Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Film is Collaboration

So there was a conversation the other day. Well, of course there was. People talk, after all. However, this was a conversation concerning an aspiring filmmaker who, like many aspiring filmmakers, views himself as an "artist." In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with being an artist in the film world, but the connotation of the concept is what is a large problem in that particular industry.

You see, the "artists" tend to fancy themselves as not just artists, but as "the next big thing" (oh, if only they could get noticed... yeah, that old story). We're talking "the next Spielberg," "the next Scorsese," "the next Woody Allen," and the list goes on. Lofty goals, sure, and there's nothing wrong with lofty goals, but therein lies the rub: up-and-comers tend to think that Spielberg, Scorsese, and Woody Allen did everything by themselves. As a result, said up-and-comer (and I'm using that term very generously) tries to do everything by himself or herself. And, guess what? Film, unlike some other art forms, doesn't work that way.

Film. Is. Collaboration.

Film is not painting. It is not sculpture. It is not music. One person is not responsible for the idea, the production and creation, and the exhibition of the artwork. In all likelihood, the director is not the writer, the writer is not the cinematographer, the cinematographer is not the actor, and the actor is not the editor. Yes, there are notable exceptions involving multi-tasking, but NONE of those exceptions involved a filmmaker doing everything. Quite simply, that's next to impossible (unless we're talking some sort of auteur-driven avant garde film, but we're not... we're talking film as it pertains to the film industry). Even arguing the Bachs and Beethovens of the music world you have to account for the Yo-Yo Mas and the Itzhak Perlmans.

This all seems obvious, I'm sure, and I'm equally sure that if you're still reading this, you're wondering where the Hell I'm going with it. Here's where: the propensity of young "independent" filmmakers to attempt total control of a project has to stop. This propensity, as I've probably failed at alluding to, comes from the propensity to want to be "artists" above all else.

All too often you will find a young (and probably talented) aspiring filmmaker who wants to make "my project." In other words, that filmmaker wants to A) write the script, B) rewrite the script, C) lock the shooting script, D) produce the film, E) direct the film, F) shoot the film, G) star in the film, H) edit the film, and I) sell, distribute, and market the film.

Pardon my French, but: get. fucking. real.

Even George Lucas, that all-too banal overrated filmmaker (though an outstanding film businessman and innovator, if not the best), once said that writing, directing, and producing a film (the original Star Wars... oh, the irony) was one role too many. And, despite my disdain for admitting such, he was and remains right.

Now, opponents of this argument will no doubt point to Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and countless others, but even those examples all freely admit to the collaborative nature of filmmaking. Look how much credit QT gives to Uma Thurman for the Kill Bill series. Find out how much credit Rodriguez gives to Tarantino on various film, never mind how much he gives to Frank Miller for Sin City.

The inconvenient truth here is that few of us are as good as any of the people mentioned above, and what aspiring filmmakers need to realize is that their talents probably lie in a specific aspect of filmmaking. Which means that they need to find other aspiring filmmakers whose talents lie in those aspects that they themselves are lacking.

In other words, the next time someone says "I've got my own project," let them know that a film - both before it's completed and after it's distributed - is never artistically owned by one person. It just doesn't happen. And it probably never will.

So... who wants to get a project going?


Alan Burnett said...

You are quite right, collaboration is always central to film making. I have always had problems identifying the divisions between producers and directors : I understand the definitions but - as someone who has never been involved in film-making - have difficulty in seeing how the tasks can effectively be separated.

Brian Miller said...

and it is true for life as well...

Johnny O. said...

good blog. i'd ask you to hop on my project but i'm doing everything myself. ;).

Tom said...

i can hold that clappy board thingie for you, and also make sure no one sits in your director chair! oh, and if you're into screenwriting i've got a book no one wants to publish.

e said... As usual.

Bitsy said...

What!!! Admit that you are not a genius in everything????? Dammit, man, I'm reinventing the genre here. ;)

Baino said...

I couldn't agree more. I find calling 'oneself' an artist rather pretentious and trying to control all aspects of the production just doesn't work. Well maybe for short film or claymation but surely it's better to have input from those around you to massage the action into something that is put together by the whole team. Surely that's why films have credits . . to acknowledge everyone involved. Erm I have no talent but I could push the drinks trolley

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