In filmmaking, there is much debate over the script, what it constitutes and who owns it. The inherent difference between a script and a novel or a play is that, ultimately, the script is a blueprint, a starting point, and inevitable collaboration, compared to the sanctity of the play or novel.
That understood, it is still hard not to get riled up reading the first chapter of Mara’s text on Autuer theory. While interesting to understand that the “ politique des auteurs was itself a response to a deeper problem that still has implications for film workers today: namely the separation of conception and execution”, my first question was, why is this a phenomenon, when in comparison to arguably it’s closest artform, playwriting, no such phenomena occurs?
While cognisant and accepting that a screenplay is a looser and less absolute form than a theatre play, it still seems a giant leap from the reverence of the playwright in the theatre world to the subversion the writer and exultation of the Director in screenwriting.
A quick Google search of Autuer exemplars shows a pictorial gallery of present and past middle-aged white men- Anderson, Tarantino, Scorsese, Wilder, Nolan, Hitchcock -it’s hard to ignore the gender politics here. So is Autuer theory just a construct of Hollywood elite, a flexing of their power to portray their talent as more far-reaching than it may actually be ? It reminds me of conceptual artists like Jeff Koons, whose works are often physically created by a team of artists employed by Koons, but the artist concept and kudos belongs to Koons himself. The difference between this example and the auteurs is to me the hub of the argument -it’s about here the story idea is conceived.
For me the fundamental argument starts before a script evolves at all. At the beginning of any creative process, an idea emerges from somewhere. In the case of the screenwriter, it is a story idea that almost always originates from the writer. The writer then brings that idea to life, then shares it with collaborators to be brought to life. Would the autuers have projects at all if every writer decided to put their pens down?