Film Music: A Neglected Art

I just started reading Film Music: A Neglected Art (2nd edn) by Roy M. Prendergast. Part of the preface made me chuckle, so I thought I would spend the last 20 mins of my lunch break transcribing it so you can read it too.

The first edition was printed in 1977 by New York University (C). The second edition was printed in 1992 by Roy M. Prendergast (C). The preface has just explained the differences and improvements of the most recent edition.

The following excerpts are from pp. xii-xiii of the preface.

For someone coming out of an academic tradition my recent work experience has been interesting, to say the least. Somtimes it has been terrifying. Most of all it has emphasized the potential and dangerous gap that can exist between theory and practice. While an entire book could be written on this topic (and probably needs to be), it is not a legitimate area to pursue in detail in this study. I would, however, like to address two specific aspects of this subject here because I feel so strongly about them and because they recur frequently throughout film studies. The first has to do with “artistic intent” and the second with the auteur theory of filmmaking.

I found his comments on auteur theory most interesting. Here’s what he had to say.

The auteur theory of filmmaking is a term credited to American film critic Andrew Sarris and springs from a concept put forth by François Truffaut in a 1954 essay that speaks of “la politique des auteurs“. Within the academic and film criticism communities, this “policy of authors” has taken on far more importance than it really deserves. Film directors of course love the idea, however far from the truth it might be, since it focuses attention almost entirely on them and excludes all of the other highly creative and essential individuals involved in the making of a film.

From an artistic standpoint my personal observation is that the most creatively influential people involved in making a film are the writer, cinematographer, and composer. I would, in many cases, include the art directly and/or costumer in this category. Directors, on the other hand, get things done. In fact, this necessary quality in a good director would seem to run counter to the apparently insecure and indecisive personality of many creative individuals. Because of the high costs involved, filmmaking abhors a vacuum created by indecision, and directors will make decisions and make them fast. I have often found myself in a situation during the post-production process of a film where an aesthetic question arises that genuinely requires and deserves some thought and discussion, and, almost invariably, the director will immediately offer a solution, however inept. This is not to say that directors don’t have good ideas; they often do, but they sometimes confuse their ability to manage things efficiently with the creative process itself.

The creative aspects of filmmaking are a corporate endeavour. No single individual could possibly possess the talent, training, and imagination to execute or judge every aspect of filmmaking. Those directors who think they do are the worst kind, and their work reflects it. Good directors recognize this and surround themselves with highly creative individuals whose talent and input are valued and utilized. This collection of individuals, all working toward a common goal, is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of filmmaking.

So, this guy has called directors nothing more than administrators, who are not the creative forces in film, and who often give pointless direction for no reason?

Oh dear.

Hopefully the rest of the book is as enjoyable as that passage. If I find anything as … inflammatory … funny … whatever … I’ll share it here. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book so much more now.



Published by phetheringtonnz

Film Producer, Director, Lecturer. From NZ based in London.

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