I was perusing the latest edition of #EntertainmentWeekly and came across an article written by Anthony Breznican. The title caught my attention because it asked whether the age of the director was over. I stopped, reread the title and thought to myself, "What do you mean the age of the director is over?" As I read the first paragraph of the article, I almost threw my magazine across the room because I couldn't believe what I was reading. Mr. Breznican started his article:
In moviemaking there is one God — and for most of Hollywood history it has been blasphemous to suggest otherwise. That deity is the director, from whom all creation springs. But the balance of power can shift, and right now, producers are increasingly seizing it.
Before you throw your laptop/phone across the room, let me show you how this sentiment is ever so wrong when using Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy and Marvel's Kevin Feige as examples of the super-producers kicking the director out of the director's chair.
The Auteur Theory
The auteur theory first came about in France in the magazine Cahiers Du Cinéma, when André Bazin insisted that a film should be a representation of the director's personal vision. This theory is true when it comes to the feel of a film.
For example, when you watch a Tim Burton movie, you know you're in for some weird and quirky characters that you might have never seen before. When you watch a Michael Bay film, you know there's going to be nothing but explosions and action. So, yes, when a director makes several films, it is possible to identify the similarities between the feel of the films and attribute that feeling with that director. At times, the director may even be the screenwriter as well, and as a result, have a heavier impact on the film as a whole.
I don't personally believe that the director is the sole creator of a film. They're an important aspect of filmmaking, but their job is to direct the actors, ensure the film as a whole has a consistent feeling, and work hand in hand with other members of the film crew, such as directors of photography, editors and producers.
To say that directors are the place where all creation springs is an insult to everyone who works on a film. In my opinion, the only people who are qualified to be "Gods of Cinema" are those individuals that have been the screenwriter, director, and/or editor of a film at the same time.
I understand that we have a tendency to glamorize directors, but their job is only a piece of the whole. When a film wins an Oscar for Best Film, the producer receives the award, because the production of the film was a critical success. There's also a category for Best Director, which highlights a director's accomplishments in directing a set of actors, following a script, and working with other members of the film crew. These are things I think we can agree make sense when talking about filmmaking.
Are Producers Really Moving Into The Director's Space?
Now that we've talked about the auteur theory and the role of the director, let me talk about the role of the producer. A film cannot exist without the producer. They're the ones who come across a script, attach a director to it, and seek out possible investors that would be interested in funding a film starring that handsome heartthrob and directed by that one award-winning director.
They're the ones in charge of making sure the film schedule is being followed as closely as possible. They oversee the budgeting aspect of the every stage of production and ensure that everyone is happy and well taken care of. Their role is quite complex and does take a lot of hard work and efficiency.
There's a problem when you declare that a producer is becoming more important in the film industry when you look at Marvel's Kevin Feige and Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy, who are turning their producer role into an artistic one. Mr. Breznican claims that Feige and Kennedy are revolutionizing the film industry and showing that directors are losing their influence. You can't simply claim these super-producers are reaching over the director's chair and taking over. They're heads of corporations that rely on keeping the people upstairs happy with the products they create and sell. They have the power to fire directors, but that doesn't mean that the so-called age of the director is over. There's a difference between a producer becoming a director for a film that has relies on the support of people funding the project and a producer who does not have a billion dollar company behind him or her.
Marvel And Lucasfilm Are Billion Dollar Companies
I will say this again: Kennedy and Feige are in charge of billion dollar companies. Their interests are not artistic when they're in charge of keeping the people upstairs happy. They rely on meeting certain standards demanded by unseen figures that demand their money is put to good use.
Why was Star Wars: Rogue One changed from its original version? Because it didn't meet the standards that Disney demanded. Likewise, Marvel has managed to expand its cinematic universe with great films that work together as a whole. Its standards are also high since #Marvel is also owned by #Disney. There's money at play here, so if the situation calls for it, the producer will have to do something to satisfy those needs, and that includes firing directors and taking over.
So, Whose Age Is It?
While I don't subscribe to the belief that a director is the sole creator of a film, I do believe they have a great influence on the final cinematic outcome of a movie. They're in charge of making sure there's a sense of continuity that will satisfy the narrative that they're trying to show audiences, working with other members of the film crew to make this happen.
The director is the captain of a ship that cannot cross the Atlantic Ocean without its crew, while the producer is the ship itself. They have to work together to make the journey home safely.
Is Mr. Breznican right in stating that the age of the director is over? Let me know in the comments below.
(Source: Entertainment Weekly)