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Authorship

I was talking with a friend the other day.  Well, actually I was talking at him.  Railing, really, against the injustice of auteur theory.

Google "angry baby."  Go ahead, I dare you.
Man, this kid hates Cahiers du Cinéma.

A large part of my argument is that normal people don’t really care about what a director does.  People care about characters (which is at least 50% the writer’s doing) and story (which is entirely the writer’s purview).  The average viewer recognizes actors and has favorite genres (which is another way of saying story-types), but they can’t tell one director’s work from another’s.

My friend, who’s not in the industry, disagreed.  He said, “What about the guy who made Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? And Being John Malkovich?  And what was that other movie? Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.  I don’t know anything about movies, and I can tell who made those.”

Check and mate.

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9 Responses

  1. I’d think Titanic would be a point in favor of the importance of the screenwriter. It would be different if Tim Burton or James Cameron directed it, but it would still be a bad movie either way because the script is terrible. It’s a classic case of good director/bad script.

  2. I’m also w/ your friend. Imagine any Stanley Kubrick film in the hands of someone else. Ok, so Stanley Kubrick did co-write most of his films, but the writer-director is the ultimate auteur isn’t he?

    Story isn’t “entirely the writers purview”. Producers and directors might enforce a ton of notes and rewrites. Plus, how a scene is shot and edited can change the emphasis of the audiences attention and the mood to an entirely different place from what the script had intended.

    Claiming that the “average viewer” can’t tell the difference is a fallacious argumentum ad populum. The opinion of a majority of people doesn’t become truth.

    I think you could have your checkmate with some different points–but no, this argument doesn’t work.

  3. Yeah, I can only spot direction if it’s bad, in cases of a good script and good actors, but something just not being right. Otherwise, I can’t tell. Which, seems to me, is a mark of good directing. Kind of like most lighting.

  4. I’ve seen a number of shows rewritten in post-production…. even if the writer does get more credit.

    Too bad for the editors, since sometimes they might deserve all that glory.

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