It’s All Your Fault.

Posted January 25th, 2019 by Ben

The contrast has increased. We live through screens and in 4k resolution issues that used to be black and white now howl their outrage in super whites and deepest blacks. Your opinions are not just wrong, they make you wrong. You are wrong and I hate you. 

Believe it or not dear reader, I used to use Shooting People to shoot my mouth off. But arguments stop being fun when every position is instantly reduced to outrage and offence. Collectively we have forgotten that to explain is not to excuse. To understand is not to justify. And to make no attempt to do either is to perpetuate problems, not to solve them.

I’ve written a lot recently about examples of directors abusing their power, both on set and in auditions. These are, of course, not the only ways the artistic authority granted to a cinematic auteur can create tyrants of even the sweetest of us. Film crews endure the black moods, the sharp tongued put downs, the open humiliations and the occasionally life threatening working conditions that are so often justified as the inevitable fall out from the quest for perfection. But for most directors bad behaviour has a simpler cause than the extravagant myopia of their own creative vision. Like children being cruel to their pets, directors are often dish out shit because they’ve spent too long taking it from everyone else.

Remember, to explain is not to excuse, to understand is not to justify… For many, for most, a director’s life is one of pure precariousness. A choice between sacrificing any financial security to create your own work in obscurity or becoming the paid scapegoat for the dull and unworkable ideas of other people. Making a film is a slow, intransigent, capricious process and unlike cast or crew who move from project to project within months, a director will carry a film for years, often decades before shooting and will never escape it once completed. Those demands and mistakes you took reluctant possession of are ghosts that will never be exorcised. If you’re really lucky, millions will take to twitter to call you a failed human just because you made Luke Skywalker milk a space cow.

Possibly a metaphor.

Besides a few notable exceptions, producers take less public blame for the failures of their work, even those springing directly from their own lunacy. However they also struggle to ever get anything like the due recognition for their work’s success, even when almost entirely down to their own sublime insight. As a result producers and directors are caught in a ghastly mirror dance, each performing an authority neither has. When powerless people who act like Gods are given a moment’s real control over, say, the employment opportunities of a group of emotionally vulnerable but very attractive young people, the results can be appalling, but not unpredictably so.

To explain is not to excuse, to understand is not to justify. The illegal and abusive behaviours of producers and directors that caused a landslide within our industry, within our culture, are individual acts of personal monstrousness. It is worth reflecting though that they issue from a creative culture where the authors of the work are often as powerless as the audience sat at screens pouring their rage into social media timelines because SOMEONE MADE A MOVIE AND I DIDN’T ENJOY IT AND NOW I AM STILL ALIVE AND IT’S AWFUL SO FUCK YOU YOU FUCKS.

Despite the hashtags, the making of movies remains a process formulated on dividing the creative act into two distinct and competing roles where each trades responsibility for their own mistakes for the task of coping with the consequences of the other’s failure. What better environment for monstrous personalities to remain unaccountable for their behaviour?

  1. Stephen Ridley

    This is an insightful and beautifully written piece,

    Steve R.

  2. Ben

    Thank you Steve!

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