Ok, so have been doing lots of thinking about my overlapping areas of interest surrounding film making practice, especially regarding the many assumptions and habits embedded into cinema’s highly controlled production process. So, what are these assumptions? Well, an interesting one is the idea that film production is always hierarchical. There seems to be a relatively easy-to-follow pecking order downwards (as I write this I am already disagreeing with myself – of course it is not this straight forward but I am going with this line of reasoning anyway to see where it takes me) from the producer and the financiers, to those involved in writing and directing, then i guess we have the acting talent (with its own inherent hierarchies of fame and audience-pulling potency), set-designers/art directors, directors of photography and cinematographers, sparks, focus pullers, grips, extras, not to mention post production specialists etc… ending i suppose with the ones at the bottom of this hegemonic chain, the runners etc..
Of course this a really contestable and questionable list but I am sure that most would agree with me when I say that the director, the actors and the runners involved in a film’s making aren’t really existing within the same areas of influence – or power. I would even dare to argue that notions of hegemonic organisation are built into the filmmaking process. Especially in light of theories such as the “Auteur” theory with its elevation of film directors to almost demiurgical status. Here’s something I just downloaded from the google image which might make my (rather obvious) point for me.
And here’s another one, this time including ‘the writer’.
Ok, so why am i stating the obvious? Mmmmm – good question (scratching my head and thinking). I suppose there’s something about the unquestioning acceptance of the above hierarchies which bothers me. It seems so unchallengeable and obvious that films are made in the above manner and that the roles of film production are demarcated with all their inherent power relations built into them. Yet, there is something about the architecture of film production that smacks of the ‘industrial revolution’ and the factory system. As if this structure had been brought into existence, not to produce the best ‘art’, but for maximum efficiency and production of capital, and that like a factory, this ‘machine’ seeks nothing greater than to make a profit from the standardised product it churns out.
For in absolute honesty I do find a lot of films have literally been “churned out” – spewed forth from these automatic industrial structures into culture. To go further than this I would also say that there is something automatic and involuntary about this habitual production that is culturally destructive, for it seems (to me) that with each film created, a hidden ideology of what filmmaking IS and MUST BE becomes reenforced. A hidden code that every wanna-be writer, director, film-school-graduate, actor, composer etc. carries in their head – that limits their choices – over process, subject matter, what to expect from creative relationships (and a bunch other stuff), how much a film costs etc…
Why am i saying all this? MMMmm (scratches head again and wonders whether to spill the beans). I suppose it’s because at the moment i feel creatively unable to write, and that somehow ‘having-a-pop’ at cinema history is better than blaming my own creative aridity and lack of inspiration. I suppose… I am frustrated and pulled in different ways – between writing commercial genre driven horror films or action movies and making something more satisfying. It’s as if in my head there is a notion of what a “well made film” (“parallels with Brecht’s “well made play”) should be, and yet at the same time I know instinctively that to make a “well made film” would somehow not be enough.
Anyway, I think I am talking myself up a cul-de-sac, so, for the sake of a crude demonstration I will use a musical analogy to explain how unquestioned assumptions regarding how art is created can be limiting.
CRUDE MUSICAL ANALOGY…
Imagine an alien floating in space. An alien who has traveled a gazillion miles to earth because She wants to create spontaneous music and because she has heard that the earth is the place to do it. Anyway, imagine she lands in Europe in the late nineteenth century and starts to discover western classical music with all its inherent 200 year old conventions and hierarchical structures – its conductors and separate composers, with its principal soloists and first and second violinists – with its concertmasters and pecking order of huge collectives of instrumentalists and vocalists, all of whom are contributing to the production of an awe inspiring and dramatic music played for a public who have paid money to hear exactly that.
Let’s imagine, though, that our Alien Sister really wants to create music that is something altogether different – and that maybe what she really wants is to learn how to improvise, how to create a melody out of nothing and to explore a musical idea for as long as she likes whilst performing to an audience who have other notions about what music IS and SHOULD BE. So, deciding to leave, she flies back into space angry as hell at being given bad information – but – just as she is about to press warp drive, she hears floating on a breeze from far beneath her, another kind of music altogether – an enchanting trill of a flute, a strange drone, and the rhythms of the tabla rising up somewhere from the Indian subcontinent. For what stops her from leaving is the fact that this music isn’t grand and of the colossal, industrial scale she grew tired with in the west (that is always played the same way, and that enslaves the musicians who produce it in eternal deference to the composer) to her, this music is alive – as if it were writing itself and unfolding in the moment and could do so, if it wanted to, for ever. And she realises that this is the music she wants to create!!! So she flies to India and is happy at last.
Apologies for the long analogy, I guess what I was trying to do when I started this blog was try to understand what exactly I find so bothersome about the standard filmmaking practice.