Tarkovsky speaks about...
Screenwriting vs. Directing
From Lectures on Film Directing (notes from classes taught
by Andrei Tarkovsky at the VGIK), Iskusstvo Kino, 1990. Translated by Jan Bielawski.
I cannot imagine making a film based on a screenplay I didn't write.
A director who makes a film entirely based on somebody else's
screenplay necessarily becomes an illustrator [...].
I'll try to explain in more detail what I mean by screenplay and by
the term "screenwriter" itself. There are "professional
screenwriters" but in my opinion there is really no such thing. Those
people should either be writers with good understanding of cinema or
become directors themselves (showing the ability to organise the
literary material on their own). Because, as I've already mentioned,
there is no such literary genre as screenplay.
Now we are faced with a dilemma. Let us say a director, while
preparing a screenplay, decides to write down in the form of events
and episodes only what he imagined as concrete bits of time to be
fixed on film. Taken as a work of literature such a screenplay would
be disjoint, inaccessible, and utterly incomprehensible, not only to a
casual reader but to anybody involved in further work on the film.
If on the other hand the screenwriter chooses to express his original
idea in a literary form as a writer would, his work is no longer a
screenplay. It becomes a work of literature like, say, some story
filling up seventy typewritten pages. If the screenwriter is also
preparing a shooting script he may as well walk up to the camera and
shoot the film himself as nobody except him has the vision of the work
and no director will be able to do a better job than he [...].
So given a very good and "cinematic" screenplay another director
assigned to it would have nothing to do. And if a screenplay is
presented in the form of a work of literature the director will be
forced to start everything anew.
Whenever a director begins working on a screenplay it invariably
begins to change, no matter how deep or detailed the screenplay is.
The director will never produce a film which is an exact, literal
translation, a mirror image of the screenplay. There will always
occur certain deformations. That's why cooperation between a director
and a screenwriter turns as a rule into a battle and a search for
compromises. It is not impossible to make good films this way even if
during the preparatory work the original ideas break down and the
director and the screenwriter build a new conception based on the old
Nevertheless, the most natural variant in film making would be when
the ideas do not have to break down and deform but instead develop
organically as in the case where the director writes the screenplay
himself, or another variant — the author of the screenplay decided to
make the film himself [...].
In short, I think the only good screenwriter for a director is a good