I’ve seen every movie directed by Elia Kazan. I’ve even read a good amount of his autobiography. I don’t recommend it.
I learned this: the more you force yourself into your storytelling the more cringe-worthy the result.
Elia Kazan will no doubt be long considered a prolific director, both on the stage and the big screen. It’s important to distinguish the difference between the art and the artist and judge them separately. After studying Kazan, I personally dislike him, but that doesn’t stop me from loving, what I would call, the masterpiece that is On The Waterfront.
His mastery is evident in his well-known film A Streetcar Named Desire; his zenith was On the Waterfront, and his quick descent is almost painful to watch with Wild River and onward with the bottom of the barrel being The Arrangement.
I know nothing of directing.
But directing was Kazan’s main form of storytelling.
Over the course of Kazan’s career as a director he truly mastered the field. He learned not only technique, but also what to compromise and what to fight for. His best work is when he paid attention to every aspect of making a film, with his ideals in the background.
He began to fail when he asserted too much of himself into his work and it overcame the film itself.
As a writer I can learn a lot from him. Specifically, not to force myself into my stories, but let them resonate in the background. They might be interrupted differently than I would want, but the purpose of writing isn’t to sell your ideology.
Let me say that again. The purpose of writing isn’t to sell your ideology obviously. We can be sly about it.
If the writer is trying to sell you a thought like a door to door sells man, it never goes over well.
When I first started writing I would start with my “point” and try to write a story around it. They never turned out any good because of how forced they were. We can’t force an opinion to be heard.
If you have to force it, it doesn’t belong.
Kazan didn’t force himself into On The Waterfront. Oh, he’s there, but it’s subtle and it makes sense. What came after was his need to infringe upon the plot. To emphasize his point. He wanted to paint the picture and tell us what it meant. Because of it his films were lacking and his career dropped.