×

The Schreiber Theory

David Kipen lampoons the overused auteur theory in this screed that argues scribe royalty among creators. He makes a compelling case that ultimately falls short on the collaborative nature of the medium and the screenwriting process today. Yes, plays are canonized by the writer, but they aren't captured onscreen for eternity the way films are.

David Kipen lampoons the overused auteur theory in this screed that argues scribe royalty among creators. He makes a compelling case — what’s not to like about Herman Mankiewicz’s contributions to filmdom? — that ultimately falls short on the collaborative nature of the medium and the screenwriting process today. Yes, plays are canonized by the writer, not director or thesps, but they aren’t captured onscreen for eternity the way films are.

That said, Kipen, a former scribe for the San Francisco Chronicle and Variety, does poke holes in the prevailing auteur theory, which considers directors principal authors of their films, and the best directors those who assert their personalities film to film. This view, Kipen points out, fails to account for directors like John Huston, who never made the same movie twice and therefore “stands outside the pantheon as a weak auteur — it gets a little hazy here — or as no auteur at all.”

Popular on Variety

Never mind less accomplished directors who nonetheless claim possessory credit on their films.

Kipen acknowledges the collaborative nature of film throughout, and take pains to make it clear he doesn’t fully expect his manifesto on behalf of the writer (Schreiber in Yiddish) to succeed. And yet nagging questions remain: What about the camera work? How about the actors? If we’re lucky, the director marshals the filmmaking process.

In the end, he argues that the Schreiber theory shouldn’t be construed as a disavowal of this collaborative art. “Schreiberism is,” Kipen concludes somewhat disingenuously, “an attempt to rescue reviewing and scholarship from those who would have us forget just how collaborative filmmaking truly is.”

If that’s really the goal, why spend 150 pages arguing for the supremacy of the writer? Instead say what you really mean: Don’t forget the writer, please.

More Reviews

  • A Fall from Grace

    'A Fall from Grace': Film Review

    Why stay in your lane when you can veer into other roadways with your own turbo-charged vehicles? With “A Fall from Grace,” mogul Tyler Perry swerves back and forth between his usual woman-centered melodrama and a quasi-thriller. Shot over just five days in late 2019, As is his intriguing way, however, Perry delivers some grace [...]

  • 'Suppressed: The Fight to Vote' Review:

    'Suppressed: The Fight to Vote': Film Review

    In 2018, Stacey Abrams, having served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 10 years, ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. She was the first African-American woman in the United States to be chosen as a gubernatorial nominee by one of the two major parties. Abrams had tremendous support, and after losing [...]

  • 911 Lone Star rob Lowe

    '9-1-1: Lone Star': TV Review

    In some ways, Rob Lowe is a fit for the Ryan Murphy universe. Something about his actorly vanity — so much a part of his star persona that it tends to impact every project he works on — feels lurid and unseemly in exactly the bad-taste way as does much of Murphy’s work. A plotline, [...]

  • Bob Mould

    Bob Mould Showcases Catalog, Ejects Right Wing Heckler at Tour Opener

    Bob Mould kicked off a somewhat unusual solo electric tour at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass. last night, with a 75-minute set that drew evenly from across his four decade career. Mould may have embraced a sunnier perspective since moving to Berlin three years ago — as evidenced by his [...]

  • A Bump Along the Way Movie

    'A Bump Along the Way': Film Review

    While “Derry Girls” continues to be the last word in young, raucous female rebellion on the Emerald Isle, “A Bump Along the Way” has a little something to add. Set in the same Northern Irish city as the hit Netflix sitcom, but shedding the ’90s nostalgia for the Snapchat age, Shelly Love’s appealing, unassuming debut [...]

  • Eminem "Music to Be Murdered By"

    Eminem's 'Music to Be Murdered By': Album Review

    Eminem’s surprise album release may bear the Hitchcock-referencing title “Music to Be Murdered By,” but, yes, as you’d expect, “Music to Murder To” might be a more apt description. The 20-track LP, his tenth since soundtracking the turn of the millennium with 1999’s “The Slim Shady LP,” finds the Detroit rap legend in an alternately rancorous [...]

  • Allison Janney and Viola Davis appear

    'Troop Zero': Film Review

    You’ve probably seen a version of “Troop Zero” before. Whether that version was called “Troop Beverly Hills,” “The Mighty Ducks,” or an edited-for-TV showing of “The Bad News Bears,” it’s unlikely that anything here will be particularly fresh to anyone but the youngest of viewers. But novelty does not appear to have been high on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content