Screenwriting : Is screenwriting a dead artform? by Floyd Marshall Jr.

Floyd Marshall Jr.

Is screenwriting a dead artform?

I ask myself this question quite often. There are so many bad films out there that it's becoming difficult to watch cable or go to the movies. Is true screenwriting dead in Hollywood? And would you consider indie films to be filmmakings last hope?

Niksa Maric

I hope HOOE means hope, the last word in your post. You feel like Hollywood will die, I feel the same way but it won't vanish, it will simply become smaller. Indie or independent movie companies, it can work but here's the problem and keep in mind I'm not involved with any Indie or Big Guns in Hollywood. This is just the way I see it. So, when independent companies started popping up (for a reason) some actors/actresses even agreed to help, by acting for less money than usual. Think of it as a small push forward for small productions. It worked for a while but since they are smaller and have less money, the goal was not reached, not for everyone. You can compare this to sticking a band aid on a gunshot wound. It holds for a while but not long enough. Take a look at my profile under videos. The first thing that pops-up when you press play is "UNITED INDEPENDENT FILMS" United is the key word. Unless they unite based on Genre, start hiring better producers, who will attract better actors, who will help Box Office statistics, nothing will happen. Hey, they might even start paying writers for the scripts more money, which can't hurt. As for the TV shows, what can I say? Some good shows gets canceled, some bad ones keep going forward, it's all about ratings, advertising... a million other elements. Again, this is just the way I see things.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Screenwriting isn't dead as long as there are those who continue to look at what they do as creating art; and in doing so, defy conventions.

Niksa Maric

Philip, you are right but despite your good answer, the truth is, the BIG MOVIES industry is shrinking year after year.

William Martell

Art requires the test of time, so we'll probably be dead when it's decided what current films are art and what are crap. It's not a factor.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

William: Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. I watched a movie two weeks ago that was released last year. I thought it was truly original and by my definition art. And since the perception of art is entirely subjective, I don't think "the test of time" is the only measure of quality and originality, which is what helps great work to stand out.

Niksa Maric

What was the name of the movie?

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Niksa: It was "Nightcrawler". I loved the movie because it told the story of a committed sociopath who stopped at nothing to achieve success. It did so in an uncompromising, satirical and ultimately entertaining way; without taking the moral high ground. It made the antagonist the person with goals, reversals and challenges to overcome and for me, was a standout film.

Niksa Maric

I haven't seen it, but I do remember people saying it was good.

Floyd Marshall Jr.

Just watched Nightcrawler. That was a crazy film. But it was very good.

Kent Flaagan

Nightcrawler, should have won an Oscar in some category. Films this good in acting and writing don't come around that often. I'm not a big Jake Gyllenhaal fan, but he stuck the role. By the end of the film he had me believing. And if you haven't seen it, I hope you like it. Make the popcorn before the movie starts, because you don't want to miss the little things.

William Martell

I think NIGHTCRAWLER is a great movie, but that is only my opinion. Art requires the test of time. Many films that were thought of as art at the time of their release are now thought of as crap... and vice versa. You have to take your opinion out of the equation, because everyone has an opinion. The example I usually use is the 1950 B creature feature INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS which was made for drive in theaters and no one thought was art at the time. They were just trying to make the best genre movie possible. Craft, not art. Well, decades later it has been recognized as one of the best American films of all time by the Library Of Congress, the tern "pod people" is part of our culture and vocabulary, and they've done 3 remakes. The B creature feature is art and the film that won Best Picture that year (which everyone thought was art at the time) is kind of a joke: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. So we can't tell what is art now... only time will tell what is art. Many plays, novels, poems, paintings which were seen as art at the time are now forgotten or seen as junk. For all we know, NIGHTCRAWLER will not age well at all and seem like AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS in sixty years.

Anthony Cawood

Nope

Cherie Grant

I don't think so.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

William: You make a good point about IOTBS. That is a magnificent film and nobody has been able to do it better. since. Believe it or not, I've never watched "Around the World in 80 Days" and I'm not interested in doing so. But based on what I know, time has not been kind to that one. I think you could add Titanic and The Greatest Show on earth to that list too.

Craig D Griffiths

I heard Craig Mazin (Hang Over movies etc) recently say, good adult drama has moved to TV because adults are willing to invest time in a series. Another factor is production costs have dropped. So more can be made. That doesn't automatically means quality follows volume.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Here in NYC, at Film Forum, a full house of cinema lovers watched a restored print of "The Third Man" set in Vienna and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles (as the nefarious Harry Lime) with cinematography you cannot forget. Why watch the current crop of stinkers -- when you can enjoy the classics!!

Fiona Faith Ross

A perfectly valid opinion @Floyd, and held by many. I don't agree with you. I'm a fiction writer who has migrated to screenwriting (although I haven't abandoned the long form, just taken a break from it.) A powerful prompt for me was seeing a couple of "bad" films, and thinking I could do better, so I'm having a go. I take the opposite view to you, that the volume of bad films make the quest for good films more compelling. I've decided to write for the big studios because they are looking for good films, and they will want mine. lol. I firmly believe good screenwriters can supply this demand for quality. I want to be one of these suppliers, and who's to say I won't succeed? lol 2. Indie films are not the last hope by any means, but also a valid market place, so write for both. My most recent trips to the movies include Jurassic World which disappointed me (no offence to the illustrious team) because although the effects were exciting, and I enjoyed the repeats of the best "Jurassic franchise" gags, the story line fell short. I dunno, maybe screenwriters make bad movie goers. Anyway, my latest viewing (yesterday) was Terminator Genisys. Great. Fabulous effects, attractive cast, all the best lines of dialogue we know and love, and above all, a Really Good Storyline. The ticking clock was the best ever. Thoroughly satisfying all round. So you see, Floyd, despite the forces of mediocrity doing their miserable best to annihilate good movies, they haven't succeeded, nor shall they, if the stalwart armies of screen-scribblers march on in their quest for quality. Stick at it, mate. Screenwriting might not be the best way to spend your day, (sore eyes, RSI, aching bones and increasing weight) but it's a wonderful life experience, especially when you look back and say, Did I really write that? Finally, a producer friend of mine often reminds me, "A production team can do wonders with a good script, but it can't do anything with a bad one." So make that your mantra. Turn out good scripts, and your friendly neighborhood studio will love you for it.

Owen Mowatt

"He's a retired hit-man called out for one last job".....PASS! "He's the worlds best secret agent and .....PASS! "The world is facing extinction unless.....PASS!! "Machines/AI take over the USA and apparently the "world" is in jeopardy.....PASS!!! "He wakes up after losing his memory and must remember before".....PASS!!!!! "Dumb teenagers in a secluded house and"....PASS!!!!! "A family move into a murder house where someone was murdered in a murderous way"......PASS!!!!! "They meet, fall out, but are thrown together when".......PASS!!!!!!!!!!! "A group of terrorist take over, but one man"......PASS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lastly, how could I forget.... "He's an orphan with superpowers....and responsibility!".................PASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe I'm just getting fussy in my old age, but you NEED the classics to wash away this shit.

Fiona Faith Ross

@Owen Point well made. I have trouble finding superheroes entertaining. I can't suspend disbelief, except...recent Batman films have been very watchable, and have you seen the trailer for the new Ant Man? Very intriguing (a touch of the late Michael Crichton, if you've read MICRO). I might be forced to pay money to go and see Ant Man. So, in a way, you're proving the point that old ideas can be revitalised by a new angle.

Owen Mowatt

Is he an orphan ant?

Cherie Grant

Wash your hands, Owen...orphaned superbeings are AWESOME. I'm practically drooling over the screen for the next Superman vs Batman film.

Fiona Faith Ross

@Owen Hahahahahahaha! I believe so. It is rumored his mother was royalty (she was a queen, in fact), but she died in a flying accident. His father is unknown.

Owen Mowatt

To each their own, Cherie, but I've got my fingers crossed that the crappiness of that film will signal the end of this superhero nonsense, once and for all. Enough already!

Floyd Marshall Jr.

Thanks for the awesome comments!

Michael Compton

In a word, the answer is no. I hear this opinion in some form quite often, and in fact it is a perennial complaint that goes back at least to the decline of Ancient Greece (not about screenwriting, obviously, but about dramatic writing in general). First of all, if anyone thinks there are a lot of bad movies now, they are clearly unfamiliar with movies of the 1920s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, etc. It's easy to glorify the movies/television of eras past when we only remember the good stuff. I remember the '70s, for example, very well, and although there were great and innovative films of a kind no longer made, there was also a TON of trash. The complaint that movies were better in the good old days was heard all the time. I don't totally discount this complaint, though, and the reason it never goes out of style, is because each era brings its own new challenges and new forms of garbage. It's true, they don't make 'em like they used to, mostly because they can't make 'em like they used to, and probably few would go see them if they did. Personally, I find plenty to like these days, and if we are including television writing as part of screenwriting, I find that there is so much good stuff to watch that I can't possibly get to it all. Is a particular kind of screenwriting dead? Maybe, but as always, something equally interesting and with great artistic potential will take its place.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I guess it doesn't take much to please me. I think Hollywood spits out great films quiet frequently.

John Garrett

There is always a LOT of bad art. Always. (that little dot is a period) What makes money? LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) Jackass...the fact that more than one was made tells you something. There is high art that the masses will never understand and you will be creating for other artists and a few connoisseurs. Then, once in a great while, a muse, a god, or a mental instability reaches out and crushes an artist.... and a form of art leaks from their pours and it is forged in the fire of the soul and is finally let out.....and somehow it makes it to the public and nearly everyone stands in awe of that work. Unfortunately all too often a person in a position to make this rare art get to the public cannot see it for what it is, and it dies a painfully slow death in a basement where the smell of it's death will stunt any further dream.

Owen Mowatt

You're so cheap. Haha

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

John: A happy, little pep talk... thanks, I think.

Floyd Marshall Jr.

Going to disagree with some of what you said Mike. I think people do know about films from other eras. Now yes there are good films out there now. Great films, but if you look at films from earlier eras the concentration seemed to be more on the storyline and the plot. Yes the 70's was horrible, but a lot of films today rely so heavily on cgi and special effects that the story takes a back seat. The machine is seemingly more interested in setting up films as sequels and trilogies. Now they say we want great films and awesome scripts but you see it when a film comes out. The first Stat is how much money did it make? Not is the film a good one, but what we're the box office numbers. And I think films have suffered because of that. Most sequels are trash. And most really good films just seem to get overlooked because they didn't do the numbers. But that's just my opinion.

Niksa Maric

Floyd, I agree with you regarding both opinions. There are bad movies created based on bad scripts and bad movie created from the good scripts, from day 1. It will always be like that, for that or this reason. I really don't know about trilogies part, maybe you're right but the part how much money did the movie made, 100% true. If some of you remember details about SONY hack scandal, there was an article or leaked mail between Michael Clayton and this "Unnamed" producer. I'm not sure about exact numbers but the movie they've made with Denzel Washington "The Equalizer" had a budget between 30-35 million and the movie made more than 100 million worldwide but that's not enough,it's never enough for some people. To triple your investment according to their vision of business is LOSS. How much money would satisfied their greedy appetites, a billion, 3 billion. How much is enough. I'm watching this Movie Industry from the distance, for now. Honestly, maybe I would go along with their "Vision" what business is, but only to a point. Maybe some of you will agree or disagree with this but this is just my opinion.

Bill Costantini

It all depends what your definition of "bad" is. Obviously, a lot of movies are made with the goal of getting the biggest box office, which requires them to appeal to the lowest common denominator. But at the same time, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, Nightcrawler, Birdman, Boyhood and Foxcatcher were recently made. Hopefully, there will always be room for both.

Niksa Maric

Bill, if you are responding to my post, the bad refers to low or no profit or profit way below the expectation.

Floyd Marshall Jr.

Bill for me bad is no storyline or plot or extremely weak plot fixed up with amazing cgi and special effects. For example, I attempted to watch Transformers with Marc Walberg. I couldn't do it. It was so bad it was ridiculous. Camera angles always managed to catch the daughters ass in a short pair of shorts. Cheesy dialog and just an awful storyline, but this is a franchise film that's made millions. As some have said they're catering to the lowest common denominator and going away from engaging you on a more cerebral level. Just my opinion.

Michael Compton

Floyd, I'm with you on the CGI. It's ruined many movies for me. On the other hand--The Lego Movie.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I guess nickname me LCD. And I'm not a display system.

Fiona Faith Ross

@Floyd I mostly agree with you about the Transformers movie. And I so wanted to enjoy it. I did, more than not. There were a lot of sympathetic moments, but I totally agree that the "ass shots" (and she is an incredibly attractive woman, let me say this, so no offence) were repeated to the point of being annoying. As for cerebral, Ex Machina was hugely thought-provoking, but then, it's an indie production.

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