NEW YORK — Adding his voice to the debate over film colorization, film maker Woody Allen is blasting a colorization company as “sleazy” for using his name in a promotional advertisement without his permission.
In an interview, Allen said he objected to CST Entertainment, which did some work for his Oscar- nominated “Bullets Over Broadway,” because it did not call him before using his name in an ad supporting colorization. CST is also the company contracted to colorize the home video version of the black-and-white film “Federal Hill,” now in theaters.
In the ad, an open letter to the film community that ran in the March 2 edition of the Hollywood Reporter, Allen’s name ran atop a list of four film makers who have used the services of the colorization house.
“We felt here that we were dealing with a sleazy group and we did not enjoy the experience of working with them,” said Allen, who colorized a seven-second piece of newsreel that ran at the beginning of “Bullets Over Broadway.”
But Jonathan Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of CST, said: “We have the right to promote that Woody Allen used us. I apologize if he was upset we put him in the ad, but he used our services. In the ad, I listed his name because he used us. I don’t think at the time he worked with us he thought we were sleazy.”
The ad reads: “As the provider of the digital technology used to colorize ‘Federal Hill,’ we applaud director and writer Michael Corrente, cinematographer Richard Crudo and Trimark Pictures in their decision to colorize the home video and television versions. . . . Speak with some of the successful artists who recently discovered CST’s digital color and ask what it did for them.”
In early February, Trimark Pictures succumbed to protests by film makers and others and lost its battle to colorize the theatrical version of “Federal Hill.” Corrente and Crudo agreed to let CST do a “test” on a home-video version with the understanding that the film makers would release a colorized version as well as the black- and-white version in limited markets.
“First off, there’s a huge difference between (the ‘Bullets’ usage) and what they’re going through on ‘Federal Hill,’ ” Allen said. “We bought a few seconds of newsreel footage and colored it so it would be consistent with my movie. We bought the clip and everything was done with everyone’s knowledge and all that.
“What they’re doing with the other poor guy is he had consented to let them make a little dry run on his film colorizing it, only if a black-and-white version was going to be in distribution, and he had not consented. But they went and put it out anyway and jumped the gun on it.”
Allen has just wrapped his latest work, in which he stars with Helena Bonham Carter, Olympia Dukakis and Michael Rapaport.
Concerning CST, Allen said he was considering legal action. “If there’s a suit that can be made we would make it,” said Allen. “I’m not denying the fact we did work with them on the thing, but we wouldn’t do it again. They put an ad in the paper that led with my name, with the implication that one, I condone the process, and two, I condone their use of it in the ‘Federal Hill’ situation.”
“I would give the argument John Huston gave: Black-and- white has a major emotional and esthetic bearing on the work of art you’re on,” Allen said.
“People less sensitive and financially oriented (people) don’t care about that. They think you just turn off the color on the TV set. Huston did not want ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ in color. I think if a company was moral on this, they could say ‘We will not colorize this without consent of director.’ ”
Donna Parker covers the film industry for The Hollywood Reporter