‘Unplanned’ Director to Senate: Silicon Valley Refused to Advertise Movie

ALANA MASTRANGELO

The co-writer and co-director of Pro-life film Unplanned, Chuck Konzelman, testified to a Senate  hearing on the stifling of free speech on social media on Wednesday, where he discussed the struggles his organization had in promoting their film online.

Unplanned co-writer and co-director Chuck Konzelman testified before a Senate panel on Wednesday about the issues he had faced with the Masters of the Universe in Silicon Valley declining advertisements for the film, as well as online censorship, which he believes has stifled the promotion and awareness surrounding the pro-life film.

Unplanned is described Konzelman as, “the true-life story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood surgical abortion clinic director, who, after seeing an abortion take place in real time on a sonogram screen, the image created via the ultrasound probe that Abby herself was holding turned her entire worldview upside-down and became a pro-life advocate.”

During the hearing, entitled, “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse,” Konzelman told the Senate panel that he and his business partners are formally petitioning the FCC to look into the “blanket refusals” regarding advertising, which he referred to as “highly unusual and highly discriminatory.”

“From the outset, making a pro-life film in a pro-choice town — Los Angeles — we knew it would face a number of challenges,” stated Konzelman, who then went on to list some of the struggles they had endured with regards to advertising for Unplanned.

The MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] saddled us with an ‘R’ rating, which strongly discourages much of the Christian audience, and all of the Church of Latter Day Saints from seeing our film, since they have a general prohibition against seeing R-rated films. It also precluded us from using the single most effective form of motion picture advertising, paid placement of our theatrical trailer before other films in theaters, but with an ‘R’ rating, we were prohibited from advertising before anything other than R-rated films, without special permission, which we sought and were denied.

We also looked to advertise on cable television, but with exception of Fox News and CBN, we were systematically denied access to the outlets where we sought to advertise, among which were Lifetime, UPtv, Hallmark, HGTV, USA Network, Food Network, the Travel Channel, DIY [Network], and the Cooking Channel. Lifetime, which is owned by A&E Networks — told our buyers that they were refusing due to the ‘sensitive nature of the film,’ but it previously promoted an interview with Scarlett Johansson, in which she touted the benefits of Planned Parenthood.

Konzelman added that when they had turned to social media, the struggle to promote the pro-life film continued.

“Once again, we found ourselves stymied,” said the director, who added that “Google Ads” had blocked the entirety of the film’s pre-release banner ads, which he noted had only consisted of an image of half a woman’s face, with a tear coming down, and the words, “what she saw changed everything.”

“I don’t think [the advertisements] were particularly offensive,” stated Konzelman, “Google cited a policy regarding abortion-related ads — just one problem — we weren’t doing abortion-related ads, we were marketing a movie.”

“It’s important to note that this prohibition was solidly in place for the entire lead-up to our theatrical release,” continued the director.

Konzelman added that it was important for them to be able to promote the film during that time period, because “much like advertising spent on a political campaign, the vast majority of dollars spent in promoting a film are spent to help build up a white-hot intensity and awareness around one particular date, but instead of election night, for films its Friday night of opening weekend.”

The director went on to talk about Twitter, which had suspended the film’s Twitter account “within hours of is theatrical debut.” Konzelman also noted that he was told the Twitter account had existed for nine months and had never been suspended, until the early morning hours on the day of the film’s debut.

You can follow Unplanned‘s Twitter account at @UnplannedMovie. The film is currently playing in theaters across the country.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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