPS isn’t screwing with me at all but is just so mired in red tape and apathy that this is just business as usual, which probably explains why the term "going postal" has become a part of the collective lexicon.
In any event, a revolutionary solution was finally reached with respect to getting our "obscene" postcards into the right hands — we put them in envelopes.