How Hollywood is killing the art of screenwriting

All we TVWriter™ minions can say is that the art of writing for, you know, movies, may be at a low point, but the writing of this article is way up there:


by Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Writing is dead. Long live writing. What do I mean when I say writing is dead? That’s a whole other article, but in brief: cinema killed the novel, email killed the letter, CGI killed cinema and Twitter killed email. The good news is that, despite this bloodbath, writing is actually alive and well and living in Texas. And the reason I know that is that I was there at the end of last month.

The Austin Film Festival, where I had a script in the competition, is the only major film festival in the US that focuses primarily on the writers (as opposed to directors or actors). The result is that, for those few days while the festival takes place, you can’t stir an elbow in Austin without knocking over a writer’s pint. The place is crawling with them, seething with them. It seems to be breeding them — and there’s certainly a degree of sexual activity that goes on, as I learned from one tired, unrepentant writer who showed me some intriguing pictures on his iPhone. Why wouldn’t there be? We all have so much in common. It was like the gathering of dwarf actors before the filming of The Wizard of Oz in 1939, which swiftly devolved into a mass dwarf orgy.

For those who don’t know, the way a film festival works is this. Some films are shown, some awards are given, some drinks are drunk. Meanwhile, everyone’s trying to make a deal. The difference in Austin is that a large part of the festival is taken up by the conference, which consists of panels (three distinguished screenwriters discuss a topic with a moderator), conversations (one distinguished screenwriter discusses one of his films with a moderator), and round-table events (several distinguished screenwriters discuss the craft with many undistinguished screenwriters such as myself). And the message that came out of these variegated sessions, like a chorus in a song, is that cinema is tough right now for writers. It’s all happening in television.

This is hardly surprising for anyone who has watched The Sopranos,Breaking Bad, House of Cards, True Detective, or any of the other extraordinarily literate, near-novelistic TV shows that have blossomed on our screens over the past 15 years. They’re calling it a golden age of television.

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