The creative process can be a funky beast. I remember reading one of Alfred Hitchcock’s storyboards for North by Northwest where he detailed the famous cropduster chase scene right down to weird little things like Cary Grant’s leg flying awkwardly upwards just so on one of his dives for cover (as you’ll see in the 89th panel shown in this presentation).
Creators like Hitchock and Stanley Kubrick were well-known for being nearly tyrannical in their attention to detail and insistence on the finished product matching the vision in their minds. You might argue their films were finished before they even started. Was there any room for improvisation? For changing circumstances? In Kubrick’s case there had to be, since there was no way in hell he could keep a lid on someone like Peter Sellers, and in point of fact it seems he didn’t even try. The rest of the production might have been tightly controlled, but whatever Sellers said or did while the cameras rolled tended to make its way retroactively into the script, as if there were spots there marked with the cinematic equivalent of “This Space Intentionally Left Blank”.
It’s funny because Kubrick’s far from what I might think of as an adherent of “seat-of-your-pants” storytelling, but clearly he had some tolerance and even encouragement for it under the proper circumstances. Hitchcock I’m less familiar with, but film productions are such complicated things that surely he must have had to bend at times? (cue cameo appearance where he steps out and gravely informs me not to call him Shirley).
I find it impressive when someone has that level of drive and vision, birthing worlds and stories whole cloth right down to the smallest minutiae. Conversely, there are several classic films and classic moments in films out there that were more immediate and organic in their development, and yet no less enjoyable as an end result. Rutger Hauer’s final monologue in Blade Runner. The ‘shoot the swordsman‘ scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pretty much the entirety of Casablanca.
Somewhere in this tug of order versus chaos lies all art that ever was created and all that ever will be created, but at each point of the spectrum there are examples of greatness. The creative process may be a funky beast, but it takes all comers, and that’s a fairer shake than most things in this existence of ours.