What is a Filmmaker? Redefining for the Close-Minded

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I recently had a discussion on twitter that was less than supportive and I was really frustrated with the way in which the conversation transpired. As a result, I wanted to create a post that dealt with both the influence and power of social media as well as break down the conversation in question, which in my mind tried to define ‘The Filmmaker’ in a very narrow-minded way.

The Story

Normally I try and steer clear of confrontation but when an unnamed individual on twitter went to the extent of personally attacking the credibility of a good friend, I felt that something needed to be said. Big mistake.

The Power / Influence of Social Media

Social media is a powerful behemoth that is both good and bad.

  • The Good
    • A place to find helpful information
    • A place to find support and encouragement
    • A place to find constructive criticism
    • A place for professional development
    • A place for developing and maintaining relationships, both personal and business
  • The Bad
    • A place to say and do negative things without any accountability
    • The loss of human interaction
    • The Troll

The lack of accountability is by far the most detrimental factor when it comes to social media. People feel they can hide behind a computer without being accountable for their actions. This comes in the form of both cyber bullies and trolls. The conversation after I reached out in defence can be seen in the image below.

Filmmaking by the Traditional Definition

It is clear that since the advent of film, the model has changed and continues to do so. As seen in the image, it seems that some have yet to embrace this evolution that has occurred. Before I dig deeper into what a filmmaker is, let’s start by looking at the traditional definition of both filmmaking and the filmmaker.

Filmmaking is the process of making a film. Filmmaking involves a number of discrete stages including an initial story, idea, or commission, through scriptwriting, casting, shooting, editing, and screening the finished product before an audience that may result in a film release and exhibition. Filmmaking takes place in many places around the world in a range of economic, social, and political contexts, and using a variety of technologies and cinematic techniques. Typically, it involves a large number of people, and can take from a few months to several years to complete.

The Filmmaker by the Traditional Definition

A person who directs or produces movies for the theater or television.

The Breakdown

By each of these definitions, I can, ‘in a very limited way’, see where the person on the right could be coming from. However, I have a problem with the way in which this individual not only questioned our credibility as artists but also as filmmakers. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but there is never a need to judge others and their chosen profession, especially when they are judging on an extremely superficial level.

From my understanding of the conversation on the right, anyone who produces music videos, training/educational videos, wedding videos, or people who have had their work seen as ‘critically acclaimed’, are not filmmakers. I think this classification is extremely unfair AND inaccurate.

However, for the ones that do view perspectives on the right as accurate, my question is then, who is the ‘filmmaker’ in the purest form? The producer? The director? What if the producer is also the director? What about the DP who also edits, who is a writer, and also promotes the project? If the project is brought to life in a week, is it not a film? All of these questions need to be accounted for as per the definition as seen in the conversation.

A Change in Audience Trends

Traditionally, a film is broken down into departments, where each individual is responsible for a given task. These teams come together with a common goal to produce a film. With the transition from the studio system, these models are changing and individuals are widening their skill-sets to meet the change in audience trends.

According to MSNBC,

“the internet has passed television in the amount of time spent a week, the Web portal and media firm found in a report called “Born to Be Wired” released Thursday. Young people, ages 13-24, spend an average of 16.7 hours a week online, excluding e-mail, compared to 13.6 hours watching TV. After TV viewing, they listened to radio for 12 hours, talked on the phone for 7.7 hours and spent six hours reading books and magazines for personal entertainment”.

As for movie theatre attendance, the Daily Mail states that,

“[a]ttendance at movie theatres is at a 25-year low, with young consumers – those who often see the most films – down 40 per cent since 2002”.

With these stats, it is clear to see that the landscape is changing and as a result, these definitions need to be updated – as well as the perspectives of individuals stuck in the old studio system.

Now what does this mean? In it’s simplest form, this clearly shows that more work is being produced for the web… and as such, these narrow-minded viewpoints need to be updated.

Redefining for the Close-Minded / Conclusion

Now before I lay out what I perceive as a more accurate definition of what a filmmaker is, I must clarify that these are just my perspectives. It is clear that some believe that people like me are, ‘an insult to the real film makers out there’.

With the transition for the traditional studio system of specialization, many filmmakers are starting to wear multiple hats and as a result, these narrow definitions of the filmmaker need to be widened.

I believe filmmakers are individuals who attempt to tell a story in a visual way, no matter the format and no matter the audience. Our goals as filmmakers is to entertain, educate and make viewers question something about the way in which they live their lives. If you produce educational videos, short form documentaries, wedding videos, corporate videos, YOU ARE A FILMMAKER. To say otherwise is just crazy! For those of you that may see this an inaccurate, I would gladly accept any definition that would better classify the well-rounded camera holding script-writing producing sound recordist.

Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.