February 11, 2005

Hollywood. Original? Never!

Original Screenplays Falling by the Wayside, from the Hollywood Reporter, laments the collapse in the number of original screenplays being developed by big Hollywood studios.

But pity the working screenwriter who wants to connect to his or her muse. "There's never been less interest in an original screenplay," says Larry Gross ("We Don't Live Here Anymore"). "Now all movies are borrowed and ripped off. They want to stamp out all signs of a distinctive original voice."

The major studios have become block buster factories. Given the limited number of releases that a major studio can support, they have to try to “swing for the fences” each time. That makes them conservative, and fills the summer movie season with loads of cookie cutter fare. The economics of their distribution system almost force this upon them.

So even though several awards for original screenplays will be handed out in the next few weeks, most writers know their originals will never be produced -- instead, they use them as calling cards.

Given how hard it is to write a great movie screenplay, this is kind of sad.

"You write something original that springs full blown from your forehead in order to launch or reinvigorate your career," says Howard Rodman, dean of the USC screenwriting department. "The studios use them to figure out who's a good writer. But they don't get made. What the studios consider a studio movie has never been narrower than it is now."

There are lots of outlets for original screenplays outside of the major studios: mini-major studios, independent films, made for cable or made for TV movies, even direct to video or direct to digital productions. I have heard some writers quoted as saying that the writing on the best TV shows is “edgier” than most writing for major Hollywood movies.

Posted by georgegmacdonald at February 11, 2005 09:26 AM