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October 1996, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mark Devlin <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 23 Oct 1996 12:06:54 +-100
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (294 lines)
<< That said make your period drama or sci-fi epic, do it on video and
 still have one film more than critics who complain about a lack of quality
 image. >>
"I don't usually write to the list, but in reading over the latest batch I
surprised to find the above comment."
I was surprised to see my comment attract such attention.  At heart all I'm
trying to do is encourage someone to make a film of whatever kind, of
whatever quality on whatever medium.  For myself I believe a creative
endeavour, successful or not, is an intrinsically admirable thing.  And for
the record I would consider good media criticism to be equally creative.  I
realise that critics in general are an easy target and I don't think I was
intending to degrade them with my comment.  If that is what it did I
apologise.  At the time I was getting into full flow and enthusing about
the process, trying to be as positive as possible.  Perhaps I should have
been a little more guarded with my comments but to be honest it seems clear
to me that I am talking about critics (the kind of person who'll put you
down and discouarge you) rather than, for want of a better phrase (And I
use it advisedly), those who practice criticism, who are interested in
expanding possibilities, forging new links and understandings.  The former
I see as a reprehensible practice, the latter I find very beneficial.  But
in the end to be controversial as ever, why can't we criticise critics?
 Afterall isn't that what they do to us?
"It seems that Mr. Devlin is under the illusion that all critics are
frustrated filmmakers, and doesn't think that film criticism is a valid
aesthetics field."
Err no.  All critics are obviously not frustrated filmmakers.  There are
equally valid opionions to be derived from those who have an intimate
knowledge of film production and those who have retained a critical
distance.  In my message I was, I believe, addressing a frustrated
filmmaker and not a critic, and therefore my comments were directed
accordingly.  Film criticism is a valid field of aesthetics, which I
actually spent four years studying, and had a pretty good time doing.  At
the same time I can't pretend to understand the mindset of someone who is
interested in film but isn't interested in making them.  Now I absolutely
do not mean that as a criticism.  It could well be a failure in my own
conceptions, but as a film fan, a film critic and a filmmaker I love to
make films.  I don't understand why anyone, not just a critic, would not
want to be involved in the process in some way at some time.  I just enjoy
it.  I guess because I do I don't understand why other people don't.
"Mr. Devlin's comment seems to reinforce the attitude in film
circles, that directing is the height to which all aspire, and that all
aspects of filmmaking are subservient to the direction, and somehow, a less
valid pursuit."
Oh God please I hope not.  I feel like John Hurt in The Elephant Man now, I
am not a director, I am a man!  In fact I have no aspirations to be a
director.  I've tried it and I'm shit.  I'm sticking to my first love
writing, and my learned skill, producing.  And of course it is blatantly
obvious that a combination of those skills are the very most important when
it comes to making a film.  I'm not a megalomaniac, and even if I was what
could you do about it?  I absoultely do not believe that directing is the
be all and end all of the filmmaking process.  Indeed I believe I commented
on the fact that on a small scale project if you want to get people's help,
and that is virtually necessary, you need to allow them input into the
project.  Filmmaking is of course the ultimate collaborative art.
 Filmmaking on this scale with a tiny budget and crew does not, however
fall into the classic paradigm.  It is possible for the auteur theory, (a
nice peg to hang things on, but not much else) to be realised at this
level.  That's because one person can write the story, shoot the film, edit
it and end up with a product that is entirely their own work.  Might not be
any good but again my central impulse is congratulations you made
something.  Making films is tough.  If it wasn't there'd be lots more made.
 You did something difficult.  Well done.  And don't let anyone tell you
"you can't".  In my message I was addressing someone who was obviously the
only person behind his project.  This person, whether director or not,
whether it changes or not, was the person whom the rest of the process
would be subservient to, because without him/her (sorry can't remember) it
wouldn't be happening.
"The post process can make video just as expensive as film.  If you are
looking for a "film look" why not just shoot on film rather than going
through elaborate machinations to fake it?
In my experience here in Scotland video is cheaper than film - always.
 I've shot video, I've shot film, I've even shot film and video at the same
time.  Usually the cost of film stock, equipment, process, conforming,
editing, etc. is much more than that of video.  You can shoot and edit on
video for buttons and have a finished film for the price of just getting
some film in the can.  Even the professionals are turning to video
post-production because it is cheaper than cutting film.  Film
post-production is a very specialist business.  There are fewer people
doing it and by the age old supply and demand they charge more money.  As
for "film looking" I don't know much about it.  If I shoot on video I
usually like to have an aesthetic reason to back it up as well as an
economic one.  That said I'd still bet that film looking a pro video shoot
will work out less than actually shooting on film, otherwise why would the
pros do it.  I certainly don't consider it faking.  Film-looking should
just be anothert aesthethic tool available to the film/video maker.  I
imagine it doesn't exactly correspond to film and hence engenders for it
self an entirely new aesthetic for consideration.
Given that the quality of the image is an intrinsic aspect of any visual
medium, shouldn't one take every opportunity to make the visuals as good as
possible?  If the visuals are bad, the "critics" would be quite right in
condemning something as amateurish and visually unappealing.
Yes make the visuals good.  No film visuals are not good and video visuals
bad.  That is way too simplistic.  Film and video each have their own
aesthethetic which are equal and different.  And no a critic shouldn't go
round condemning anything.  Criticism I can cope with, but condemnation?
 Surely that's for murders and terrorists?  There is room for a product
which is amateurish - look at those home video disaster programs, people
like them.  Or these surveillance tape shows - again popular.  Why can't a
filmmaker make something which intentionally looks amateurish or even
unappealing?  It can be used for effect.  Don't limit the possibilities.
If you are going to ask people to sit in a dark room, or for that matter on
their living room couch, for extended periods of time, shouldn't they see
something that is well-thought out both in plot and visuals?
Ok I agree with this to a certain extent.  My view is that you make the
film and you allow people to see it, not ask them.  Equally if they don't
like it you allow them to get the hell out of there and see something they
do like.  The filmmaker made the choice to make a film they believe is
"entertaining", the viewer makes the choice (or not) to watch  a film they
hope will entertain them.  I didn't think this case specifically called for
a commercial release where that allowing thing really has to have a big
dollop of asking to added to it if you're going to get the chance to do it
again.  Hmmm...  I think it's much more of a two way street.  I think a
filmmakers first responsibility is to themselves and that they should be
ashamed to make something which is not "well-thought out both in plot and
visuals".  However even if it is parts of an audience may see the film that
way.  Basically, something shot on video can be just as "well thought out"
visually as anything shot on film.  I mean why couldn't it be?
"In any event, good luck with it!"
I'm sorry if I've gone on a bit here.  I find that answering messages helps
me think about my responses and probably a certain amount of this is
thinking out loud.  I hope you don't think I've been rude or aggressive.
 Even thiugh I was a bit miffed at the start of this I've found that I've
enjoyed this little bit of verbal fencing.  Anyway, as your final comment
clearly puts it, good luck with the film however you make it.
And please only my bank manager calls me Mr Devlin, Mark is fine for
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