Will the Real Author Please Stand?

By , posted 19 July 2010

With so many players involved in the filmmaking process, from the actors, writers and directors, to the editors and cinematographers, not to mention the studio executives throwing in their two cents, it's hard to tell who is responsible for the finished product of a film. So who is the true author of a film?

For many years it has been considered the director, or what's commonly known in film criticism as the auteur theory, first introduced by Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and other French critics in the 1950s. Most of these critics, incidentally, went on to become directors themselves and lead what's known as the French New Wave.

In his 2004 book, "The Schreiber Theory," (Schreiber means "writer" in Yiddish) veteran film critic David Kipen argues against the director as the author and proposes the screenwriter as the true author of a film.
"The Schreiber Theory is thus an attempt to explode the director-centric farrago of good intentions, bad faith, and tortured logic that goes by the name of auteurism, and to replace it with a screenwriter-centered way of thinking about film," Kipen explains in his book.

And the reason for this injustice, argues Kipen, is the Hollywood practice of giving out multiple credits, or giving credit where credit is or isn't due, when it comes to the screenwriter. "In other words never mind who's the auteur of a film; it's hard enough to figure out who's the author of a screenplay," Kipen writes.

According to Douglas Schultze, Director of the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan, and an accomplished director in his own right, the answer isn't that simple.

"Words like 'final' and 'author' don't really apply to a motion picture," Schultze said. "The studio head has final say on most studio films, unless you're James Cameron. The screenwriter is the author of the scripted work but not the author of a film. A film doesn't have an author and it's not a work of literature. A film has a creator and that creator is the director who works from a screenplay that he/she may or may not have written."

Read the rest of this article at Film Slate Magazine >>.

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