Issues of Auteurship in Productions: A Comparative Analysis of Stage and Film Productions

Issues of Auteurship in Productions: A Comparative Analysis of Stage and Film Productions
Issues of Auteurship in Productions: A Comparative Analysis of Stage and Film Productions

Issues of Auteurship in Productions: A Comparative Analysis of Stage and Film Productions




1.1       Background to the Study

In the 21st century, technology keeps on improving day by day. Moving image technologies have turned out to be all-encompassing in our lives. Due to the instant digital communication, movies are one of the most important routes of cultural exchanges (Maltby, Stokes, &Allen, 2007). This revelation of different kinds of values and identities takes place on a massive scale as the international film industry is such a big business. Whereas film may not be a language the same way human beings speak and write, its ability to communicate meaning is undoubtedly syntactical. It does not only inform, educate and entertain like every other medium but does so through a process of specific artistry and compositional strategies. In other words, almost everything about film art has to do with communication of meaning and its nature of presentation. Whether one looks at the use and meaning of costumes (semiotics) or the beauty of set designs and their uses in film (aesthetics), the concern of such lies with communication of meaning and its interpretation by audiences.

It is for this reason that scholars like Turner argue that, “film is not, of course, a language but it does generate its meanings through systems (cinematography, sound editing and so on) which work like languages” (2006, p. 66). Thus, its compositional principles like montage and mise- en-scene constructions are very much appreciated in filmmaking and analysis. In other words, the ability of film to communicate effectively depends on the efficient manipulation of its numerous aspects such as camera angle, depth of field, frame composition, lighting, colour, etc. apart from the contributions of actors in interpreting a script. All of these constitute what is referred to in this study as mise-en-scene, meaning the arrangement of visual elements in a frame or a shot (Turner, 2006, p. 66).

Auteur theory is one position in film scholarship that deals primarily with the nature of mise-en-scene construction by directors. Since someone has to take responsibility in ensuring the coordination of efforts towards the realization of meaningful communication in a film, the director is often considered a technician by this theory as one invested with the role of using the camera as a literary author does in writing a story. The concept originated in France in the 1950s, being propagated by scholars like Andre Bazin, Francois Truffaut and later on by Andrew Sarris in the United States of America. Among the antecedents that heralded the golden days of autuerism in Europe and America was the fact that most people were using the camera as a mere photographic machine to record dramatic performances without emphasis on its narrative potentials (Okwuowulu, 2012).

Emphasis came to be placed on the creative usage of the camera especially in the context of film directing. Importantly filmmakers sought new ways and styles of expression in filmic communications. D.W Griffith’s introduction of shot variations to achieve what is today known as the master scene technique repositioned the camera not just as a technical medium but also as a narrative device. This is implicitly described as camera language which involves diverse styles and techniques in communicating meaning.

The adoption and recurrence of peculiar styles by particular directors in the art of filmmaking is what scholars such as Truffaut (1954) and Sarris (1962) came to describe as auteurism in film scholarship which is the basic framework of this study. Issues associated with auteurship phenomenon could affect the future of stage and film productions as collaborative media if better ways of enhancing this collaboration are not put in place; by stating clearly and categorically the relevance, importance and limitations of each collaborator in any production. The dynamism of collaboration in production where all artistic elements are blended together into a unified whole with a director as the chief collaborator, who supervises, coordinates and controls these elements: script, performers, designers, and other production crew members cannot be over emphasized.

However, the emergence of auteurship in France proclaiming that the director should be the auteur (author) of a production by imposing and implementing his/her vision/concept in a production at the expense of other collaborators, has ignited serious arguments on whose vision/concept or point of view should reflect or dominate in a production where various individual experts contribute their expertise to the final effect of a production.

Before the origination of the word auteur in production with its acclaimed functions mostly, in film, some notable theatre directors in the likes of Sir William Davenant, David Garrick, George Anton Benda and Vsevelod Meyerhold have been performing such functions. They were imposing, projecting and implementing their own vision/concepts in their productions and not the vision of those dramatists. They used to completely tempering with the structure or rewriting a playwright’s script.

This supposition of auteurship phenomenon has held away for many decades leading to emergence of two schools of thoughts. These schools of thoughts are either in support or against the existence and relevance of auteurship in production. In view of these arguments, it seems none of these schools of thought have been able to establish reasonable prerequisites or criteria why a director should be seen or not to be seen as the auteur (author) of a production. Those who have attempted doing so either ends up over flogging or under flogging the issue of auteurship without a clear balance.

Suffice to say that it is its implication for the popular Nigerian film industry that this study is all about. In other words, this is a research that investigates the nature of directorial practices in Nollywood in order to see if the auteur theory as applied to Western film industries is applicable to the Nigerian context. Given the fact that scholars such as Haynes (2000), Shaka (2002), Uwah (2013), Okome (2013) etc agree that the Nigerian video film industry has attained global prominence presently and looking at UNESCO branding it the second largest film industry in the world after India’s Bollywood, one thinks it is high time attention is shifted to studying its directors – how have they fared in over two decades of the industry’s history? Are there some of them with recurrent motifs in their films over this period of time? To what extent are directors creative in the manipulation of the camera to tell their stories and communicate effectively to audiences? These and more, are some of the concerns of this project.

Issues of Auteurship in Productions: A Comparative Analysis of Stage and Film Productions

1.2  Statement of Problem

The arrival of Nollywood on the Nigerian scene originally helped filmmakers to be famous for their works but also wealthier in terms of returns on film investments. This attracted most people to the industry especially electronics dealers in places like Alaba (Lagos), Onitsha and Aba who went into film production with profit intents. The involvement of this business class meant a serious quandary for the filmmaking process in Nigeria since merchants with eyes only for the profit they expect to make, develop a knack to dictate what they want to be seen in their films (Okwuowulu, 2012). The implication of this is that the artistic and technical qualities of films began to drop and directors were no longer given the free hand to manage their productions.

The issue of auteurship in production is so peculiar that it has sparked off serious arguments among theatre and film scholars. These arguments are whether the auteurship concept should be discarded or retained.

Issues associated with auteurship in production are problematic due to the domineering influence of the director over other collaborative artistic experts as well as every aspects of a production. The auteurship theory allows or permits the director to impose and implement his or her sole vision, concept and point of view with little or no regards to the playwright or screen writer’s script. Rather, the director sees the script as a pretext for the activities of a production and the placement of emphasis on the spontaneous events that happen in front of the camera or before the audience and also undermining the contributions of other collaborators. This problem, however, could lead to poor quality of the final effect of a production.

1.3 Research Questions

The following are the research questions for this study:

  • Should stage and film productions be seen as collaborative medium for personal artistic expression of the director’s vision or concept as auteur?
  • Does the issue of auteurship in stage have the same dimension as film production?
  • Why is auteurship very strong in film than stage productions?
  • To what extent does auteurship phenomenon affect stage productions?
  • Does the issue of auteurship have any impact on the production process as a collaboration medium?

1.4      Objectives of the Study

By the end of this study, the following objectives would have been achieved:

  • Importance and limitations of each collaborator in stage and film productions would have been ascertained.
  • Effects of auteurship in productions would have been known.
  • Actual right and prerequisites of a director as the author of a production would have been ascertained.
  • Differences and similarities in stage and film productions would have been revealed.
  • Issues of auteurship in each phase of production: preproduction, production and post production would have been made manifest.
  • The distinctions and similarities in stage and film directing would have been known.
  • Differences and similarities of interpretative and creative director would have been ascertained.

Issues of Auteurship in Productions: A Comparative Analysis of Stage and Film Productions

1.5       Significance of the Study

The study on issues of auteurship in productions is relevant and unique due to the following reasons:

The study determines the effect of auteurship in productions and reveals what qualifies a director as author. This research highlights the strengths and weaknesses of auteurship in productions and proffers possible solutions to harmonious working relationship among production collaborators.

Finally, the study no doubt instigates researchers on the subject of auteurship and also being useful and meaningful to lovers of knowledge, students, practitioners, scholars and researchers.

1.6      Delimitation/Scope of the Study

The research is confined to auteurship in stage and film production processes from the three stages of production: preproduction, production and postproduction. The study however, deals with sequential manifestation of auteurship issues at each phase of a production as well as a comparative analysis of stage and film directing. Differences and similarities of auteurship phenomenon in stage and film production and the idea of interpretative and creative director in production were also treated.

1.7       Limitation of Study

The study was affected by some factors such as: difficulties in accessing available materials on the subject Issues of Auteurship in Production from individual, public and institution libraries. Especially materials on auteurship in stage production where not much even from the internet.

Poor transportation system and security network in the country hinders the study because the researcher finds it difficult when traveling long distance for data collection from primary and secondary sources.

Time and financial constraints for collection of data limited the research because the researcher could not travel to some of the places intended to interview stage and film practitioners as well as scholars. Despite the limited time for the study most interviewees kept rescheduling dates, times, and places for the interview due to their businesses and long-standing engagements. Inadequate finance to purchase books and journals relating to the subject of investigation affected the study also.

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.