Occupational Proverb- Film Production

The informant is a 27-year old grad student. He was born in Los Angeles, California, grew up in Seattle, Washington, was educated at UC Berkeley and now studying film production in Los Angeles. He’s worked as a freelance writer and filmmaker around Los Angeles and is a teaching assistant at the School of Cinematic Arts. He shall be referred to as NW.

“A movie is made three times: When it’s written, when it’s shot, and when it’s edited.”

This proverb is superficially about the filmmaking process. As those within the industry know, it’s possibly for a movie to be radically reinvented between the writing, filming, and editing of a film.  As NW explains, this is often done as a sign of reassurance for young filmmakers (from older, more experienced ones) who might not have gotten their way at some point in the production process: The writing, filming, or editing might have turned out poorly. However, because each of those steps is so critical, it give the project a chance at redemption. NW states that the use of the proverb is meant to be an optimistic look at the next step in the process.

I agree with NW’s analysis. The proverb certainly establishes that a film has a chance at reinvention at every major point in the process. At the same time, I feel that this also suggests the glorification of writers, directors, and editors. While the director is very involved in all three processes, the writer and editor have much more control over a project than others involved. Thus, this simple proverb reinforces the hierarchy on film crews, hierarchies that are rarely successfully challenged. Furthermore, those earlier down the line might feel resentment for those further down the line, as they have the potential to tamper with their initial vision. Thus, the proverb also reflects workplace anxiety when a project is taken out of one’s hands and handed over to someone who can potentially destroy or enhance the film.