The title of “auteur” is a mantle that some directors will gladly wear, owning the authorship and imprint they have on their movies. And arguments can be made for many filmmakers, from Alfred Hitchcock to David Fincher and beyond, falling comfortably into that category. But there are others who rejection the notion and title, and one of them is Jim Jarmusch.

The independent director and pioneer undoubtedly has a distinctive body of work, and this year’s lovely “Paterson” is yet another entry in his lengthy filmography of movies that could truly be directed by no one else. However, in a new interview with Film Comment, Jarmusch rejects the notion of being an auteur and says that his films wouldn’t exist without the help of his collaborators. And his process all starts with a single script, which he never rewrites, but instead evolves throughout the production of the movie he’s working on. Here’s what Jarmusch had to say:

For me, a film is formed in the editing room because I only write one draft of the script….I don’t rewrite. But then, when we start working… Okay, I’m working with Mark Friedberg, and he’s the incredible designer, and we’re getting locations, and I’m making notes. And now I have cast Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Driver, so I’m going to change some things. Even as we’re shooting, I’m like, “Oh, maybe I need twins.” And then I see extras that are twins. So I keep working on it, but the final draft is in the editing room. All the rest is gathering. But I will never write a script, and then show it to people, and then have to rewrite it… I don’t do multiple drafts. It’s the starting point, the map. But it’s going to get better, I hope.

Because the auteur thing is nonsense. Film is so collaborative, and especially in my case, because I have artistic control over the film. That means I choose the people I collaborate with—we’re making the film together. I use “a film by [Jim Jarmusch]” in the credits to protect my ability to choose my collaborators in this world of financing and using other people’s money. But we’re collaborating all the time, so the film is evolving each day we scout, and then each day we shoot, and then if we rehearse, whatever that might mean, it’s just changing, changing, changing. They have this thing, traditionally, where they put different colored pages in the script in pre-production as you’re going along. “Oh, that was a new idea, so those are pink pages.” My final script is multi-colored, because I keep adding, changing—take this scene out, move this one around. For the production, they need to keep track of it. And I love these colored pens that write in four colors, so I make notes all over in different colors. My shooting script is very colorful.

It really sounds like Jarmusch enjoys the process of discovery, of taking his idea and seeing how it transforms in the hands of this actors, editor, designers and more, so it’s easy to understand why he doesn’t want to be called an auteur. However, he seems to choose people to work with that share his same qualities, values and taste, so in the end, Jarmusch’s movies still feel very much his own.

The full interview at Film Comment is pretty great — read it here — and share your thoughts in our comments section.


  • Edgar Soberón Torchia

    As I see it, the “auteur” theory is a tool we use when writing film criticism, or when we do research of certain films and directors, not as a working method for filmmakers. I do not agree with Jarmusch in this sense. Being an auteur is not the opposite of working collectively in a film.