Plans by Stirling University to hold the first public screening of a film made during Wham!'s tour of China have been shelved, after Andy Stephens, George Michael's co-manager for the UK and Europe, refused permission. Yet again George is being badly advised, and Andy Stephens demonstrates his lack of understanding of the way people get hold of, and watch/listen, to film and music in the 21st Century.
The university, which holds a copy of "If You Were There", a 90-minute documentary charting Wham!’s 1985 tour of China, was given permission for the screening by Sony Music, Michael’s record company. “It’s a dreadful film,” said Stephens. “It’s a rogue copy that was supposed to have gone away and we don’t want it to be seen in public. It’s 20 years old and it’s rubbish. Why on earth should we allow it to be shown?”
How clueless can you get? There are two problems with taking this stance. Firstly, no-one is interestested in Stephens's opinion on the film (actually, I'm not sure he's ever even seen it, which would make his comments even more laughable) – people can make up their own minds whether it's rubbish or not. Secondly, you simply can't stop people watching this film, even if you want to. Taking this stance will ultimately only increase interest in the film, the distribution of which will, in due course, be near instantaneous on the Internet.
As I understand it, the truth is that the young George Michael found the film boring when it was originally screened to him in a private viewing twenty or so years ago; largely because the film barely features George, and instead is rumoured to concentrate on showing the politics and culture in China at that time. That George found the film boring is fine. He was, and is, entitled to his opinions.
However, this film is the work of Lindsay Anderson – who was an important film-maker. Censoring the works of film makers demonstrates a huge lack of understanding of art. Not a smart thing to do when your "family" has an art gallery. It's not that it's a big deal for gallery owners to know nothing about art; but, it IS a big deal to scream your ignorance from the roof tops.
Yet again, the heavy-handed behaviour of Andy Stephens, creates more negativity towards George. You don't find Michael Lippman making blunders like this, do you? Even when George's caution for possession of drugs has almost certainly created problems for George's plans in the US, Lippman has held his tongue. And perhaps, given time, he can even rescue the situation with some sensitive handling. George better hope that Andy Stephens doesn't intend to stick his oar in to any discussions with US officials, otherwise George will be lucky if he's ever allowed to set foot in the US again, never mind work there.
So, Andy Stephens asks, "Why on earth should we allow it to be shown?" The answer? You should let it be shown, or have at the very least handled the situation more intelligently, because behaving as you have done makes George Michael look like a small-minded, mean-spirited, vain, and irrelevant fool. It's just ridiculous to incur so much negativity, given that there is NO DOWNSIDE to letting the film be shown!
The way to handle this would have been to give permission for the film to be screened by the university, and issue a positive statement from George saying something like, "It will be interesting to see how people react to Lindsay Anderson's film, twenty years on. At the time it was made, I didn't feel it was something Wham!'s audience would have been interested in. However, Lindsay Anderson was a great film maker, and the massive changes that have taken place in China during the last twenty mean his film could now offer an fascinating perspective on that country's politics and culture; as well as showing Andrew and me not precisely in the way we wanted to be seen!"