Reframing the director: distributed creativity in filmmaking practice

Karen Pearlman*, John Sutton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Filmmaking is one of the most complexly layered forms of artistic production. It is a deeply interactive process, socially, culturally, and technologically. Yet the bulk of popular and academic discussion of filmmaking continues to attribute creative authorship of films to directors. Texts refer to ‘a Scorsese film’, not a film by ‘Scorsese et al.’. We argue that this kind of attribution of sole creative responsibility to film directors is a misapprehension of most filmmaking processes, based in part on dubious individualist assumptions about creative minds. Such a misapprehension is effacing the public value that a more inclusive and accurate understanding of filmmaking offers. By treating motion picture production as a model case of distributed creativity, we can more accurately identify the public value of filmmaking processes. We can do justice to the unique roles of highly skilled individuals, and offer some insights into creative collaboration. This approach has theoretical, descriptive and normative benefits. A more robust understanding of how films are ‘made’ serves as a model for a richer understanding of distributed creativity and cognition. By considering filmmaking as a “‘trans-corporeal’ enterprise, not simply bound by the skull or the body, but as actively mediated through artifacts, tools, and social-communicative processes” (Theiner and Drain 2016: 7), we enrich understanding of collaboration. A more accurate description of the work of women that has been historically effaced by focus on individual, mostly male, directors has intrinsic social and political value. These results and insights carry clear implications for how aesthetic credit should be assigned, and demonstrate the benefits and value of gender parity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA companion to motion pictures and public value
EditorsMette Hjort, Ted Nannicelli
Place of PublicationHoboken, USA
PublisherWiley-Blackwell, Wiley
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781119677154, 9781119677079, 9781119677123
ISBN (Print)9781119677116, 9781119677130
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Authorship
  • Creative Arts Research
  • Distributed cognition
  • filmmaking
  • Film Editing


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