Why are screenwriters in such a weak position? We like to pretend that it’s because Hollywood is run by philistines with no appreciation of our art. But let’s admit it: It’s a simple matter of cost. If it cost one million dollars (or occasionally 500 million dollars) to paint each painting, or write each novel, or stage each play, then those would be done by committee too. Painters earn their freedom by buying their own canvas and paint. Every movie, on the other hand, costs a fortune, and if it’s not your fortune, then it’s someone else’s fortune. And nobody parts with a fortune easily.
You’re asking someone to spend millions of dollars to realize your art. Of course, you may be independently wealthy, allowing you to finance your own movie out of pocket. In that case, you can write whatever story you want to write. Otherwise, you’ll have to re-write your feature dozens of times to satisfy everybody who works for the unwieldy conglomerate that’s paying for it. It’s no fun, but you do have to admit that it kind of makes sense.
There’s just one problem: Can a committee make art? The knee-jerk answer is no, but anyone who has studied the history of film knows that, against all odds, it happens. But it’s getting harder to do every year, though there is hope in the future, which is what I’ll discuss next time…
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