It’s Still All about Story: The Movie Industry in 1905 and Now

Another summer season of Hollywood blockbusters comes to an official close with the passing of Labor Day. Earlier in the summer, the Los Angeles Times reported a story entitled “Film jobs for screenwriters fall for second year,” which painted a picture on how screenwriting jobs and wages in Hollywood were on the decline. Reflecting, according to the article, “the broader pullback in production by the major film studios.”

My commentary: Why should it ever be anything other than extremely difficult to succeed as a screenwriter? Writers get paid for what others are scolded: daydreaming. They literally traffic in their own imaginations; they swap their daydreams for dollars. What could be better than that? And why would anyone wonder that the field would be cruelly competitive?

This is a time for writers not to despair but rejoice. It’s the movie business in 1905, when nobody knows where it’s going, but one thing has become clear: it’s still all about story.

Like the record labels, the major studios are toast. Forget about them. Netflix and Amazon and the whole universe of the web are not the future but the present, with far more opportunities than theatrically released big studio pictures.

The interesting stuff is happening on cable, where there are far, far more companies buying writing than there ever were at the studios, and new ones steadily come to life.

There will forever be a market for story creators. Writers should forget about the forms and format and concentrate instead upon creating what has always mattered the most: compelling stories.

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