During the latter half of this year, Reed Morano, ASC, has primarily focused on shooting and directing the feature Meadowland. But between stints in the editing room, she has been the driving force behind a petition on Change.org, now nearing 10,000 signatures, to persuade HDTV manufacturers to stop making motion interpolation, a.k.a. smooth motion, the default setting on new TVs. “It’s fair to have the option because it’s a great way to watch sports,” says Reed. “But it really cheapens the look of everything else. If you care about artistic integrity and appreciate cinematography and the cinematic experience, you should sign this petition.”
The petition really caught on, attracting about 1,000 signatures a day at first. “I think it has made its rounds in our world, with the cinematography crowd,” says Reed. “We need to reach out to a bigger audience, and certain celebrities have really helped, including [actors] Zach Braff and Olivia Wilde. I often hear that people who aren’t in the film industry don’t care about this issue, but I’ve found that people do notice this. They think it looks awful, and they just assume that’s how their TV is, so they don’t even try to change it. Some say it’s about educating people, but there’s a lot of info online about how to deselect the option. I think the common person doesn’t even know it’s an option that can be turned off — that’s the real problem.
“I think the only way filmmakers can protect our work is to stop the problem where it starts,” she continues. “I firmly believe we have to make it about the way that the product comes out of the box. The manufacturers could easily make it a very simple button on the remote that toggles between ‘cinema’ and ‘sports’ settings. If some of them sell it as a feature, then other manufacturers won’t want to be left behind. When people can compare the images, they see and appreciate the difference.”
Reed says she decided to create the petition after waiting in vain for six years for something to be done. “If nobody’s going to say anything, then I’m going to say something, you know?” she says.
The petition has gained a lot of traction in social media, notably Twitter and Facebook. Director Rian Johnson was one of many who commended Reed. “Almost the same day I put it out, Rian contacted me and said, ‘Dude, how can I help?’” says Reed. “I found out he’s a self-proclaimed ‘TV ninja,’ secretly turning off smooth motion on his friends’ TVs when they aren’t looking. He’s been trying to teach his followers on Twitter to do the same thing."
"We're considering writing a letter to these manufacturers and asking other big directors to sign it, people like Scorsese, Spielberg and Nolan," Reed continues. "Maybe a letter with big-name signatures can put us over the top. Everyone can help by continuing to spread the word through social media, and by reaching out to people outside our business.”
In the meantime, Reed is enjoying working with an editor on Meadowland, whose cast includes Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss, and John Leguizamo. “It’s a very, very dark drama about how grieving people can lose their grasp on their humanity,” Reed explains. “It’s been emotional but so much fun. I’m really loving how it’s going — a lot better than I imagined, honestly.
“When you do something for the first time, you’re not really sure what you’ll be able to accomplish. There was the whole unknown of communicating with actors in a different way, as a director. It’s using a whole other language. But it went so well. It was a really good way to end a very crazy year.”