Posted on 09 August 2021 by Caitlin
Tell someone you work at the Classification Office and people are intrigued – you get to watch movies all day right? And while that can sometimes be the case there’s a lot more to it, of course like any job it has its pits and peaks.
Classification Advisor, Georgia, answers our most commonly asked questions and debunks all of your assumptions.
Do you get to watch films all day?
I wish! We’re allocated around three to four commercial publications a week. That could be a film, episodes from a series, a game or even a book.
We have to view the content from start to finish — we’re probably the only people who watch all the way through to the end of the credits! Then the hard mahi starts. We write a detailed report that includes a break-down of the strongest material according to the legal criteria and our recommended rating and descriptive note.
We also have other roles and responsibilities which range from answering complaints and queries, consult with people including working with our youth panel, doing presentations, communicating with stakeholders, and working on projects like research, plus the inevitable admin jobs. We’re talking about commercial publications in this blog but about half the work of the office is classifying what we call Crown work, for example images that are needed in court cases.
How long does it take to classify a publication?
Commercial publications usually only take a day or so. Usually sensitive material that is likely to be banned can take a bit longer – sometimes even weeks.
Do you get to pick what you watch?
We can self-select things that interest us and we’re also allowed to opt out if we aren’t comfortable with certain things. We all have pretty different tastes so it works out quite well.
I usually classify the horror films because other people don’t seem to like them. Unfortunately good horror films are few and far between so I have seen a lot of b-grade horror film trash!
I also find myself getting enamoured with certain TV series For example, I would never usually be interested in something like Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but I desperately need to know what happens next season!!
Do you watch films before they come out in cinemas?
Yes. Everything needs to have an official classification before it is viewed by a NZ audience (unless it is something that is shown on TV). Sometimes we have to sign confidentiality agreements and leave our phones outside the cinema.
How many people classify a film?
It depends. If it’s a theatrical release then there will be two of us, but in general we view everything on our own.
If it’s a big release or something that is likely to be controversial then a member of the comms team and the Chief Censor will join in too.
Do you eat snacks during films?
We usually watch the films at 9am so the candy bar isn’t open. My waistline is relieved.
Do you count swear words?
No. But other jurisdictions like the USA and the UK do. Our approach is to consider the impact of the language — and sometimes frequency plays into that. What we mostly look for is the context and how the words are used. So for example, is the word casually used in a light-hearted conversation? Or is it a slur that is directed at a group of people? There’s a big difference.
Are you desensitised?
I’ve seen a lot of ugly stuff so it takes a lot for me to have an emotional reaction but I definitely haven’t lost my ability to empathise with other people. I’ve implemented a lot of strategies to help me deal with the job and that has probably helped me distance myself emotionally— I have several hobbies and I try to practice mindfulness. We also have access to clinical psychologists which is great.
I recently found myself feeling really anxious about climate change so I’m taking a break from using social media. It’s weird that out of everything I am exposed to it is climate change that has crossed the line! But it just goes to show that everyone has boundaries and it’s important to recognise when they’re being pushed.
Are ratings even that important anymore?
For sure! Maybe you’re a bit like me and you don’t get shocked or triggered by much but there are a lot of people out there who do. People have written to us about the impact seeing a film or show without knowing what was in it has had on them. Ratings and information are a useful tool to help people make the right choice for themselves.
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