Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Amateur to the Auteur

Kshitiz Anand



If one thing that the internet has done, it is that it has given rise to a lot of budding artists. This has resulted in the blossoming of the concept of parallelism in career. Many people aim to follow at least two or more careers. Often you would hear people say I am this and this. Or something like, in the weekday I am this and on weekends, I am that, or better still, I am this in the day and this at night. The most common form of these secondary careers I think happens to be a photographer and a filmmaker.

There is a good reasoning behind this. The reach of social networking is constantly on the rise. Facebook, Orkut, Myspace, Youtube etc often consume a lot more of the daily time of millions of people across countries, often exceeding the time spent on their official work. Travel has become cheaper with the low cost airlines and the whole tourism sector is booming. So, more trips mean more photographs and videos. Good times but obviously result in good memories. And while sharing memories, one often ends up capturing a lot of content that is beyond the family and for-the-record shots.

The problem is that many who pick up a camera (of any kind) think themselves to be a photographer or filmmaker. The ignorance of basic film theory on mis-en-scene and the semiotics of a film have led to a lot of amateur content out there. The whole notion of shooting and editing then becomes a result of what's shot by chance and is not governed by the vision of the person who shot it. All of this is trial-and-error sans any planning whatsoever.

The freedom to remediate what already exist(s) and created in the first place, (like Numa-Numa video on Youtube, more than 6 million views) has made the whole notion of film semiotics seem futile. Remediating in terms of the different content (like Machinima videos from video games play records, and Flash videos on New Grounds) has also been a part of the over bulging film content waiting to be viewed.

Although the internet revolution has resulted in the easily accessible knowledge base and a huge amount of things to film and click, it has resulted in the deluge of amateur artists. This has led to an absence of a conscious film language. The content hence does no good to the overall quality and often leaves the film critics to wonder, whether anyone reads film theory at all these days.

Fields like cinema and photography resulted as an extension of other established fields like literature and painting. The various movements inspired artists and these artists gave rise to a lot more artists. However, till before the Internet revolution started to make it big, the artists that were being produced were of a higher quality. In this flood of so-called media professionals, it becomes all the more difficult to get the filmmakers who have a unique vision of their own and an ability to portray their vision with panache. This personal vision, could classify a director (and at times a writer, a photographer or a screen writer) as an auteur. The concept of auteurism basically conveys that a director's film should convey his own personal creative vision. It is interesting to note how the words amateur and auteur spelt almost similarly, but result in two ends of the spectrum.

Auteurism happens to be very prominent in European and other Western cinema (American cinema in particular). Some of my favorite well known ones being Akira Kurasowa (Roshomon), Krzysztof Kieslowski (The double life of Veronique, The Three colors trilogy), Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless), Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List). The list is even larger when looking into the different directors from across the world.

It however cannot be said the same for Indian cinema. There are only a handful of filmmakers who can claim membership to this club. Some of the well known Indian auteurs would be Shyam Benegal, Guru Dutt, Satyajit Ray and more recently, Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair.

"There is a moment when every true creator makes such a leap forward that his audience is left behind. For Renoir, La Règle du jeu was the sign of maturity, a film so new that it looks confusingly as if it might be a failure; one of those failures that leaves you, the morning after, counting your friends on the fingers of one hand." (-François Truffaut)

Being an auteur is no easy job. It requires a strong conviction within oneself. An indomitable self-confidence and inspiration that can be deterred by none. Like the architect Howard Roark in the Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, one foresees the amount of pains that one has to go through in-order to establish oneself. Noted scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind), in an article in Wired magazine talks about how his latest directorial venture "Synecdoche", is an attempt to go from the writer to the full-auteur. Being able to convince the buyers was as such difficult with his scripts for which he is famous today. There is no better joy for an auteur to know that the person witnessing the film (the cultural expression) has understood what the artist's vision was.

An auteur is often confronted with the task of balancing out their personal life and personal style. Many times the film critic analyzes the cultural expression by the auteur as an attempt to capture the "brutal truth" of his or her own existence by re-creating in a unique manner. One also has the challenge of having the audience connect with you. This connection does not only happen at the visual level, but also at the cognitive and metaphysical level. The challenges also lie in making the viewer accept and appreciate what is the auteur's vision. In the end it is, however, all about how well the auteur believes in their ideas. There is always the phenomenological context that lies while viewing a film, but it's the auteur's concern to make sure that their interpretation of the actions and events around them (as represented in the film) match with that of the audience.

Perseverance is another characteristic of the auteur. It could happen that he or she spends a lot of time in doing something, and still end up being misunderstood. At times underappreciated and worst of all ignored. Being able to believe in artistic vision is something that should be encouraged.

With the gamut of talent and topics in India, the need for auteurs to speak up and make themselves heard is essential. It is this cult who would perhaps know the rules first with a solid understanding of film theories and the pioneers in auteurism, and then break them to go out of the box and create a niche of their own. If nothing, it would atleast expose the viewers to ideas that are often beyond the imagination of the amateur.


Kshitiz Anand loves to tell stories. An experience designer by training, he is also a prolific photographer and an aspiring cinephile. Currently he is pursuing his masters in the US, with a focus on Design / Media criticism and Experience Design






Pic:- André Bazin (April 18, 1918November 11, 1958) who passed away at a young age of 40 was a critic, theorist, philosopher and he co-founded the Cahier Du Cinema magazine . He inspired the Nouvelle Vague critics turned filmmakers and he continues to be an inspiration for many cinephile, critics and filmmakers throughout the world not only for his vision on cinema, but also for representing a pure an honest love for the medium.

7 comments:

Film Achchi hai said...

Hello Nitesh.
I came to comment that you write really well.I appreciate your blog ..your postings.

But above the leave your comment box it says we'll hunt you down and kick your ass.It was funny and discouraging too.

Let it go.I am really unhappy to see no comments.I love cinema.I love movies.We'll write very soon.

Gajendra Singh Bhati
IIMC New Delhi
www.apnaakhar.blogspot.com
www.filamcinema.blogspot.com

nitesh said...

Hey Gajendra, thank you for your comment and appreciation. Let me tell you the message in the comment box was written for spammers and various other malicious sources without any malice to anyone.

A very interesting post Kshitiz, Godard once remarked that it’s very easy to be filmmaker these days, but difficult t'o create. I think something similar is happening world over as you mentioned in your post.

Kshitiz Anand said...

Thanks Nitesh.

As Gajendra has suggested, I would suggest to remove the above information. It is slightly discouraging.

You can have a moderated comment feature instead. You can moderate and approve those comments that you would like to have on the blogs.
That way only the filtered comments go live.

Yayavar said...

Internet has bring revolution to our way of thinking and learning knowledge.The parallelism in the career is nice view point and i agree with you absolutely.Many people like me have no previous knowledge of cinema or film making but become aware of these fields by going through blogs and wikipedia.Do not lament on several video directors of you tube,it will eventually give rise to the talent and cinephiles needed much for rise of artistic cinema.
Cheers for coming days..

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nitesh said...

Thanks for the comment people. I’m not too optimistic about the fact that ‘the you tube generation’ would give rise to artistic creation because the scope of expansion into actually understanding the history, tradition and craft of the medium is remotely very less for most people. So, if we expecting the next Picasso, Godard or Anish Kapoor to come out of the Internet it has to be from individuals or group that is well rooted in understanding the ethos of his own culture.

Yayavar said...

Wheat vs. chaff
The idea of 'user generated' content is a great one. And it works when you have millions and millions of people contributing such content - like at youtube.com. From a mountain of boring / mediocre trash you find a few gems and the system is designed such that users push these gems up to the top of the pile.
But when the number of users you attract is fairly low... you don't have enough gems. And the trash attracts more trash and repels people who actually have quality content. It is because you haven't created an environment where the ego-driven creative types would like to showcase their work in public.