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Administrators prohibit depictions of UCLA from student film about activism

The UCLA Film and Photography Society was denied approval to portray the university in a short film about a 1991 student protest (pictured).
(Daily Bruin file photo)

By Christopher Buchanan

April 9, 2023 10:06 p.m.

UCLA administrators prevented UCLA’s Film and Photography Society from making a historical film about UCLA student activism with any information identifying the UCLA brand.

The film, prospectively titled “Good Morning Murphy Hall,” sought to depict the anti-war protest efforts at UCLA following the Persian Gulf War and United States troop mobilization in the Middle East. Samuel Sparks, a fourth-year economics student and executive producer of the Film and Photography Society, said his organization formally requested approval three to four weeks before they planned to start shooting in March, directing the initial inquiry to the UCLA Events Office.

Sparks added that his organization has strong ties with the Events Office, having utilized its services for the Film and Photography Society’s triannual film shoots and screenings.

All filming permissions must go through the Events Office, with occasional assistance from other offices, said UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk in a written statement.

The Events Office appeared to have informally approved the project, Sparks said, but the formal approval process itself proved to be more complex. Because of the film’s content and its inclusion of UCLA imagery, Sparks said UCLA required multiple entities to approve the project.

“It was informal acceptance until a formal decline of our permission,” Sparks said. “We were told all the way, ‘This is fine. This is good.’ Until they’re like, finally, you need to fill out this formal request through what’s called the Marks system.”

UCLA Marks is an authorization system meant to monitor the depiction of the UCLA brand throughout various projects across campus and beyond. Sparks said the direct depiction of the university and Murphy Hall in the film led the Events Office to direct the Film and Photography Society’s request externally, which led to a review by the administrative vice chancellor’s office.

This decision is standard protocol for any portrayal of university facilities, Kisliuk added in the written statement.

Kisliuk and Sparks both confirmed that overall filming requests were approved and access to campus facilities was granted on the condition that no UCLA imagery or labels were attached to the film.

(Daily Bruin file photo)
Students gather in protest of the Persian Gulf War. The film will shoot on campus but will not include any reference to UCLA. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Sparks said the film’s title had to be changed, the film could not reference UCLA as an entity whatsoever and scenes about Murphy Hall could not occur inside the building. He added that the modifications stunt the filming process and limit student filmmakers’ abilities to express their full potential.

Kyle Walsh, a third-year biology student and director of the film, said the campus facilities in the film had to be portrayed in a way that made the university unidentifiable as UCLA.

Walsh added that he believed modifications to the film such as leaving out the name of the building where protests occurred would diminish the effect of the depiction.

“Turning it into this faceless, nameless campus, I think, just kind of detracts from the gravity of the situation,” Walsh said. “It doesn’t feel as real.”

Sparks said he believes the Film and Photography Society acclimated well to these adjustments, but he believes it could have been a good opportunity for UCLA to support student film programs.

“I think this would have been pretty beneficial for the school to just (be) like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re happy to support student filmmakers telling our history,’” he said. “We weren’t trying to defame the school.”

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