I find it interesting that when talking about The Decalogue many people feel the need to point out that “it’s not a film, or a collection of ten films: it’s a tv miniseries”. Conversely many people call The Decalogue a film or a series of films in order that it isn’t associated with tv (for which it was made, on which it was aired and on which most people who see it see it).
I find this differentiation between the two, tv and film, strange. There is no difference in how films and tv series are made: both are a collection of moving images often with sound of some type laid over the top. Yes a lot of tv is crap, but so are a lot of films, and tv has given us Berlin Alexanderplatz, Scenes from a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander, The Decalogue – coincidentally, all of which are on They Shoot Pictures Don’t They?’s Top 1000 films list.
The only real difference I can think of is that films are shown in cinemas whereas tv is shown on your little 12 inch box at home. Except, not. Maybe years ago, but now films are watched on tv far more than they are at cinemas (and we don’t consider them “not films” just because we’re watching them on a tv or a laptop) and tvs can be massive things, 40 or 50 inches in size.
^t.v is a functional medium. the quality of imagery is not the same.
Because they’re two distinct formats.
If we let ourselves to be old-fashioned and a little bit abstract one may say that Cinema differs from TV with its ontology of the image. It’s an obsolete distinction nevertheless historically worked. In order to create an image on film/celluloid there’s a need for chemical and mechanical processes (photographic processing and mechanical projection). Contrary to TV image which by and large originates on video tapes and the process is all electronic (recording and screening too).
Nowadays all is digitalised though..
Decalogue originated on film and therefore it is considered to be cinematic. It has filmic look thanks to its cinematography (Idziak, Sobocinski)
“The only real difference I can think of is that films are shown in cinemas whereas tv is shown on your little 12 inch box at home.”
Erm, hey gang, beyond all the big fancy schmancy words and techno-babble, how about the fact that…
TELEVISION SHOWS ARE MADE WITH COMMERCIAL BREAKS IN MIND—THEY ARE PACED IN A MANNER SO AS TO ALLOW A TELEVISION COMMERCIAL EVERY SEVERAL MINUTES. HENCE YOUR TYPICAL TELEVISION PROGRAMME DOES NOT “FLOW” THE SAME AS A FILM.
(Yes, I know they make ad-free telemovies for cable, but by and large, television is still FULL of ads—even SBS has them these days!).
Even when you watch TV shows with the breaks removed on DVD, the teleplay has been structured with both a time limit (22 minutes, give or take, for a one-half hour slot, 45 minutes or so for an hour slot) and frequent allowances for ads.
Compare that to films, you can do stuff like that legendary long take in Michelangelo Antonioni’s “The Passenger” and you can make a three-hour-or-so epic like “Malcolm X” or “Casino” minus interruptions. How often do you get THAT on television?
“Because they’re two distinct formats.”
So you would suggest that we shouldn’t qualify digital films as films because they’re not made on film?
“Nowadays all is digitalised though..”
Yes. So such a differentiation is meaningless nowadays, which is what I’m suggesting.
@Mark D Vanselow
“HENCE YOUR TYPICAL TELEVISION PROGRAMME DOES NOT “FLOW” THE SAME AS A FILM.”
Yes. Your typical one. There are still exceptions which flow very well though, such as the ones I listed above. Also, your typical Hollywood film is ****, but that doesn’t stop quite a lot of them reaching greatness. And re the time limit thing, am I not right in thinking that many classic Hollywood films would be made with similar time limitations? And you also have things like the Hays code: external forces getting in the way of a directors’ artistic control over the end product. And there’s loads of product placement in Hollywood films: they cannot avoid the curse of advertisement either!
“How often do you get THAT on television?”
I would suggest it’s not a matter of how often you get that sort of stuff, but instead whether you can get that sort of high quality art at all. Which you can: Fanny and Alexander, Scenes from a Marriage, Decalogue, Manoel dans l’île des merveilles…
No I mean how TV ‘works’ vs how film ‘works’. Length and time alone make television distinct from film.
“I would suggest it’s not a matter of how often you get that sort of stuff, but instead whether you can get that sort of high quality art at all. Which you can: Fanny and Alexander, Scenes from a Marriage, Decalogue, Manoel dans l’île des merveilles…”
wrong, it IS a matter of quantity, as well as quality. don’t be ridiculous. how many great t.v films have their been in comparison?
If the question was Why Do We Differentiate Between Video and Film?, then you might have something.
The idea that one or two miniseries makes television an equivalent medium to film is kind of an absurd one. They make up such a small percentage of what television is it’s a completely invalid comparison. Decalogue is more like a film because it was approached that way. Kieslowski co-wrote every episode, he exerted control over production, he didn’t allow producers to make enormous alterations to his vision, and he didn’t think about how to placate to 18-35’s. That’s the opposite of the process for actual TV.
Film art is a medium for the artist. Television art is a medium for the audience.
The approach to the mediums is wholly different. It’s the difference between the approach of music to film; they can share as many similarities as you want but the work and process of creation is utterly and totally different. The approach to 95% of TV shows is completely different from the approach of 95% of films; it’s apples to oranges.
The only U.S. TV show I know of right now that can be validly compared to film is Louie because Louis C.K. is essentially just given a modest budget for each episode and allowed to do whatever he wants. Again, he writes and directs all episodes, so each episode exhibits his voice. That’s probably why it seems like absolutely nothing else on TV.
I think its a valid distinction to make between the two mediums. The fact that we can name a handful of television films that feel like great cinema (to which I would add The Singing Detective) is more the exceptions that proves the rule. Even great television works whether series (The Sopranos), documentary (Ken Burns), traditional mini-series (Roots) or theatrical adaptations (I, Claudius) generally feel and are viewed differently than theatrical releases. It’s not even a qualitative distinction as much as a formatting one.
The biggest difference between the two that I can see is structural. The compartmentalization of narrative or design by commercials and tighter run time restrictions forces TV into certain areas. This is neither good or bad, but it is there. Even this is not an absolute thing now, because we can pick up a season of any show on DVD or BD and see it without the commercials. Also, TV does have some flexibility; there are half-hour shows, one hour shows; shows with short season cycles and long season cycles; there are TV movies, too.
TV is where the serials of yesterday went to. Episodic comedies and dramas have what might be seen as a more natural platform – weekly airing that isn’t attached to any other picture. You tune into the serial you like and leave the rest alone. If I wanted to direct a feature length work that was self-contained, I would steer clear of TV.
But TV doesn’t have to exclude the artist. Even a quick look at shows like Seinfeld and The Cosby Show reveal that their identity is bound up with a certain person. That person may not write every episode or direct it, but they do force creative content. You could look at J.J. Abrahams and Lost, too. That said, most TV programming does exclude the artist as a central figure. But that’s no different than a lot of what happens at the movies.
As we move forward, I think TV is going to become more and more viable as a place for artistic expression. With the rise of critically praised cable TV shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, and Mad Men, I can imagine film students or aspiring directors setting their sights on TV as a possible outlet. Some artists might find the feature film format to be too restrictive, and concentrate their energies on working their way through a cable network, pitching ideas, etc. Of course, I’m speaking only for America here.
Visually, TV is both expanding (giant widescreen TV sets) and contracting (watch a show on your ipod). I think this is going to be a major problem going forward. How do you prepare your visuals? Where do you expect your viewership to be watching this stuff? My hope is that directors and producers will be expecting their audience to view their shows on the biggest possible format, but I don’t know if that’ll be the case.
^One must consider coherency, as well. If you actually watch a TV show when it airs on TV coherency develops over weeks and months, as opposed to the formation of it in film; a single experience.
I actually feel, if we’re comparing arts, the greatest TV shows are more like novels than film, and film is more like music than TV.
“tv has given us Berlin Alexanderplatz, Scenes from a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander, The Decalogue”
I would throw Peter Watkins’ work in with that group.
“But TV doesn’t have to exclude the artist. Even a quick look at shows like Seinfeld and The Cosby Show reveal that their identity is bound up with a certain person. That person may not write every episode or direct it, but they do force creative content. You could look at J.J. Abrahams and Lost, too.”
Aaron Sorkin in Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60, too.
Lumet and Frankenheimer came to film from Playhouse 90 in the late ‘50s. There’s been so much cross-pollenization since then that a lot of the generalizations made in this thread, though they still more or less work fine as generalities—I do still think that film clearly offers more expressive possibilities (particularly in terms of visual expressiveness)—there are loads of qualifications that need to be tacked on to the end.
To get back to Cecil’s question about The Decalogue, to me the question of tv vs. film for something like that has more to do with the director’s intention—they weren’t intended to be as one continuous whole, while something like Satantango is intended to be watched basically all at once.
I don’t know, by the logic that separates TV from film as two independent mediums, then one version of Fanny and Alexander is a film, and the other is not.
It is true most TV doesn’t live up to the production standards of film. Also, ongoing TV programs are planned without a definite end, sometimes with teams of completely different writers.
But, there’s no reason very high quality TV planned for a definite length run shouldn’t be considered alongside film.
And it’s true, some TV is very tied to the artist. Speaking of Seinfeld, don’t forget Curb Your Enthusiasm. Star Trek: The Next Generation was always written by many different writers, but it was all still a product of Gene Roddenberry’s imagination, because he was there in the background insisting that his utopian cultural standards be upheld and there never be any conflict between characters.
But, couldn’t it also be said that much of film faces the same creative restrictions? Just take a look at The Magnificent Ambersons, or any film ever made whose original script was more challenging than the final product. Your criticisms of TV apply just as much to film. It’s the same with music, it’s only in musical subcultures that artists have any creative freedom.
Just to add some complications to the discussion:
Did anyone ever see The Godfather Saga? It was I and II plus extra material televised chronologically, and I think edited by Coppola,
Seven Days in May is an excellent picture, but I can’t find much difference in its production versus an elaborate teleplay.
Isn’t Psycho an example of what television might have been, minus advert and censor constraints?
I would throw Peter Watkins’ work in with that group
Until the BBC started censoring him and forced him to leave the country. The same censorship was placed on Alan Clarke with Scum.
I don’t how the BBC, a public funded television station, felt it had the right to censor films without consulting the public, but there you go.
That’s not what’s being said at all. In fact, if you read through the responses the opposite is being said.
But, couldn’t it also be said that much of film faces the same creative restrictions?
You’re focusing too hardily on the end product. That’s not where the comparison between the mediums is to be made. The comparison is to be made in the production of the art itself. And, in that regard, the process of making a weekly TV show is about as different from the process of making a film as can possibly be imagined. Even if they face the same restrictions they manner in which those restrictions are dealt with is absolutely different.
There was mention of Lumet. Has anyone seen his television work? I’ve seen his adaptation of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh and it contains almost nothing of his style in his film work. The process is far too different. He also adapted O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night into a film and if you watch both of those works you begin to realize how incredibly different the mediums are.
It’s less fair to compare someone like Bergman, Fassbinder, or Kieslowski’s television work to their film work… They were already established figures when they ventured into epic length television productions. They had the clout and funding to do whatever they chose in any medium they chose. Lumet, however, started on television without any clout or financing. You’ll notice his work on television is patently different from his work in film because the production side of the mediums is patently different. Not because the artists are.
This is an important question..
it’s my feeling that film and television are increasingly joined together rather than separate. It’s not simply that the bulk of the work by important filmmakers lik eStraub-Hullet, Raul Ruiz and Rainer erner Fassbinder wqas done for television. it’s also that extremyl significant work right now is TV devised — Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce being a good example.
I’d also lie to point to a number of Godard works made for TV: 6 fois 2, France/Tour/Detour/Deux Enfants and Grandeuer et decadence d’un petit commerce du cinema
“There was mention of Lumet. Has anyone seen his television work? I’ve seen his adaptation of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh and it contains almost nothing of his style in his film work.”
I have, yes, and no, of course it doesn’t because as he moved into working in film, Lumet grasped the expressive possibilities of film, but clearly the his style was developed in large part from his experiences working in theater and television (and remember that Lumet starting out when they were doing television live . . . a whole different set of restrictions and possibilities) . 12 Angry Men, for example, isn’t particularly more “cinematic” (for lack of a better term) that The Iceman Cometh or some of his other best TV work.
12 Angry Men, for example, isn’t particularly more “cinematic”
Stylistically, hell yeah it is. His camera’s slow push inward over the course of that entire film is just not something seen on television at that time. It’s not something a 30-minute weekly program has the power to do. The space and time of film allowed for a much different approach to a very similar subject (it was based on a teleplay wasn’t it?).
Why are we using 3 or 4 directors who have worked in television as the basis for how the entirety of television works? Please stop.
Malik makes a good point…
“I actually feel, if we’re comparing arts, the greatest TV shows are more like novels than film, and film is more like music than TV.”
Exactly how I feel.
Edvard Munch is one of the best “Television” I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing and most certainly one of the best films about an artist I’ve ever seen.
I think there is still a bit of a stigma over film being better than television. Both are similar but not the same.
My point was, it’s still essentially just putting a camera on stage. It’s not the entirely psychological space of The Fugitive Kind or the entirely “real” space of Dog Day Afternoon.
To my recollection, what you’re describing is not exactly entirely absent from the original Schaffner did on live TV . . . and this wasn’t exactly rogue TV, he won an Emmy for it. Obviously you have the opportunity for much greater refinement with a film.
But the way, if you look a Iceman again, there’s more to it than I think you’re remembering, there’s a lot of fairly sophisticated camera movement for TV of that period, and also there’s some fairly agressive use of depth, etc.:
“Why are we using 3 or 4 directors who have worked in television as the basis for how the entirety of television works? Please stop.”
Because we’re trying to get beyond easy generalizations that film is for this and TV is for that. I think we here are all knowledgeable enough to appreciate the historical differences in a broad sense. Please read the whole thread.
It’s not a generality when it’s the vast majority of the medium by any statistical measure. I’ve read the whole thread and all most people are saying is that television could be used the same way as film and that’s useless because it’s taking advantage of what TV can offer. Miniseries are great at all, but what television great is the time that it has to evolve over actual time.
Talking about television and citing examples that are like film doesn’t further any discussion about television.
That doesn’t make the things that have been said not generalities, but OK, now I see what you’re saying. The original question, though, was “why do people feel the need to point out that films made for TV are films made for TV?”.
Even if we’re setting out to describe TV, it’s still a more complicated matter because you’d have to talk about live TV versus shooting to film, traditional broadcast vs. cable, single-camera shows vs. multi-camera shows, genres, miniseries, etc.
The shooting of television is very different from the shooting of a film, but it’s not the same on premium networks as it is in network TV, and there are loads of exceptions. The Sopranos, for instance, is not in the same category as Two In A Half Men in terms of production style. It’s closer to a film than a network show.
There are a lot of differences in the process between shooting and film and shooting a TV series, but financial and time restrictions aside they both have an identical range of output. There’s nothing you can do shooting a film you couldn’t do for television, if you had the same resources.
People feel the need to point it out because 9 times out of 10 ‘made for TV’ movies are those of lesser quality. Berlin Alexanderplatz, Scenes from a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander, The Decalogue, etc. are exceptions to the rule. We’re at a time now where 9 times out of 10 is sliding closer to a 7 or 6 time out of 10 thanks in large part to continual efforts on HBO’s part to ‘raise the bar’.
And that is a great conversation to be had. Outside of news, commercials and infomercials, I’m curious to see where other people would draw the line of ‘tv as art’ though. Would The Daily Show count? SNL? Late night talk shows?