Whose Film is It Anyway?

UnknownI’m moving several projects through post, a couple of shorts and an episode of TLAU.

I love post-production; it’s where the magic really happens. Edits, sound design, composition… all those beautiful components, coming together, like notes on a page, to create this symphony that is called a film.

I have the greatest respect for artists in all aspects of production. It takes a village to create a film; this is a philosophy I embrace wholeheartedly. Each and every person contributes to the project; each and every person involved is of the utmost importance. Each and every person influences the film. Even craft service. Especially craft service.

The emergence of YouTube, combined with the advent of DSLR, has presented visual storytelling with a unique set of circumstances. New technologies and lowering costs have made the tools of filmmaking more and more accessible. Every Tom, Dick and Mary can outfit themselves with a pretty sweet setup, and these same Toms, Dicks and Marys then turn around and refer to themselves as filmmakers… and they knock a film out, cut it, buy some stock music and slap their names all over the opening credits without so much as a “by your leave.”

You know what I’m talking about. That offensive, annoying title card. The one that reads “A [insert your name here] Film.”

What’s wrong with that?! I hear this all the time. I wrote it! I directed it! It’s MINE!!!

I will tell you what is wrong with it. It is a lie.

Document1You have had the good fortune to have an entire team surrounding you in the creation of this film. There was a cast. There was pre-production support. You financed through crowdfunding. There was a crew. There was post-production support. The list goes on.

Plastering your name all over those titles is an act of grandiosity, borne of ego, for it makes the film about the Me instead of the We. It is the opposite of gratitude, and it does a great disservice to all who contributed in the creating of this story.

The next time you feel the urge to use that credit, sit back and answer the following questions:

schitzophrenia-808-lgDid you write the screenplay? Did you direct the film? Did you produce the film? Did you fund the film from your own pockets? Did you pay for locations? No donating of space from anyone allowed, because then it could not be “your” film. Did you design the production, build all of the props? Did you use your own equipment – or rent what you did not have? Did you shoot the film? Did you light it, run electrical? Are you the sole talent in the film? Wigs, makeup, wardrobe can turn you into multiple characters, so you’ll need to handle that, too. Without help. Did you hold the boom as you were filming your acting? Oh, you used lavs. Good choice. Did you mix the sound with your toes while you were filming and acting? Did you slate each take? And keep an edit log for yourself? Did you cook all of the meals for your one-person cast and crew? Did you edit the film? Did you do the sound design? VFX? Color grading? Music – you composed it, of course, right?

Now, if you can say yes to every single question, then you have my permission to plaster your name all over your masterpiece.

That being said, if you did do all of that on your own, ask yourself, and ask truthfully - is this really a film that anyone would want to see?

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe

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About princessscribe

Princess Scribe lives in Los Angeles, and can be found haunting any one of the thousands of food trucks inhabiting her area - and others. Email HRH at princessscribe@gmail.com
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7 Responses to Whose Film is It Anyway?

  1. jamieat44 says:

    By am I glad we have a lot of people who are making our movie happen. I don’t know what I’d do without you, Zac, Kim, and the rest of the cast and crew. It takes a village, a creative and smart village.

  2. Melody Lopez says:

    it totally takes a village! I completely agree… and in the two produced works I didn’t have a long list to credit for their contributions…but they sure did get credit…I’m just glad I put it at the end so I’m not on your bad side Ms. Anne, the princess scribe of the world!!

    • Oh this is not about not giving you – or any filmmaker – due credit, or where the credits should go. It’s that “A blah-blah Film” that I object to, or even “A Film By blah-blah” because it’s really by EVERYONE. ;)

  3. Christian D Chapra says:

    I agree with you: the inexpensive access to film equipment has been wonderful for filmmakers. The problem you outlined seems to me to be a very old one: the general public believe that making art is easy. Other than a massively egotistical gesture, plastering your name on a film, as if no one else was involved, shows the general ignorance of most people, when it comes to filmmaking. Painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers don’t encounter this ignorance very often, because what they do is difficult, and it is easy to demonstrate that. To make a film, all you need to do is point, and press a button. It gives the uneducated the wrong impression as to what goes into a real film. I don’t like people who do it anymore than you; but I find it easier to dismiss those people, and their films. For me, it’s a red flag: “proceed at your own risk: crap film, made by crap person ahead!” To add to your point, I think a serious part of the problem is the lack of emphasis on film theory. Just because you’ve been shown how a camera, lights, sound, and editing equipment works does not mean you know what to do with them. Film theory explores the impact of images on an audience; it is about what you put up on a screen, not how. I earned my film education in 2 parts: I received a BA in film theory, then was forced to wait 15 years before I had the chance to finish my technical training. All of my fellow students at the technical college I attended could not explain to me why one image followed another in a film. They did not have a mental process for understanding how this could be done, and this school did not teach it! To me, this is worse than some bozo picking up a GoPro, and calling their masterpiece “A blah blah film”. Alfred Hitchcock claimed that all creative work on a film was done in pre-production. Production was the slavish execution of that plan. How many of these little-Fellini’s do you think sit down, and plan out their shots, and how their going to edit them? If you can’t do that, your ego certainly won’t see anyone else who participated in the making of your magnum opus!

    • Gary Anderson says:

      “…the general public believe that making art is easy.” Very well said, Christian. And I agree that this applies particularly to visual media these days – “films”, movies, videos, etc. It *has* gotten easier for almost anyone to play in this sandbox but in doing so, many of these “artists” find that their finished product isn’t at all what they imagined. Almost anyone can *do* it – doing it *well* is hard. Hell, even *finishing* it is hard. Therefore, to be a filmmaker (or more generally, a storyteller) takes time, experience and a lot of education.

      Anne, I do believe it’s a DGA rule to put “A Jackie X Film” title card as well as a “Directed by Jackie X” title card in the (opening) credits. Not sure where that came from (ego?) or when it started. But although almost everyone gets mentioned in the credit roll, this practice tends to alienate those who participated. Can’t do that in the indie world. Too many people wear too many hats and give too much of themselves (willingly and lovingly) to be separated on a list from anyone else wearing too many hats. As a past drama director used to say to me/us, “There are no small parts, just small actors.” (RIP, Mr. E.) The same applies to a movie crew as well. The “lowliest” PA will save a perfect take by stopping that door from closing with a thud and burning the take. And a true indie director will stand at the opposite door and do the same thing during the same take when necessary. In the indie world it’s all about the finished product, not the title on the hat.

      • It’s not a DGA standard :) Directed by is fine and appropriate and that’s fine at the opening/closing/wherever.

        “Many Directors choose to place a signature credit on their work commonly referred to as a “Film by” or “possessory” credit. A possessory credit may not be accorded to a Director on his or her first feature film, unless the Director was responsible for bringing to the Employer the literary property upon which the film is based and the Director performed substantial services in development of the property.”

        So even they have some say on it. They do not require it, and if it is used, they have a say-so into how/if it is used.

        I hope to never use it. Because… it’s a lie.

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