Why Directors Need the Humanities
Artists generally and directors especially face an institutional danger in studying their craft in the contemporary world. Todays educational system encourages a dangerous hyper-specialization and too easily forgives near total ignorance of the wider scope of the humanities, provided you excel in your tiny area of focus.
This tragedy is exponentially increased when hyper-specialization is applied to the arts. Artists who come to see their educational responsibility as exclusive to the medium which they are working in ultimately produce crippled and tiny minded artwork.
Everyone must approach their medium in a way which best suits them, and certainly not every artist will make full use of an education in the humanities as they explore their art. That said, if the artist has any ambition to contribute in a meaningful way, work which enriches human experience universally, and work which is conscious of the broader scope and nature of human experience and context, they must be rigorously educated (preferably self-educated) in history, literature, psychology, economics, philosophy and the classics, to name only a few of the best fields.
The good news is that access to high quality quickly paced lectures, texts, commentaries, and more has never in all of history been easier and cheaper then it is now. The artist does not need to go into crippling debt to learn either his craft or enjoy his human inheritance. All it requires is discipline, patience, and time. And a good internet connection would help.
Why do directors specifically need this knowledge?
The act of directing is an act of interpretation. Ideally, we take the events and symbols of a story and interpret these in a philosophically consistent, emotionally powerful, consciousness expanding, way.
Because directing in itself involves very little physical creation from the director it is more essential then in almost any sphere of art that we equip ourselves with the analytical tools and breadth of knowledge to create strong interpretations. In order to fundamentally grasp the most important themes and threads in any truthful story, we must be able to clearly see the broader themes and threads of the human story as a whole.
Ignorance of these basic human trends and conditions will leave the director grasping at air. He will have no basis by which to hope to truthfully proceed. At his best, he may rely on the wisdom of the writer, and at his worst he will leave his audience with a deeply flawed and possibly unethical perspective on human life.
The task of a full education in the humanities a ceaseless. It is never completed. The fact of its perpetual nature does not mean that we should not evermore commit ourselves to reaching out for greater depth. The more time invested in the depth of our human education, the greater a well-spring we will have to draw from for inspiration and truthful inquiry.