When photography first started to be shown as art in galleries there were many that protested that such a mechanical process could be considered art. Some even maybe a wee bit threatened. Pablo Picasso has been quoted as saying, "I have discovered photography. Now I can kill myself. I have nothing else to learn." But Picasso survived, and photography became another artistic medium, and cameras another tool, like paintbrushes. What is high art and what isn't has been one of the main debates of the 20th century and has dribbled into the 21st in regard to film.
By writing that "the medium is not the message" I am having a bit of punning fun with the famous quote nugget from Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964). McLuhan talked about many aspects of media and culture, art among them, "Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it."
McLuhan believed that the medium (television, advertising etc.) was the thing, not the content it transmitted. One of his famous examples was that the medium of television was powerful, regardless of whether it was showing children's cartoons or violent programs. I'm turning that idea on its head in relation to art and art-making by positing that the medium employed by the artist — whether film, or words, or painting, etc., is irrelevant. What is important is the end product, the art experience. The ideas and feelings taken away by the viewer. If a piece has something to say, and talks in the language of art, no matter what medium was employed, it's art.
Of course if I go on too much longer, I'm at risk of sounding like the "Man in Theatre Line" from Annie Hall. McLuhan also said, "Art is anything you can get away with." Sounds like a Woody Allen line. Allen brought the man, McLuhan, into this wonderful scene in Annie Hall, and just for the sheer brilliance of that bold stroke, gets put back on my art/auteur list.