A young film-maker who is only just getting into filmmaking, asks Paul J. Witte, senior fellow at Columbia University’s Film Education Program and the author of several books on the subject.
It’s interesting to see a discussion that deals with this issue without getting into the debate of what a director does while still living on earth. I find it interesting, but as a writer and writer, what I find interesting is how filmmakers, directors, and writers all relate to their subject matter.
I think that filmmakers should be open and transparent about how they create narratives: not only does the story emerge organically, but filmmaking teaches audiences about how we perceive the world. The process of creating a narrative story is an intensely creative process for which every student, filmmaker or educator needs to learn a significant amount, even before they reach the next level or advance in training.
How could this help you in your career?
I am constantly asked, “‘How do you get an idea?’ What if I had told you that you’re never allowed to take on an idea you don’t care about?” Well, that’s exactly what I mean, and that’s a good thing. As an instructor, not only does the audience get to understand where your story is coming from, you get to get to understand your ideas. This way, the writer and director will start to see that they’re not as alone in the trenches without the audience having an idea. It’s only a matter of time before a student tells me that the story of his writing doesn’t work. Not that we teach the writers to forget to care, but that we recognize it when we see it.
What if you have a story idea that you have a compelling need to tell? Where do you start?
The first thing I do is to write the story. I start at the premise: I can’t write about myself, I know how to write about other people, and in my opinion, if I wrote about myself as I would like people to remember about me, I’d come up with about 10,000 different ways to explain why I was miserable. To write that down, in my mind, is almost like writing some sort of autobiography. Then, I put myself in my character’s position and try to write out why he or she would behave that way or what would motivate him or her.
Then I go into character and try to see what the actor’s reaction is to the situation. And this is where there are three
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