Saturday, August 22, 2009

Auteurs vs Collaboration

Thoughtful essays on the auteur theory and the role of collaboration & discussion between directors and editors:–-editors-and-directors-editors-and-editors/

Personally, I enjoy the to-and-fro that does on during editing sessions. In fact, I find that once I've had enough time to go through the material on my own and managed to make a first cut [but only after a fairly thorough briefing/Q&A with the director about the direction, style and messaging], it's beneficial to have the director sit down with me to hone the next cut. It's more efficient, as well, since I spend less time second-guessing certain edit decisions I would've made.

The need for a certain amount of time to experiment, discuss & explore during the edit is something we sometimes find difficult to explain to clients. Yes, it's indeed possible to give a cut 2 days after we wrap BUT it will not be the best cut possible. As I recall a quote "A film is never 'complete', it just gets abandoned (due to the arrival of deadline)", it also doesn't necessarily mean more time = 'perfect' film.

That one time when I freelanced on a kids' reality/infotainment TV program edit, it was quite appalling that there wasn't any log, script or director involvement in the edit process. I was given a whole bunch of tapes, told we needed to cover these 3 activities... and that's that. Being a young upstart then and happy to have snagged such an opportunity [considering I had never edited any TV program by then... though it seemed they were so stretched, they had only one director-producer-writer and was willing to use me on the project... possibly because I was, ah, 'not very expensive'], I poured a lot of effort into the edit. Apart from my day job as a producer-writer on a corporate video project, I was working graveyard shifts on the kids' program.

It was fulfilling to see that most of my edits made it to air but it was unsatisfying that there was no 'process' involved. It felt like a factory assembly line. Which possibly is not an isolated incident, considering that TV budgets here are extremely stretched.

As for the 'auteur theory is bull' idea... it seems like 'auteur theory' is very much alive here. More often than not, in the local filmmaking realm, directors are also writers. And producers, sometimes DPs and maybe editors, too. However, it might be partly attributed to the whole 'lack of budget' issue, again. In addition, there might also be the idea that there is a lack of good screenwriters, which is why directors take it upon themselves to write material they would like to produce. Which is kind of sad, as the film would not be able to benefit from the collaborative process, especially in the editing stage.

Though judging from the way the media/film authorities have been formulating their policies/funding, they seem to prefer the 'auteur theory': hype up a few high-profile directors and send them for overseas film festivals/markets. And films are often marketed with 'a film by so-and-so-known-name'. Through these years, it just doesn't feel like there's much attention or importance placed in developing the other film professionals like DPs and editors.