SECOND NATURECategory: Cinema + TV/Radio
The notorious clash between art and industry in the cinema world, and specifically in Britain, is never-ending. It goes on through the eternal crises that beset the financial men, and the lively spates of opinion which are second nature to the cinephiles. In this latter region, and with justification, directors are the key figures of film- making. But it is salutary to take note as well of the production side — and there you can discover not only those who think primarily in terms of cash, but also the enthusiasts for the medium, reconciling creative forces with economic needs. Such a one is Julian Wintle, whose career spans four decades of British cinema.
“The chief trouble,” he considers, “is that cinema is a very expensive art form. Today the film producer has to lay out, as near as dammit, ;£ 500,000 before he can start his picture rolling. So one has this terrible tussle within oneself to be highly creative and yet at the same time to gear what you are doing to what can only be a mass audience. The idea of making films for a mass audience goes back to the great days of Hollywood, where the machine turned out pictures that people would see regularly Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“It would be marvellous, of course, if one had finance to make just the sort of picture that one would like to make, without any regard to whether you got the money back, of even to whether the film was seen or not. But I remember the director Charles Crishton saying to me once that he had made a certain film with half a dozen friends in mind and it was very important to him that they liked it. If they did, then he assumed that it wTould follow that the world would like his picture. And I think he was possibly right.”
Is the status of the producer, in essence, a frustrating one, since it’s the directors who are increasingly looked upon as auteurs? Wintle greets the question with a wry smile, “Yes it is frustrating. You see, every producer would ideally like to be a director. The only reason I’m not one is that I can’t get up early enough in the morning. But the producers life goes more or less this way: you read a book and you think it will make a very exciting film. And ones’s own creative juices start flowing. You get a writer, and maybe work with him. And you arrive at a script. And all the time you’ re visualizing how the completed picture is going to look. Then your director comes in and signs his contract. He’s the man you want. And he virtually tells you to drop dead.
“I find that if you have a real clash with the director, it often comes in the early days in the cutting room, when the director winders, why this other guy is interfering. But if he realizes that the producer is in fact contributing something, then it can work marvellously because the both of you get down to it as a team. When one is concerned-with the higffly creative directors, the Lindsay Ander- sons and so on, I find they work in far more with one than perhaps the more straitforward commercial director, who often will leave on the day shooting finishes, so that the supervision of editing is left completely to me. In such a case, for as much as six months, a cutter and I have worked frame by frame to complete a picture. [...]
(Films and Filming, January, 1974)