For years, I had been trying to recall this: a fundamental question someone asked when making a film. It was killing me. Who was it? How could I have misplaced such a great quote? Last night, I found it!
Turns out it was James Mangold, writer/director of the new “Indiana Jones.”
From Conversations At The American Film Institute With The Great Movie Makers by George Stevens, Jr. (sections bolded by me) :
One of the questions I’ve always asked myself when reading a script or working with ideas for films is, why is this a movie? The bread that the movie is built on, the starch which holds it together, should be a series of images. The thing should not work for blind people. Essentially it’s a false medium if it’s a medium that works just fine when you’re not paying attention with your eyes. The way I think about it is that there are filmed plays, and then there are movies. What really interests me is something that could only be a film. This idea couldn’t be turned into a play or novel or anything else. You want to concentrate on creating something that is uniquely cinematic.
Sandy (Alexander Mackendrick) urged us to build our films with images first, to make sure everything was comprehensible visually, and only then add dialogue.
His own work taught us many lessons about what he called the preverbal language of cinema.James Mangold, AFI Interview