Something old, something new, something borrowed, something déjà-vu :
Why bother to be creative, skilled, inspired, to have something to say, to have a world view, to have a personality when all you need to make movies is to copy your predecessors? For over a hundred years, all you need to know to make a plausible movie is how Literature, Theatre and Music work. Most people working in the movie industry are better at other arts while telling themselves they are making cinema. Actually, only knowing how to imitate well is enough. Forge a patchwork of external arts and everyone will think you're a filmmaker because whatever you did was recorded on a film strip... wait, the film strip is not necessary. Just recorded and projected on a big screen then. Wait, the small digital screens will do too. Well, as long as it moves within a standardised rectangle, we'll call that "cinema".
To mask your lack of talent, just borrow somebody else's talent. If you can't find screenwriters who can write original scenarii, borrow from actual writers. Adaptating literature for the screen is always easier than to write your own original scenario. Mettre en scène a film like a theatre play is easier than to create a film-specific mise en scène. Relying on the power of musical art, for its emotional drive, saves you from making things happen on screen on their own without musical cues.
You don't need a rich autobiography, a strong personality, a deep understanding of mankind... all you need is to copy previous authors who have all that.
This is textbook Hollywood, the professionalism, academism, mannerism of the entertainment industry. And the established film journalism believes this is all there is to cinema...
When the habit of stealing reaches state-of-the-art mimicry, the "Tradition of quality" is capable to produce reasonably believable formulaic movies. This isn't cinema, but it's enough to satisfy the expectations of the mainstream audience for its Pavlovian reactions to stereotypical situations. Once you've heard one love story, you've heard them all... Only great authors bring an original angle to it.
Art imitates life. Then art imitates art. Then craft imitates art. Then craft imitates craft. Then imitation imitates imitation and we're far from reality, slipping into a tautological caricature of the previous second-hand caricature.
The recipe for anti-auteur films (all the things that will never make Cinema in and of themselves) :
- Borrow from History. A universally known story [PUBLIC DOMAIN = Free!]
- Borrow from world culture : legend, myth, fable, epic heroes, archetypes... [PUBLIC DOMAIN = Free!]
- Do like George Lucas (Blockbusting) and analyse the DNA of past BO hits to make sure to do everything like they did it, and remake the perfect Frankenstein-blockbuster. [PUBLIC DOMAIN = Free!]
- Borrow from Literature. Adapt a best-seller that the public already know and love. [Copyright = nominal fee]
- Borrow from pop culture : comics books, TV series, anime, biopics... [nominal copyrights]
- Borrow from Cinema. Take the plot structure from a successful movie, and add new details to disguise the remake. [PUBLIC DOMAIN = Free!]
- Borrow a genre. Repeat a popular formula known to work well in the past. [PUBLIC DOMAIN = Free!]
- Borrow strong characters, stereotypes, family structures, timelines, events... [PUBLIC DOMAIN = Free!]
- Borrow phrases. Catch lines, punchlines, running gags. [Grey area copyrights = dodge the lawsuit]
- Borrow from the future : cliffhanger. Capitalize on the promise of an anticipated follow up, to add value to your ending. [no copyright, no accountability]
- Borrow scenes, shots, camerawork tricks, lighting, decor from past movies [PUBLIC DOMAIN = Free!]
- Recycle old productions. Re-use sets, props, accessories from past movies of your own studio [FREE]
- Borrow famous locations (touristic appeal). Use the exoticism, luxury, historical aura, hype, fame of iconic cityscapes, monuments, landscapes. [Rental fee for exterior shots, higher filming costs but all interior scenes are filmed in studio]
- Borrow from couture. Costume design and old fashion styles add visual value without creating any filmic art. [Costume designer paycheck]
- Borrow famous faces (movie star system). Get bankable actors/actresses who made past movies profitable. [Doubles the budget, but is pretty much the only safe bet for a successful BO]
- Borrow other famous faces. From the music industry, TV, reality TV "stars", internet "celebrities" [less expensive]
- Borrow cameos. Cheaper use of big stars with an equal buzz potential. [much smaller pay check]
- Borrow beauty (sex appeal). Pretty newcomers are much cheaper than famous stars, and look good in the trailer. If they don't bring outstanding acting skills, at least they bring the seduction of their physical appearance (models, bodybuilders). [Cheapest pay check]
- Borrow nudity (sex appeal). Showing nude scenes, erotic scenes makes your film more attractive without any skill/talent required. Celebrity nudity not necessary, but doesn't hurt if you can afford it [1 stripper pay check]
- Borrow skills from real world. Cast someone who is not part of the world of cinema (no acting skills), with an outstanding talent (sport champion, record holder, martial art fighter, dancer, parkour, base jumping...) [Quite cheap if not a speaking part]
- Borrow animal cuteness. Animal training to do stuff, always winning the audience (be it on YouTube or in movies). [Animal trainer paycheck]
- Borrow from the power of musical arts. It doesn't make it more cinematic, but music works as well on the audience as a CD than played in a movie. So why not boost your movie with an extraneous art? [Composer paycheck]
- Borrow already composed music/popular songs (billboard hits) known to be loved by the public. [Copyright = nominal fee]
- Borrow from digital arts. Fix everything (lack of mise en scene, poor acting skills, bad plot, clueless editing) with CGI and special FX. [high CPU power and calculating time]
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
- Remake a past successful movie (foreign or domestic), with new faces and revamped dialogue [Copyright = nominal fee]
- Invent a sequel (or a prequel) to a past successful movie of yours [Copyright already owned]
See! you don't need to know how to make cinema, to make an already half-successful movie. With chance and a couple of collaborators who aren't totally useless, you can make a commercial product that the mainstream market will swallow like everything else coming its way. No sweat.
Now find me a movie that has the balls to tell a story to an audience without any of these clutches... That'll make you think twice about the mannerism and "tradition de qualité" of the artfilm circuit (where actual auteurs are trying to create new material with film-specific art, without borrowing from other arts as much as in the mainstream industry).