Writer vs Filmmaker – what are you?
I think it is important to perhaps establish some form of gradient for craft. A lot of people say they are “writers”. But that just means that they commit words to paper (or other medium). This does not mean that they are telling a story or even trying to tell a story.
This post was prompted after someone I know asked me why I consider myself a filmmaker, when most of my effort is on writing. The reason is that the word writer is far too broad. In my corporate life I had created business cases, user manuals, test documents and intelligence reports and profiles. These are all writing and therefore I was a writer. However, when I write with an aim to produce a film, I am a filmmaker.
Through history many industries have gone through change like the film industry is facing. A cook was once employed by the wealthy as a servant. As the aristocracy fell apart, these cooks went and opened restaurants. A new industry was created. Then these cooks became recognised for their skill and became famous, the creation of the celebrity chef.
I think as people that write we must be willing to consider ourselves on an equal footing with everyone else involved in the film. Without us, the writers, nothing gets made. There is nothing to direct, nothing to light, nothing to act. I despair when I hear a writer tell another writer, “you’re just the writer”, like every function that comes after us is far more important. I think directors are filmmakers, producers are filmmakers, grips, gaffers all filmmakers (but so are we).
When the Apollo11 landed on the Moon there was a frenzy to interview people involved. A TV journalist was asking everyone that was at NASA what they did. He pointed his camera at the cleaner and asked, “what do you do here?”. The cleaner answered, “I am part of the team that put man on the moon”.
I like to think that making a movie is a little like a relay race. It starts with you the filmmaker writing a script. You hand the film off to another filmmaker that is going to produce the film, she hands it off to a filmmaker that will direct the film etc. All the way till we “the filmmakers” cross the finish line and hand the film to a distributor.
This post has been a bit of a think piece. It is a way of positioning my thoughts about writing a film. If you allow yourself to be boxed in as “the writer” you are saying you have no value in the filmmaking process. You are not a filmmaker, you give your work to filmmakers and they are the only people that can make the film. That’s crap to start with. Let’s see how many films get made without a script.
So, when someone tells you that you can’t do something in your script, they are wrong. You are the only filmmaker on the project, you have 100% authority, until you hand on the baton.