Creative Control Makes You Less of a Control Freak

The filmmaker hates to think himself as an “auteur,” but prefers the relaxation and openness that comes with working independently.
  • Transcript


Question: As a filmmaker, do you see yourself as an auteur or a part of a creative team?

John Cameron Mitchell:  Well, it’s nice to have the final say on things, but it’s very lonely if, I think, when you call yourself an auteur or a, you know, when people use that phrase, you know, that phrase at the beginning of the film, or a film by such and such, because as well as written and directed by, it’s like, people have this obsession with kind of, how many times can I get my name, you know, in the credits?  That feels very pretentious to me, so I’ve always eschewed that idea.

You know, to me, the collaboration is very important, you know, I... it’s important to be able to celebrate with somebody at the end of the day.  But, knowing you have the final say in creative matters is important as well.   I mean, I’ve worked as a person for hire, as well as the person who’s in, you know, in charge, and I prefer the in charge.  In a way, you are more open to input if you have the comfort of knowing that you have the final say.  It’s the people who always think they’re going to get fucked is, are the ones that get fucked.  The ones that are afraid of, you know, the studio or someone just clamping down, or the star, you know, crushing some beautiful idea, tend to have this attitude of, "You’re going to hurt me" and looking for trouble rather, so that notes aren’t received in a very open way.  They’re, you know, there’s a knee-jerk reaction against them.  People don’t always know that.

But when you have a director who does have the final say, within budget, they tend to be more relaxed and really open to what could very well be good notes.  You know, and I like all kinds of input, I have a lot of screenings; I have friends, I have strangers, you know, giving me their opinion, as long as I know I’m not going to be forced into something, that’s important to me.  Obviously when you get into larger budgets, you have less of that freedom and I just, I’m not a person that tends to make stories for those larger budgets.  To me, it’s not much fun to have that kind of pressure.  So I don’t know if I’ll, I’ve been pretty good at saying no to stuff where I know it’s going to be trouble, no matter how much money or glamor is involved.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen