“if there is still a perceived lack of theorist-filmmakers, then perhaps
someone could clarify what it is that they think is missing.”
We can begin with Gilbert Ryle’s distinction between knowing that (propositional knowledge) and knowing how (practical knowledge).
For Ryle, knowing that names systematically organized propositional knowledge: it is explicit, declarative, deductive, theoretical, and resides in the mind, in cognition. In contrast, knowing how (for Ryle) is practical knowledge: it is implicit, procedural, inductive, tacit, and resides in behaviour.
Ryle argued that knowing how cannot be reduced to knowing that, that know how is a distinct form of knowledge. He privileged know how, and argued that propositional knowledge or cognition has little influence on it.
In a similar vein, we can argue that film theory is a form of knowledge (knowing that) distinct from filmmaking (knowing how). We could follow Ryle and argue that film theory generates a series of propositions and ideas that do not overlap with knowing how.
One significant issue, though, and contra Ryle’s position, is whether any film theory propositions (knowing that) do overlap with knowing how. Are there film theory concepts that can and do inform knowing how? This isn’t their primary purpose, since film theory is a distinct body of knowledge from filmmaking. (Film theory can of course explain filmmaking; the issue here is whether is can influence filmmaking. I’m reminded of Alan Parker’s quip when he said, in the days of celluloid filmmaking, that filmmakers need theory like they need a scratch on the negative.)
We can therefore turn this debate into an explicitly philosophical issue, by not presupposing that knowing that and knowing how simply overlap; they are two different types of knowledge whose relationship needs to be thought through. It is the theorization of the link/overlap between the two types of knowledge that seems too be missing.
Reader in Film Studies
Oxford Brookes University