I’m curious about artists who move into filmmaking after establishing themselves in another art form. I guess my basic question is: What art form best prepares someone to make a film? On one hand, one could argue that writers (whether of plays or novels) have the best sense of narrative and drama, while theatre directors would be best adept at handling actors. On the other hand, one would expect photographers and painters to have the best visual sense.
Random examples off the top of my head (I included some who made the transition badly)
Writers: Passolini (poet and novelist), Paul Auster, Norman Mailer, Marguerite Duras
Playwrights: Preston Sturges, David Mamet, Martin McDunough,
Painting: Andy Warhol, Robert Longo, Julian Schnabel
Photographers: Larry Clark, Cindy Sherman, Gordon Parks, Stanley Kubrick
Theatre directors: Sam Mendes, Orson Welles, Elia Kazan, Mike Nichols
Fashion designer: Tom Ford
Sculptor: Matthew Barney
Not to state the obvious but it seems that those who come to directing from the literary arts tend to make smart literate movies that are not particularly visual (Mamet for instance)
While photographers seem to have a visual sense with less emphasis on scripts.
Those who seem to know a little about both are the best of course. I do love Mailer as director, a strong visual sense and an ear for trashy yet real dialouge that most of these hipster directors would be jealous of
I wish Bob Fosse had made a bunch of his musicals into movies. His non-musical movies don’t stand out; “Cabaret” and “Sweet Charity” needed a bunch more musical numbers and less of everything else. He was a great choreographer and that is what he should have filmed.
Sam Mendes has a great visual sense for film even coming from stage.
Gilliam, from animation to film
Kubrick went from photography to documentaries, then to narrative films.
Personally I think the best directors have either come from a literary background ie-writing something, so they can understand how the narrative of the film works best, and how to write own movies (the two above both do).
Ousmane Sembene: novelist to filmmaker
Agnes Varda, photography. Allegedly saw about 10 films before she made La Pointe-Courte. Fucking disgusting.
Kathryn Bigelow was a painter.
I’m not sure Agnes Varda’s limited exposure to cinema was that detrimental to her style. She still managed to be an integral part of a movement with a distinct film-making method all of her own, with her photography background contributing to the precision of her cinematography.
That being said, Maya Deren also came from the literary perspective and made some fabulously complex psychodramas before moving on to her more kinetic films.
When reading the topic of this thread, one name jumped to mind: Pasolini. I’m glad you included him. For me, he’s not only an interesting case study due to the quality of his films—ok, so that’s just my opinion—but because his work, regardless of medium, seems to bleed together seamlessly. Granted, I’ve only dabbled in his poetry and fiction, I feel as though he’s one of few so prolific across mediums.
Another interesting topic to explore would be filmmakers who work directly with the creators of the text they are adapting. I know a lot of authors receive co-writer credits for screenplays, but I’m thinking more about those who actually get their feet wet. For instance, Hubert Selby Jr./Aronofsky on Requiem For A Dream. Just a thought.
How about Steve Mcqueen? Hunger got rave reviews.
McQueen was a video artist before making Hunger, right? I guess that fits although I have a hard time understanding the difference between video art and experimental film.
I just thought of Miranda July as someone who transitioned from performance art to film. And I hated Me And You And Everyone We Know as much as I hate performance art!
@JANDERSON: Yeah, Pasolini really mastered multiple art forms. You can watch Teorema and then read the novel Teorema and it’s like you wrote, a completely seamless experience.
Fellini was sort of a cartoonist before becoming a filmmaker.
Alain Robbe-Grillet from literature.
Frank Zappa from music.
Yukio Mishima from literature.
rod lurie was a film critic
bob dylan directed a film
prince directed two
Kurosawa was a painter.
oh, and how could i forget:
Peter Brook from theatre.
Pina Bausch from dance.
Masaki Kobayashi was a painter as well, as “Kwaidan” brilliantly illustrates.
Nick Ray: Received a Taliesin Fellowship from Frank Lloyd Wright to study architecture. He also had a radio background, and directed one Broadway production, the Duke Ellington musical Beggar’s Holiday (1946).
Friedrich “Fritz” Christian Anton Lang: Attended the Technical University of Vienna, where he studied engineering but eventually switched to art. In 1910-13, he traveled through Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific area. In 1913, he studied painting in Paris.
Vincente Minnelli:His first job was a window display designer. He later worked as a photographer, photographing actors from Chicago’s theater district. Started at the Chicago Theatre where he worked as a costume and set designer. He also worked on shows in New York City. He eventually became a set designer at Radio City Music Hall and worked his way up to stage director.
The first play Minnelli directed was a musical revue titled At Home Abroad (1935), starring Beatrice Lillie. He later worked on The Ziegfeld Follies and The Show Is On.
Julie Taymor, theatre director and designer before moving on to film
And don’t forget about all the actors who moved on to become directors, although not all come from a different medium from film.
And let’s not forget some more dubious filmmakers: Adam Shankman was a choreographer, Nora Ephron was a writer, etc. the list goes on and on…
Actors: Clint Eastwood, Charlie Chaplin
William Kentridge was an actor
Jean-Paul Goude was a photographer
ben affleck. much much better director than he is an actor
Film actors wouldn’t count since they are not transitioning from another medium but transitioning roles within a medium (so ditto cinematographers, editors, screenwriters, etc. – although that would be an interesting thread to ask which of those roles best prepares someone to transition into becoming a filmmaker. I would probably say screenwriter).