It was a great weekend for American filmmaking. Gravity is a solid thriller, made by a great director, Alfonzo Cuaron, a man with a bold cinematic vision, backed by a fearless producer, David Heyman, who ushered Cuaron’s vision to the big screen, produced in collaboration with a huge studio, Warner Bros, who supported Gravity‘s vision and ushered it into theaters with a hugely effective marketing push. Miracle of miracles, the movie made a ton of money and will continue to do so. Because Gravity fulfills one of the essential qualities of commercial filmmaking in 2013: you gotta see it in a movie theater. This is a movie that will not be the same experience when you’re watching it on your phone while waiting in line at the grocery store.
Here’s the thing: in an ideal world, Gravity would be an average American movie. Why isn’t it?
I’m hoping you can help me with some basic movie industry knowledge. In discussions of movies, how they’re made, individual roles, etc., I’m constantly asked who really does what. For example, does it really matter that the executive producer of “Big Success” also produced “New Film?” Is it really a stamp of quality? I’ve tried to figure it out, but not being part of the business it’s still a little murky. So here’s my basic understanding:
Executive Producer – Provides the money, has final say on several matters.
Producer – Deals with day to day operational matters.
Screenwriter(s) – Provides the foundational material.
Director of Photography/Cinematographer – Creates the look of the film, including angles of shots, lighting, coloring
Director – Oversees individual takes, tries to get actors to deliver a performance that meets his ‘vision,’ decides when to move on to next scene.
Key Grip – Makes sure nothing moves that isn’t supposed to.
Best Boy Grip – No friggin’ clue.
So, assuming that I’m (mostly) right about the above job roles, what happens when someone like Spielberg or Cameron steps up to the helm? Do they just get more of the credit? Do they take on multiple roles? How accurate is it to say that Spielberg’s success is due in large part to good script selection, like Tom Hanks?