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The term "filmmaking"


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#1 Glen Alexander

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 05:00 AM

For George Carlin...

Filmmaking used to be a term associated with moving pictures, on which the media they were made. You know FILM!! That combination of chemicals, dyes, and filters once developed has a latitude untouched by any digital process. Now anyone who can grab a digital camera can be called a "filmmaker". WTF is that about? Did I miss something? Since when did an 10-bit sensor with 6-bit latitude, and 0-bit depth of field be considered "filmmaking"?
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 06:32 AM

I try to look at it this way: If someone is so caught up in the semantics in protecting the word "film" so devoutly, then they aren't really interested in the purpose of the camera so much as the camera itself. Whether it's shadow puppets on the wall or IMAX, telling stories using the most appropriate tools at the time is what is important.

So, while not technically correct, just as Xerox is now synonymous with making copies, "filmmaking" is a term that has transcended the technology itself. The question then applies not only to those who use HD or SD video, but to animators as well. Is a movie like TOY STORY any less a "Film" than GONE WITH THE WIND?
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#3 Andrew Koch

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 07:08 AM

I think the semantics don't really matter. Most music "VIDEOS" are shot on 35mm. We don't call them music "FILMS" unless they are really long and have a narrative structure like Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and then they might be referred to as a Short Film.

I will be a hypocrite and completely contradict myself in the next sentence however. I do find it a little frustrating that there are several FILMschools in the USA, including Southern California, that only teach video production and completely avoid teaching film.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 07:23 AM

My ten year old Chambers Dictionary doesn't have filmmaking, but it does have verbs which go beyond the word "film" as a just light sensitive medium: ""to make a motion picture of: to adapt and enact for the cinema".
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#5 Glen Alexander

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 07:59 AM

I try to look at it this way: If someone is so caught up in the semantics in protecting the word "film" so devoutly, then they aren't really interested in the purpose of the camera so much as the camera itself. Whether it's shadow puppets on the wall or IMAX, telling stories using the most appropriate tools at the time is what is important.

So, while not technically correct, just as Xerox is now synonymous with making copies, "filmmaking" is a term that has transcended the technology itself. The question then applies not only to those who use HD or SD video, but to animators as well. Is a movie like TOY STORY any less a "Film" than GONE WITH THE WIND?


You've obviously never heard or seen George Carlin.

The thread is about discussing the peculiarities of words and how they've become bastardized and changed into something they were not originally, hence changing their context and meaning.

Xerox is a patented technique and registered trademark that has come into widespread public use as a colloquial term, if you were to advertise in media that you made "Xerox" copies for .03 a sheet on a Canon without their consent, Xerox could shut you do quicker than it takes the laserjet toner to dry.

"Is a movie like TOY STORY any less a "Film" than GONE WITH THE WIND?"

IMHO, Toy Story cannot come close to Gone with the Wind, Streetcar, On the Waterfront, The Thing, Maltese Falcon, North by Northwest,...

So what would be a better word for modern cinema and their creators?

In the future most cinemas will be digital projection for a few short weeks before the DVD is released. Should we call them pre-DVD viewing opportunities?

People who create them, DVD sound composers? DVD visual artists? etc?
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 08:25 AM

You've obviously never heard or seen George Carlin.

The thread is about discussing the peculiarities of words and how they've become bastardized and changed into something they were not originally, hence changing their context and meaning.

Xerox is a patented technique and registered trademark that has come into widespread public use as a colloquial term, if you were to advertise in media that you made "Xerox" copies for .03 a sheet on a Canon without their consent, Xerox could shut you do quicker than it takes the laserjet toner to dry.


English always has taken words from whichever source and used them in a manner not originally intended. I'm less fussed about film than the term telecine being used for the process of colour correction/grading in post. You might be using a part of the telecine machine's signal chain, but you're not using doing a telecine, which involves converting moving film images to video.

Quite a few trademarks have become part of the language eg Hoover. You'd have some limits in some uses, but they are still part of the living language and even are used in the dialogue of quite a few films. BTW I've been Hoovering the carpet with the Henry this morning.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 12:12 PM

English is a fluid thing and as long as the majority of people in a society agree upon the meaning of a word, its origins are not that important.

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From Merriam-Webster:

"film"

Pronunciation: \ˈfilm, Southern also ˈfi(ə)m\
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English filme, from Old English filmen; akin to Greek pelma sole of the foot, Old English fell skin ? more at fell
Date: before 12th century
1 a: a thin skin or membranous covering : pellicle b: an abnormal growth on or in the eye
2: a thin covering or coating <a film of ice>
3 a: an exceedingly thin layer : lamina b (1): a thin flexible transparent sheet (as of plastic) used especially as a wrapping (2): a thin sheet of cellulose acetate or nitrocellulose coated with a radiation-sensitive emulsion for taking photographs
4: motion picture

"motion picture"

Function: noun
Date: 1896
1 : a series of pictures projected on a screen in rapid succession with objects shown in successive positions slightly changed so as to produce the optical effect of a continuous picture in which the objects move
2 : a representation (as of a story) by means of motion pictures : movie


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So "film" is used interchangeably with "motion pictures" (i.e. movies), and motion pictures do not necessarily have to be shot on celluloid.

These arguments are often just ways of putting down people who shoot movies on something other than film technology -- i.e. you're not a "real" filmmaker.

This type of post appears regularly for the past decade, though thankfully it has been on the decline as more and more regular filmmakers occasionally shoot digitally.
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#8 K Borowski

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 12:45 PM

I think it is silly branding those that don't use film as non-filmmakers. OK don't call them filmmakers. They're still making movies though. You had might as well look down your nose at people shooting 35mm for TV, as they're making television, not movies.

However, the concept that "Toy Story" is a film is ridiculous. It is a cartoon, an animated motion picture, more akin to painting, and cel-animated cartoons than filmmaking. In some ways, it is descended from an older artform, painting, than filmmaking. So there is nothing wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with cartoons. I've seen many animated pictures that are BETTER than many live-action films.

But when did one win best picture? Or best cinematography? God forbid that ever happens. They have their own category, best animated picture. And that ought to be the way it is.

For me filmmaking entails real actors, a camera with a lens, takes, lights, sets, locations, and a lot of hard work of a certain kind to qualify.

Animation entails an entirely different type of tediousness and hard work.

I know filmmakers (like myself) that can't draw for poop. I know painters that can't take a decent photograph, let alone shoot a movie.

Different.
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#9 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 02:39 PM

I don't personally have a problem with digital shooters using the term filmmaker even though it is probably technically inaccurate. Like has already been said, most people now days refer to "film" as a movie that is shown in the theatres. I guess one argument digital shooters can make is that if they acquire on digital but project on film that in the cinema, it's still a "film." I think they are right in saying so honestly.

The one thing that does stick in my craw is how digital shooters are stealing terminology that seems to only make sense when talking about film. I saw a fellow on DVXuser a few years back (I won't state his name but I'm sure some of you will know who I'm talking about) who shot a movie on the DVX100a and was saying that it only cost him X number of dollars to "get the film in the can." I was absolutely POed and said so. Obviously I was banned from the forum for that one. ;)
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 03:21 PM

So when you shoot in Super-8... do you say "we got that in the cartridge"? ;)
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#11 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 03:29 PM

So when you shoot in Super-8... do you say "we got that in the cartridge"? ;)


Honestly, I don't think I say anything when I finish...maybe I just say "that's a wrap." I do think that would be hilarious to say "we got it in the cartridge." You just gave me a new idea there David. :lol:
Even 16mm daylight spools would not be accurate to say it's in the can. Perhaps one could also say "we got that on the spool?" Who knows.
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 04:26 PM

So when you shoot in Super-8... do you say "we got that in the cartridge"? ;)


NICE. . .

Actually David, to be technically accurate, you'd have to say you got the film from one side of the cartridge into the other :D
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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 07:48 PM

Animated films don't need Actors?! Who exactly provides the voices then? :unsure: And in a sense, the Animators are partial Actors too in that they help create the characters that we see on screen. Just as it took the work of multiple Actors to create the character of the classic Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Sebastian Shaw, and Bob Anderson), animated characters are the responsibility of many human people. To not consider their work as "filmmaking" is a pretty egregious insult.

And, really, up until fairly recently, all animated projects used a camera with a lens and, yes, film too. These days, of course, the animation is completed in different ways, but in most cases, theater patrons are watching the final work on projected filmstock.

As David so correctly offered, this "discussion" is a way for "purists" to somehow marginalize and look down upon anyone who doesn't acquire images with film. I doubt that audio boards are filled with the same kind of divisive silliness between those who grew up using a Nagra and those who now use DVDs. A camera is just a box with a hole in it. It's the job of the Cameraman to know what boxes are available, how to use them, and use the most appropriate one for the job.
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#14 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 08:01 PM

I doubt that audio boards are filled with the same kind of divisive silliness between those who grew up using a Nagra and those who now use DVDs.


Um, I would have to disagree with this. Hell, I've also seen audiophiles fight over whether it makes a difference if you plug an omnidirectional cable one way or another. Never underestimate people's desire to squabble over non-sense.
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#15 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 09:56 PM

New Oxford American Dictionary:
filmmaker |ˈfilmˌmākər|
noun
a person who directs or produces movies for the theater or television (and now the web*).
DERIVATIVES
filmmaking |ˈfɪlmˈmeɪkɪŋ| noun

*my own words

Another analogy would be "writer."

The term is so widey used and so encompassing. One can write novels, short stories, religious or subversive literature and still can claim to be a writer. And one can do it on vellum with a caligraphy pen or using a typewriter or a computer, blinking the eye or by speech recognition. Do any of these attributes make a writer? Or is a writer someone who systematically collects ideas / stories / feelings intended to be written /printed /displayed to communicate with others?

The chosen medium to comunicate is of no consequence, it is the intention that matters.
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#16 Andrew Koch

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 12:42 AM

A bigger concern of mine over the term "filmmaker" is who gets to have the title. I don't think this is much of an issue with the members of this forum since most have worked in several positions, but my concern is that some outsiders, and some new students see the term "filmmaker" as being synonymous with "director." To me, a sound designer is as much a filmmaker as a director or cinematographer or gaffer, key grip, or producer. People who do not work in our industry get this skewed perspective from things like "A Film by ****" or "A **** Film" in the opening credits.

I am not trying to downplay the role of the director. It is an insane amount of responsibility with ridiculously high stakes and I have a lot of respect for the people who do it. I just wish that some people would realize that it is not the only major job on a film.
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#17 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 01:10 AM

...some new students see the term "filmmaker" as being synonymous with "director."


I think a lot of this stems from the Renaissance men like Robert Rodriguez who do most of the work on their own films. If you write the script + Direct it + DP it + operate the camera + record the sound + edit the thing then I think you have earned the right to be called the "filmmaker." I don't do that much in my films, but I usually at least write the script, direct it, and edit it. I occasionally operate the camera and DP it. I feel justified in calling myself the filmmaker.
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#18 Michael Collier

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 02:02 PM

If anything is true in filmmaking's strange language, its that terms are borrowed, stolen, or transposed from almost any source to where they don't belong (if you don't believe me, go contiplate the butt plug you may need to rent on your next gig)

Gaffer is a terms that came from merchant marrines. Longshore men would generaly work in the small studios in the early days when on leave. Now if we are going to get picky about celuloid v silicone, then damnit we must find new names for that position. If a gaffer doesn't have a gaff pole in his hands at all times, is he truely a gaffer? English is about understood meaning, not strict literalism.

need another example? Best boy used to be an apprentice, usually farther in their aprenticeship than others, but I think nobody would ask a best boy on set how their apprenticeship is going.

I would say that the lexicon of filmmakers, more than other areas of language, is beholden to tradition, and so is likely to have archaic terms that don't make too much sense if you try and think about them litterally. film makers will be filmmakers. I don't think anything will/should change.

just don't call a tape 'the neg'.
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#19 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 02:29 PM

I would say that the only true "filmmakers" are the people who work at Kodak and Fuji manufacturing film stock.
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#20 Ruairi Robinson

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Posted 07 July 2008 - 03:05 PM

I would say that the only true "filmmakers" are the people who work at Kodak and Fuji manufacturing film stock.


lol!
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