Billy Ray on Hollywood’s Writer Problems

Posted on August 12, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Oscar nominated screenwriter Billy Ray (“The Hunger Games,” “Shattered Glass”) has a warning for “our next great screenwriters.” Hollywood will not help you. It will work against you. In a speech later adapted for an article on Medium, he explained:

When I started writing there were still a few mavericks out there; a few gunslingers who ran studios.

These were people who went with their guts and would make a movie just because they believed in it.

But that’s not the process anymore.

Today, before a studio chair can green-light a movie, that movie must also be blessed by the head of marketing, the head of foreign sales, and the head of home video.

It must be subjected to a process called “running the numbers,” which means that the movie’s cost — or, downside — is compared against its potential value because of its cast and what it might do in foreign markets.

This process takes into account every variable except the variable which actually matters — the one that can’t possibly be gauged by any sort of calculus — which is whether or not the movie’s going to be any good.

The good news is that technology has made it possible for singular creative visions to be realized for budgets low enough that they are within reach for passionate filmmakers. But it is called “show business,” and business comes first when corporate conglomerates are allocating tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars.

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