Can a director have the same autonomy as a painter? A composer? Playwright? Poet? These people traditionally work alone - with their audiences expecting they are looking at the work of a single person. An artist.
The digital advances in my lifetime have made this technically possible. It seems like we can fix it in the mix - as musicians always said we couldn't. Reverb can be removed! AI plug-ins remove noise better with each new release. The RAW files accessible on modern hobby cameras are forever flexible.
Of course, film-makers will say to get it right first time rather than relying on what we call "fix in post".
I suspect this has moved these days from a technical reality to an administrative one - that it is unfair to colleagues and disruptive to budgets to kick any particular can down the road.
The control an artist can show by "getting it right" is central to the nature of what a film director can be today. There is no "right". There is only what you did. All technical mistakes reveal the means of production. Mainstream aesthetics are political because they do move with the times, yet are always about fooling an audience so we believe in the emotions and narratives which are backed up by mirror neurons, psychologies of light and the container metaphor.
For info and observations on the solo directing experience, read my article for Top 10 global film page Raindance - which followed the release of Under the Weather.
My Fine Art undergrad was led by Rob Gawthrop - proper 60s post-structuralist art experimenter and deliverer. His work is still amongst the most cohesive, intrinsic I have been near. I do not like it for the thrill or revelation but its ethical centre and thorough honesty is so good to be around.
When I saw him during the Re:Rooted filming he was still keen to reveal the means of production, with a projector's clatter an intrinsic part of the show. It is important. Let the real be real.
But I am not sure I go that far - into such an overt political expression through the arts. Except when I mess up then it is a good excuse to keep it in. Sometimes, my point is, there is no choice.
Hollywood blockbusters are full of "mistakes" too. But I think a solo film-making practice is one that audiences can relate to in a different way. Rather than escaping to Yippee Ki-Yay explosions a solo film-maker would run closer to McClane's mind and body, searching for intimate truths. Well I would. And use those to explain the story and meanings.
By the way - the original novel for the Die Hard movies was inspired by a dream... after author Roderick Thorp had watched the movie Towering Inferno. Round and round it goes.
So add self-referential metaphors to the means of production. And we will be getting closer to the integrated, holistic, embodied approach of solo film-making.
Emotions may become thoughts instead, thoughts can be stillness, assumptions become self-evident in-the-room facts. There is only me and the performers to make this movie - and I will carry it forward to the edit stage too. There are no sound crew to affect moods or space. No gaffers to harumph. No set dressers to fuss. Only me and them to make magic. (Modern cinema was at first a tool of the magicians like Georges Méliès, Walter R. Booth and David Devant.)
`Tis not theatre - for that is seen and heard live with real physical spaces rather than the container metaphor of the screen - brilliantly discovered by George Lakoff & Mark Johnson.
`Tis not literature - for the novel was invented in the 11th Century and has a beginning, middle and end dating from Aristotle days, creating a false meaning to life and times.
Cinema has structure - but not necessarily in that order. (RIP Jean-Luc Godard)
Cinema is creation and capture together - simultaneously reflecting and speculating (read more on these with Creator Coach perhaps or my short-lived journal Neurocreator). I heard recently Eric Rohmer saying that cinema has no content as such - the camera captures what is there but that is not the intrinsic art (Parlons Cinéma Eric Rohmer,1977).
This resonates. If cinema can now be a pursuit by a single artist then yes - there is nothing in the room. It is empty of meaning at best.
Yet when we add people to that lens/camera combo we get a different consideration for the artist - people are important and needrelating to and looking after. The wonderful metaphor and reality for this situation from my other work is person-centred therapy. In this approach, developed in the 1950s by Carl Rogers, we give space and time to the person's utterance and presentation. He tended to allow clients to sit for ages - years literally.
However, research from my PhD has shown that Carl Rogers loved the techniques of changework therapy and in particular the Provocative Changeworks of Frank Farelly. WIth these techniques the person-centred counsellor can intervene. No longer waiting for the client to realise enlightenments, we have the verbal and embodied technology to awaken the client with koan-like twists of some sort: re-frames, timelines and eye movement therapy.
So my improvisation approach is enabled and structured to reveal real utterance and presentation - avoiding the pretending involved in acting.
Change Cinema is a work in progress... as every film, every artwork should be.
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