When a director chooses to direct a film in black and white instead of color it is most definitely as much an artistic choice as is whom they cast in any particular role, how they frame their compositions and what music may be playing on the soundtrack. If you change any of that, you change what the director intended the audience to see.
That doesn’t seem to be much on the mind of cable outlet Epix, who are planning on airing the full color version of director Alexander Payne’s Academy Award-nominated Nebraska this coming Sunday. The channel has been advertising that after their screening of the black and white version they would be featuring the “world premiere of the color version.”
If you’re wondering as to how there is a color version of the film to begin with, that comes down to contractual obligations. Color versions of black and white films are routinely required for ancillary markets, i.e., foreign TV markets. But according to Payne’s contract with distributor Paramount, there were to be no major showings of the color version, including theatrical and DVD/Blu-Ray releases.
IndieWire reached out to Nebraska producer Albert Berger, who stated that he was not informed of Epix’s plans to air the film in its color incarnation and he was sure that Payne had not been notified either.
A look at Epix’s online schedule shows that the channel is not differentiating between the color and the black and white versions, which is definitely damaging to Payne’s intent. If you haven’t seen the film before and were looking forward to catching it here, beware.