PRACTICAL FILMMAKING vs AUTEUR THEORY

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PRACTICAL FILMMAKING vs AUTEUR THEORY

Postby Moderator » Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:28 pm

Thread for the continuation of the Auteur Theory debate.

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Josh Olson
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Ay yi yi

Postby Josh Olson » Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:50 pm

Brad,

“If you calmly reread my post, you will see that I didn't call a DP a camera operator. I called a camera operator a camera operator! I didn't even mention DPs/cinematographers. I was simply repsonding to Jason's post, in which he claimed that "whomever actually moved the camera" might be considered the CAFE LUMIERE scene's author.”

Sweet mother of fucking Jesus.

No. You have to stop now.

You described Hou giving directions to his camera operator. From that sentence alone, it is crystal clear you haven’t got the slightest idea what you’re talking about.

Directors do not give directions to camera operators. The DP gives direction to the camera operator. So you were either calling the DP the camera operator, or you were saying directors direct operators. Either one you pick displays an utter ignorance as to how films are made. Give me a third way to interpret it, and I have no doubt it will reveal just as much ignorance as the first two.

See, here’s the thing - all your arguments aside, the auteur theory goes to process. It seeks to dictate how films are actually made, not how they can be interpreted. And every single time - I mean EVERY time - that you have offered examples of how movies are made, you’ve gotten it thoroughly wrong on every level. But rather than acknowledge that you are, simply, ignorant on the subject, you press on, arguing these things with people who actually DO know what they’re talking about.

I have explained to you many times why your statements on the subject are ridiculously offensive to anyone who actually makes movies, and you have yet to show the slightest glimmering of understanding as to what I’m saying. Hell, you don’t even seem to recognize that I’ve commented on it.

Not only would you look at a film and determine who is its author based on simply viewing it, you would tell someone who actually makes movies that you are more qualified than they to make such statements. When I say you are ignorant as to how films are actually made, that is not an insult. That is a statement of fact, borne out by every single post you've written here.

What you don’t get, Brad, is this - I am not arguing your theories. They are absurd and immediately dismissable and not worth the time of day. Even the directors whose asses your theory licks don’t actually buy into it. Not really. Not deep down. What keeps me coming back is my fascination with your utter inability to assimilate information that does not fit into your wildly ignorant view of these things. What blows my mind is that you would stand here in the presence of someone with a resume as long as your arm, who’s even worked on some of the very movies you’ve cited (My second job was on Walker), and pronounce yourself the expert on the PROCESS.

You cannot defend the auteur theory without discussing process. It assumes things about how the job is done that you simply cannot assume, ever. What you believe to be great direction is, very often, great cinematography, great writing, great acting, great casting, and/or great producing.

I recently compared your wide-eyed approach to that of someone I once witnessed who theorized that lighter skinned blacks are smarter than darker skinned ones. You took huge offense and asked,

“How am I supposed to respond to that?”

To which I shall now reply: By recognizing how thoroughly presumptuous and insulting on the most personal level your comments have been. By acknowledging that the theory you promote here has been long since been abandoned in favor of more thoughtful and honest film analysis, and that its lingering after-effects do personal and professional damage to people who actually make the movies you theorize about. And hey, as long as you’re at it, by opening your mind to something other than your extremely limited point of view. That would be a nice start.

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Postby David Loftus » Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:46 pm

What do you want to bet we never hear from Brad again, now that the discussion has been moved to a less public space?
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Donald Petersen » Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:38 am

David - wouldn't surprise me a bit.

Josh - I've been meaning to say this for awhile, but didn't want to stink up the Pavilion with it. Anyway, I've been thoroughly enjoying this discussion, and even if I hadn't already been on your side of the argument, you'd have convinced me. Never mind the matter of credentials or the weight of practical experience over academic theory... you simply presented the stronger argument, and I'd buy you a beer or two for your willingness to spend so much time and hassle on defending this point which sorely needs defending. (To be completely honest, I'd be much more likely to agree with someone who admires Neil Marshall than an apologist for Heaven's Gate and Zalman King, but hey... that's really neither here nor there. One can't argue taste with someone who refuses to see "greatness" as a subjective quality.)

My experience working in the industry has largely supported your position. I'm no director, but I have had the opportunity to work with and around the likes of Bob Rafelson, John Landis, Bill Condon, Tom Stoppard, Tobe Hooper, and many others. I've seen projects in development, through preproduction, production, and post. I've seen the back-and-forth of collaboration and compromise. I've seen a DP condense five shots on the director's shotlist into one elegant dolly move, both improving the flow of the scene and cutting over an hour out of the day's workload. Also, I've seen a director's notes on script revisions palpably worsen the overall dramatic impact of a scene. I've seen a director shoot twenty-three takes of his very first shot on the very first day of a production: a simple static shot of Pauly Shore running out of a sliding glass door with a bagel in his mouth. I guess I've learned a thing or two in my sixteen years in the business, and the most pertinent thing I've learned is that of all the shows I've worked on; of all the various levels of quality; of all the varying degrees of collaboration between directors, screenwriters, DPs, and designers; no two of them were ANYTHING alike EXCEPT for their universal lack of a singular "auteur." No doubt Mr. Stevens would simply point out that I haven't worked on any truly great films, but the thing is, auteurism is so far removed from the practical realities of filmmaking that it doesn't matter if you're speaking of Orson Welles or Ed Wood: if you assign credit (or blame) for the creation of a cinematic work to just one person (or two, in cases like the Coens or the Wachowskis), then you unjustly and unreasonably discount the vital toil and creative input of several others. An argument could be made that you can swap out grips, Teamsters, on-set dressers, maybe even the Gaffer and his entire complement of Local 728 guys halfway through a production without there being a perceptible change in the Greatness of the Film. But Mr. Stevens would have us believe that in the Greatest of Films, the Screenwriter (and, yea verily, even the DP, the Costume Designer, the Production Designer, the Editor, and all seventeen Producers) might as well be grips in their transparent interchangeability. And that, as you so eloquently pointed out, can only be the opinion of those who've never had their nostrils downwind of an actual honeywagon. Only someone who really doesn't know how film works could believe that one editor (or DP or Writer) is just about as good as the next. It doesn't take a full week of working on-set with even the most autocratic of directors to realize that any of 'em who accept full credit for authorship of a film are completely full o' shit. For every perfectly-designed (and completely intentional) dramatic sequence there are nineteen shots on the call sheet that are the result of serendipitous weather, a smooth-talking Location Manager, a surprisingly inspired performance by the leading lady, a steady hand on a hothead mount, or even some passing elk on an early morning snowfield (not a non sequitur; this happened on a show I worked on once). There will also likely be a few shots on the call sheet that DON'T make it onto celluloid, due to inclement weather, an abrasive Location Manager, a slightly-too-stoned leading lady, etc. etc. And, of course, just about ALL of the perfectly-designed and intentional bits WERE IN THE SCRIPT.

Again, thanks for fighting the good fight, and don't let this guy get to you. It really seems to me that his last three or four posts have been specifically designed to make your head explode, rather than to present a compelling and plausible argument. You're a mensch and a martyr for doing the dirty work here.

D.

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Postby Brad Stevens » Thu Mar 29, 2007 6:57 am

Josh -

"You described Hou giving directions to his camera operator. From that sentence alone, it is crystal clear you haven’t got the slightest idea what you’re talking about. Directors do not give directions to camera operators. The DP gives direction to the camera operator. So you were either calling the DP the camera operator, or you were saying directors direct operators. Either one you pick displays an utter ignorance as to how films are made. Give me a third way to interpret it, and I have no doubt it will reveal just as much ignorance as the first two."

I was responding to the hypothetical example given to me by Jason. For the purposes of this discussion, it really doesn't make any difference whether Hou gives his instructions to the camera operator directly, or uses the DP as his intermediary.

Coincidentally, while looking up something else, I just found an interview in which Robert Aldrich was discussing his relationship with DPs:

"We discuss the pictorial effect I want in terms of lighting, what the stop should be and what the focus depth should be. But not where the camera should be or what the lens should be, because I know where the camera goes I think better than they do".



"See, here’s the thing - all your arguments aside, the auteur theory goes to process. It seeks to dictate how films are actually made, not how they can be interpreted."

But Josh, I made this point so clearly. I really don't see how I could have made it any clearer. I am interested in the process - but only in as much of it as I can logically deduce from what appears onscreen.

"Not only would you look at a film and determine who is its author based on simply viewing it"

You make that sound so unreasonable! Have I failed to make you understand that what you value in films and what I value in films are two different things? I respond to what the director does, you respond to what the writer does. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is your idea of a good film; CAFE LUMIERE is mine.

"you would tell someone who actually makes movies that you are more qualified than they to make such statements. When I say you are ignorant as to how films are actually made, that is not an insult. That is a statement of fact, borne out by every single post you've written here."

I am ignorant as to how films are actually MADE. But I believe that you are ignorant as to how films are actually UNDERSTOOD, how they are READ. You claim to understand auteurism, but I haven't read a single statement here which indicates that this is the case.


"Even the directors whose asses your theory licks don’t actually buy into it. Not really. Not deep down."

Sadly, mind-reading is not among my talents, so I'll have to take your word for that.

And I really don't see why you need to keep dragging the debate down to this level. Should I now assert that, deep down, you don't believe a word you're saying?

"What keeps me coming back is my fascination with your utter inability to assimilate information that does not fit into your wildly ignorant view of these things."

Well, rightbackatcha. You keep making the same points, as if I have not already answered them a dozen times. When I claimed that I could tell whether or not a scene was the creation of a director or a writer (and suggested that scenes created by directors were inevitably of much higher quality), you asked me to give you "a valid, well constructed, well thought out rationale one can take into a theater to help make these determinations". And I gave you what you asked for: "Where cinema is concerned all great scenes have one thing in common: It would not be possible to produce a written account of them which could serve as an adequate substitute for the scenes themselves". How much clearer can I make it?

"I recently compared your wide-eyed approach to that of someone I once witnessed who theorized that lighter skinned blacks are smarter than darker skinned ones. You took huge offense and asked,

“How am I supposed to respond to that?”

To which I shall now reply: By recognizing how thoroughly presumptuous and insulting on the most personal level your comments have been."

No. The way for me to appropriately respond to your light-skinned blacks story - to respond to it in kind - would be to compare your ideas with racist beliefs. It's the kind of rhetorical trick I tend to associate with George Bush: you don't actually call your opponent a racist; if anyone says you did call him a racist, you can plausibly deny it; but you have nonetheless tried to create a link between racism and the ideas of anyone who happens to disagree with you. Do you really think that your argument is so unseaworthy it needs this kind of rhetorical trick to keep it afloat?

Josh, I have not insulted you - you can take it that way if you wish, but the truth is, I have not insulted you. YOU have insulted ME - repeatedly and undeniably. Just a few paragraphs back, you wrote: "What you don’t get, Brad, is this - I am not arguing your theories. They are absurd and immediately dismissable and not worth the time of day".

What you don't seem to get is that your first-hand experience does not mean that your readings of films will necessarily be superior to mine. You are a filmmaker: it's what you do; you have obviously studied filmmaking for years, and know everything there is to know about the nuts and bolts of making films. Only a fool would deny this. I'm a film critic; I have studied my subject for years, have written two books and numerous articles. I would no more be able to write and/or direct a film than you would be able to write a book-length study of Douglas Sirk. Indeed, I'm sure you have absolutely no desire to write a book about Douglas Sirk, just as I have absolutely no desire to make films. I've never sugggested that the things you do are unworthy; yet you have repeatedly suggested that the things I do are unworthy - and then you turn around and say I am insulting you!


David Loftus -

"What do you want to bet we never hear from Brad again, now that the discussion has been moved to a less public space?"

Just out of interest, how is this 'space' less public?

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Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Mar 29, 2007 7:14 am

Gentlemen please don't take this post as a disparagement of this fascinating and informative discussion in any way, but, there is another issue of great import that I would like resolved first.

Mr Olson, Josh, sir. How hard would it be for you to hook me up with Maria Bello? :wink:
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
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Postby Josh Olson » Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:34 am

Donald,

When one gets involved in this kind of lunatic imbroglio, there’s always a moment where you wonder... Is anyone reading this? So thank you. Immensely. It’s nice to know someone’s reading it, getting it and enjoying it.

By the way, that’s a hell of a collection of characters you’ve got on your CV. And your experience has clearly led you to the same conclusion I’ve come to. If you’re going to use the credit on any film, it ought to read, “A Film By Chance.”

----

Brad,

“I was responding to the hypothetical example given to me by Jason. For the purposes of this discussion, it really doesn't make any difference whether Hou gives his instructions to the camera operator directly, or uses the DP as his intermediary.”

For purposes of this discussion, it’s ALL that matters. It proves my central point, one you’ve proven for me time and time again. You do not understand the process at all. In that the theory you propound here seeks to define the process, that fucking MATTERS.

“Coincidentally, while looking up something else, I just found an interview in which Robert Aldrich was discussing his relationship with DPs:”

Aldrich is the best you can do? How about Soderbergh, who doesn’t discuss shots with his DP because he IS his DP. Yes, for Christ’s sake, there are directors who do everything, who know everything. There are also writers who do the same. Jim Cameron knows more about every job on the set than anyone doing it. What, precisely, does that prove? That there are always exceptions? Wow. That’s news. Where have I said there weren’t?

“I am interested in the process - but only in as much of it as I can logically deduce from what appears onscreen. “

Setting aside that that is a truly bizarre statement - and it is - the point remains. What you’ve deduced is utterly and thoroughly wrong. The elephant is not a snake, blind man. Take it from the elephant’s father.

“You make that sound so unreasonable!”

Unreasonable? No. Batshit crazy and wildly insulting to anyone who actually makes movies? Absolutely. To call your theories unreasonable is to insult unreasonable theories.

“Have I failed to make you understand that what you value in films and what I value in films are two different things? “

You continue to duck this, Brad. You continue to hide behind the abject lie that this is a theoretical disagreement, a battle of opposing aesthetics. It is not. This started when you equated screenwriters with wardrobe supervisors. And yet, you still fail to even acknowledge that your comments are wildly insulting.

“I am ignorant as to how films are actually MADE. But I believe that you are ignorant as to how films are actually UNDERSTOOD, how they are READ. “

Insane. Yeah, somehow I learned to become a world-class screenwriter by NOT understanding the medium I chose to work in. Do you understand, Brad, that we are not in the realm of the theoretical here? You are not debating with another theorist. You aren’t even debating with someone who’s made a couple short films and thinks he knows something.

We are arguing about process, and the process we are arguing about is one in which my credentials are absolutely unassailable. Yours, on the other hand, are simply non-existent. You have written some hagiographic documents about a couple of marginal filmmakers. Good on ya. The world does not need another book about Godard. But do not confuse being the guy who bought the line on New Rose Hotel with actually having any understanding of the creative process that goes into making a movie.

“I gave you what you asked for: "Where cinema is concerned all great scenes have one thing in common: It would not be possible to produce a written account of them which could serve as an adequate substitute for the scenes themselves". How much clearer can I make it? “

Yes. A picture paints a thousand words. This is not a new concept, and it does not do what I asked you to do.

On top of that, it’s babble. If anything, the facts bear out the opposite view - that it is virtually impossible for a film to live up to the screenplay. There are precious few filmmakers alive who would argue that the vast majority of screenplays are not better than movies made from them. It’s the nature of the beast. Time, money, chance, are some of the factors that make this the case. The other is that there’s simply no way to adequately turn the written word into a series of visual images and fully satisfy what’s suggested on the page.

A film, as I have said before, is only as good as the people who fuck up the screenplay. The digital effects in my movie Infested are pretty heinous. But man, you should see ‘em on the page.

“No. The way for me to appropriately respond to your light-skinned blacks story - to respond to it in kind - would be to compare your ideas with racist beliefs. It's the kind of rhetorical trick I tend to associate with George Bush: you don't actually call your opponent a racist; if anyone says you did call him a racist, you can plausibly deny it;”

I did not call you a racist. Race, obviously, doesn’t enter into it. What I DID call you was a bigot. Every time you’ve commented on screenwriters, your extreme bigotry has come through as clearly as a bell.

“Josh, I have not insulted you”

Brad, you insulted me the first time you commented on this subject. You equated screenwriters with wardrobe supervisors. And you have continued to do so, in the most lunatic way possible. You have the chutzpah to tell me you understand the creative process better than I do. Zoinks.

“What you don't seem to get is that your first-hand experience does not mean that your readings of films will necessarily be superior to mine. “

I’ve never said that. The fact that my readings of films ARE superior to yours is just a happy icing on the cake. But that is not the argument. The argument is your now explicit assertion that you can understand the creative process that goes into making a movie better than I can simply by observing film. My first hand experience does not mean my reading of films is better than yours. But it does mean - inarguably, unequivocally and undeniably - that my understanding of how they are made blows yours out of the water.

When you say the director is the true author of a film and I said “No, he isn’t,” you are deducing, and I am stating a fact.

“I have studied my subject for years, have written two books and numerous articles. I would no more be able to write and/or direct a film than you would be able to write a book-length study of Douglas Sirk. “

The two are not equal. One need not be able to write a great film to write about Douglas Sirk. But to write a great film, it’s a damn good idea to be able to understand Douglas Sirk. You have zero understanding of how films are made. The only way you can possibly make movies is to understand how they’re viewed, how they’re read. Good God. You really do have a warped view of these things. Academic texts are, by definition, of lesser value than those written by actual practitioners. They can’t help but be.

“you have repeatedly suggested that the things I do are unworthy - and then you turn around and say I am insulting you! “

What you do is not unworthy. But it is subordinate to what I do. Art exists without critics. Critics do not exist without art. For you to dictate to me how movies are made is categorically insane, Brad.

Your statement that there are no good or bad scripts is moronic and personally insulting.

Your statement equating screenwriters with wardrobe supervisors is moronic and personally insulting.

Your insistence that directors are the authors of films is moronic and personally insulting.

Your statement that you are more qualified than I am to discuss how films are actually made because you’ve deduced things and I’ve only DONE THE DAMN JOB is moronic and personally insulting.

Your insistence that we are arguing from equal and opposite positions is moronic and personally insulting.

Your statement that you hear the music, and I do not is moronic and personally insulting.

In retrospect, it occurs to me that with the last statement, you equated me with Beethoven, so I’ll retract that one. Because he proves it’s possible to play the music without actually hearing it...

To you, it’s all academic. A big wankfest to engage the gang every Friday night at the pub, or wherever the fanboys congregate in your neighborhood. To those of us who make the movies you discuss endlessly, your assertions are insulting and ridiculous.

And as I’ve said - they feed the beast that makes it even harder than it should be to get good work done and made.

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Postby Brad Stevens » Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:59 am

Josh - Since your last post makes it clear that, at this point, you have nothing to add except a stream of abuse, I will, respectfully, withdraw.

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Postby David Loftus » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:24 am

The incredible misunderstanding here boils down to this remark in Brad's most recent post, it seems to me:

> I am ignorant as to how films are actually MADE. But I believe that
> you are ignorant as to how films are actually UNDERSTOOD, how
> they are READ.


In other words, what I see here is various folks trying to explain to Brad that the auteur theory does not work because of the complex and multivarious methods by which films are made -- it's an assessment of the process -- while he's trying to make a case based on how the finished product is interpreted by others.

Two entirely different kettles of fish.

Very similar to the deconstruction debate in literary academic circles, which, in its wildest form, claims that critics can explain TO AN AUTHOR what he was doing far better than he can.

Since the original point of debate was whether the writer or the director has a better claim to being the creator of a film (and I think it's fairly clear that most of us here agree that it's more often the writer, but in many of the exceptional cases Brad wishes to cite, a good case can be made on behalf of the director -- which in no way validates the auteur theory in ALL situations, for ALL directors). for Brad to appeal to how outsiders manage to interpret the finished product -- as opposed, remember, to the process -- strikes most of us as pretty much beside the poiint.

And to your question for me, Brad, this is a less public space because one must register and log in with a password to participate. Also, as far as I've seen, none of this material ever turns up via a Google search.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Carstonio » Thu Mar 29, 2007 11:54 am

David Loftus wrote:he's trying to make a case based on how the finished product is interpreted by others.


As I understood it, the auteur theory stated that director should always be considered the "author" of the film, regardless of the roles played by a specific screenwriter or specific director. Is that accurate? In the Pavilion, I argued that opening credits of films promote that view, naming the director last often after the first scene.

I am biased in favor of the writer, since I've worked in journalism and public relations. In my view, it is a gross injustice that most filmgoers can name Hitchcock as the director of "Psycho" but cannot name either the writer of the source material nor the writer of the screenplay. Directors have star status even when they simply use someone else's scripts.

rich

Postby rich » Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:10 pm

Josh Olson wrote:What, precisely, does that prove? That there are always exceptions? Wow. That’s news. Where have I said there weren’t?


Wouldn't the presence of exceptions mean that the theory is valid, no matter how thin the theory may be?

Personally, I don't care for the auteur theory. Nor do I care for the theory that says the screenwriter is the end all or be all of a film. Making a film is not a mechanical engineering feat and is subject to many whims, most of which are controlled only through ingenuity and diplomacy. And sometimes not at all.

Having read the screenplay for, say, ALIEN, I can tell you that Ridley Scott had more to do with the success of the film than Dan O'Bannon. And I'm pretty sure, no matter how well written THE DEPARTED was, the success of that film had more to do with the actors than it had to do with Scorcese or Monahan.


David Loftus wrote:...for Brad to appeal to how outsiders manage to interpret the finished product -- as opposed, remember, to the process -- strikes most of us as pretty much beside the poiint.


I don't think it's beside the point. After all, how else is one to assess THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE when we haven't seen what was really intended? Those of us that do care about the process pick up the books and realize what the film could've been. But it wasn't. And it isn't. All we really have to judge the film is the finished product.

And all pretensions to Art aside, film is a product. Just like music, and just like literature. The only way an "outsider" (not an academic or professional) can judge the film or song or book or car or toy is from the finished product. We don't care how the hot dog is made, we just like it or we don't.

Oh, and David, your response to Brad about why this is not so public a space hides the fact that you were obviously implying that Brad was going to give up since more people wouldn't see it, thus depriving him of any attention his arguments were making. I'm sure you'll protest that you didn't really mean anything by it, but...you did mean something by it.

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Postby Josh Olson » Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:42 pm

David,

“In other words, what I see here is various folks trying to explain to Brad that the auteur theory does not work because of the complex and multivarious methods by which films are made -- it's an assessment of the process -- while he's trying to make a case based on how the finished product is interpreted by others. “

In a nutshell, yeah. As I’ve said a dozen times, if Brad was simply discussing the reading of films, we wouldn’t have this sort of argument. We’d be standing on equal ground. But he’s not - he’s stating unequivocally that his understanding of the process by which films are made is inarguable. Then he goes on to describe how the honeywagon driver is the one who lights every scene. It’s patently absurd.

“Very similar to the deconstruction debate in literary academic circles, which, in its wildest form, claims that critics can explain TO AN AUTHOR what he was doing far better than he can.”

And there’s an argument I can get behind, reasonably. Because it’s not about intent, it’s about effect. I’d hold that Straw Dogs, for instance, reveals a lot more about Sam Peckinpah’s views on women than he intended. Does it mean his interpretation of the film - or David Goodman’s - is invalid? Of course not. I can’t even begin to dictate what they were thinking when they made the movie. But I can discuss knowledgeably what the film projects to a canny audience.

I’ve read essays on History of Violence which deconstruct the film’s obvious Iraq war allegory. I can say with tremendous assurance that no such allegory was built into the film. But at the same time, if you can make a case that it’s there, I can’t even begin to claim that it wasn’t a subject on my mind when I wrote it, or on David’s mind when he directed it, or on Viggo’s mind when he performed in it. But telling me it’s there is a lot different than telling me how the film was made.

To be clear - you make a valid, compelling case for an interpretation of a movie I MADE, I'll listen to you respectfully, and either argue with you or agree with you depending on how well you make your case. You tell me how that movie was made, though, and tell me that my contribution was marginal compared to the director, I will tell you - happily and without regret - that you're a fucking idiot.

What people like Brad do is beyond presumptuous, and it gives a bad name to critics and academics. They don’t tell artists what they interpret the work to mean, they tell them how they actually made it. Not only is it arrogant beyond all reason, it's utterly pointless and has nothing to do with the art.

And there are direct consequences. Brad feeds the fevered egos of directors - a breed that needs little help on that front - and makes it even easier for them to marginalize the work of the writers they depend upon to provide them with their “vision.”

That he has yet even acknowledged how insulting and dismissive his comments are - let alone apologized for them - goes directly to his validity.

----

Rich,

“Wouldn't the presence of exceptions mean that the theory is valid, no matter how thin the theory may be?”

No. At best, they prove that we can name certain directors who can claim to be the primary vision behind the finished film. Nobody has ever argued that. But the auteur theory - at least as promulgated by people like Brad and the DGA - makes that the rule, not the exception.

It is taken on faith that the director is the guiding authorial vision behind the movie.

“Having read the screenplay for, say, ALIEN, I can tell you that Ridley Scott had more to do with the success of the film than Dan O'Bannon. And I'm pretty sure, no matter how well written THE DEPARTED was, the success of that film had more to do with the actors than it had to do with Scorcese or Monahan.”

Yup and Yup. Although I’d say that Alien is one hell of a well constructed script, and if you’re one of those people who wants to learn screenwriting by reading screenplays, I’d point you to that one.

“And all pretensions to Art aside, film is a product. Just like music, and just like literature. The only way an "outsider" (not an academic or professional) can judge the film or song or book or car or toy is from the finished product. We don't care how the hot dog is made, we just like it or we don't.”

Two different things, entirely. You do not need to know a single thing about how the film was made to determine whether or not it’s any good. However, you DO need to know how it was made to state with authority whose authorial vision is reflected in the film.

That difference is enormous and essential to this discussion. Brad doesn’t seek to discuss quality or meaning. He seeks to dictate process, and he knows nothing about the process in question.

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Jan
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Location: Köln

Postby Jan » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:19 pm

Josh, I have a minor legal question that's been bugging me: If I want to turn a novel into a screenplay, one that no one has an option on, can I just go ahead and do that up to a certain point (outline & perhaps a 1/4 script), if only to give it a shot, and get permission later through a producer, if someone sees something there?
I could, right? Uncertainties make planning & daydreaming difficult.

By the way, sorry you guys had to move your discussion out of the Pavilion, some people don't like discussions - happens every time. While the points have been made, there's the occasional interesting example and on the whole, my previously-held opinions have all been reinforced. :-)

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Ezra Lb.
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Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:32 pm

-sigh- That's what I figured. :(
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Josh Olson
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Postby Josh Olson » Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:44 pm

Jan,

"Josh, I have a minor legal question that's been bugging me: If I want to turn a novel into a screenplay, one that no one has an option on, can I just go ahead and do that up to a certain point (outline & perhaps a 1/4 script), if only to give it a shot, and get permission later through a producer, if someone sees something there?
I could, right? Uncertainties make planning & daydreaming difficult. "

Aside from legal issues, not a good idea. I'd suggest approaching the author in question by yourself and seeing if you can't work something out. Put it this way, if the author is Bobo Jenks in Wichita who supports himself by teaching high school English, and you convey your passion well, you could have a chance. If the author is Stephen King, you should probably give up now.

Heh. Ask Harlan what he thinks of people adapting his work without permission...

Ezra,

Sorry, pal. You're on your own.


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