The debate surrounding the classification of filmmakers as artists has been ongoing for decades. There are valid arguments on both sides of the argument, and it ultimately depends on one's personal definition of "art" and "artist".
According to Merriam-Webster, art is defined as "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects". Filmmaking certainly requires a high degree of skill and imagination, as well as technical proficiency in areas such as cinematography, editing, and sound design. Additionally, a filmmaker must be able to tell a compelling story and create a visual experience that engages the viewer. These elements could certainly be considered as "aesthetic objects", and therefore, some would argue that filmmaking falls within the definition of art.
On the other hand, others might argue that art is something more abstract, that it must exist independently of its creator, and that it must evoke emotional or intellectual responses in the observer. In this view, films are considered as a product, and the filmmakers are seen as craftsmen or technicians. The argument here is that the primary objective of filmmaking is to entertain, to sell tickets and make a profit, rather than to make a statement or to evoke an emotional response.
However, it is worth considering the fact that many filmmakers do indeed create films with the intention of making a statement or evoking a response, and that their films are often imbued with their personal experiences, beliefs, and perspectives. As such, these films could be considered as a form of self-expression, which is often seen as a hallmark of art.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the distinction between art and entertainment is not always clear-cut. Many works of art are also entertaining, and many films are widely considered to be works of art. For example, films such as "Citizen Kane" (1941) and "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) are widely regarded as masterpieces of filmmaking, and are often studied in film schools as examples of the art form.
In conclusion, whether or not a filmmaker can be considered an artist is a matter of personal interpretation and depends on one's definition of "art" and "artist". However, it can be argued that filmmakers who create films with the intention of making a statement or evoking a response, and who imbue their films with their personal experiences and perspectives, could indeed be considered artists.