Marc Norman’s “What Happens Next”

In a “Big Picture” column piece based upon Marc Norman‘s “What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting,” a book that came out last week, L.A. TImes guy Patrick Goldstein says Norman “isn’t especially optimistic” about relations between screenwriters and studio execs over the coming years, primarily because “the old studio patriarchs have been replaced by executives who think they’re more in touch with the public taste than most writers.

As Norman puts it, “There’s now a generation of executives who wonder why the writer couldn’t be more like a court stenographer who can just put the executives’ ideas into writing,” says Goldtsein. Hey…wasn’t this precisely the attitude of Peter Gallagher‘s Larry Levy character in Robert Altman‘s The Player. Remember that creative-meeting scene when he asks an assistant to read stories from a newspaper at random, and Levy explains how each story could be a movie with the right attitude and ingredients?

I received Norman’s book in the mail the same day that Goldstein did, probably. I started to flip through it a couple of times but something always came up. How many hundreds of thousands of people regard the words “something came up” as the story of their lives?

  • Hash

    “How many hundreds of thousands of people regard the words “something came up” as the story of their lives?”

    The people who apparently havent gotten around to go out and see In The Valley of Elah and who wont see Lions for Lambs.

  • MASON

    Goldstein’s article was basically propaganda for the AMPTP — just like the rest of the LA Times ridiculously biased coverage.

    If you didn’t read it, I’ll summarize it for you — all writers are irrational and crazy. The end.

  • T. Holly

    In defense of skimming books, which that French guy defended in the Sunday NY Times, can you put whatever came up, down, and skim some more? Because Patrick really used it and twisted it to stick it to writers. In my life, “something came up” means I’m doing a headstand.

  • Arizona Joe

    Hollywood filmmaking is an industry, just like the automobile industry or the electronic appliance industry or the healthcare industry.

    All industries in this country are controlled by MBAs and lawyers who think they know better than those actually making the product or service. Lording it over the educated serfs of America are an uber class of know-it-alls who know nothing save how to keep a stock price up and transform everything to a widget on a spreadsheet.

    I believe the mentality of the MBA owes to two cornerstones of business education, 1) the case study method where one is taught to get inside the head of the consumer and anticipate his or her wants and needs, and 2)consumer behavior studies which inculcate the notion that you give the buyer exactly what he or she wants, pandering to the lowest common denominator of taste and intelligence.

    Hence, in this system, Paddy Chayefsky or Clifford Oddets is not king, but instead the ruling oligarchy is a consumer sampling of Joe Blows in Columbus, Ohio, manipulated by their business school masters.

    Craftsmanship and quality have gone out the window in the name of quick profits and gargantuan bonuses for an echelon of shitheels adroit at putting the hoi polloi under demographic arrest.

    Yes Wells, something is always coming up, like all of us engaging in blogging of dubious relevancy and enrichment.

  • http://christiandivine.com christian

    I’m reminded of a scene in the final Larry Sanders with Bob Odenkirk as his agent: “Fucking artists…they’re all crazy, neurotic babies…I can’t tell you how easy our job would be if we didn’t have to deal with talent.”

  • The Hoyk

    How many hundreds of thousands of people regard the words “something came up” as the story of their lives?

    Umm…Marcia Brady for one.

  • malibugigolo

    T. Holly:

    Quiet Girl by Hoeg was fantastic. You wanted the book report, right?

  • T. Holly

    Yes, can I borrow the book?

  • malibugigolo

    I already loaned it out. Sorry.

  • Ogami Itto

    How many hundreds of thousands of people regard the words “something came up” as the story of their lives?

    Umm…Marcia Brady for one.

    The Hoyk: All Wells needs now is a smack in the nose to teach him an important life lesson.

  • T. Holly

    Naw, that’s what The Bee Movie’s for. Ain’t nothin’ gonna get me down today, cuz I’m wearing new boots.

  • dcc77

    Arizona Joe:

    < >

    And it has been since the 1920s. Yet, great films have always been made in spite of this fact.

    < >

    When was the writer EVER king? Maybe a few directors had some power for a while but no writer ever wielded much power or influence, even if they were a world-renowned literary talent slumming in Hollywood, like Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Faulkner.

    < >

    While certain films age well, the overwhelming majority make you wince when you haven’t seen them in 10 years. Special effects, cinematography and even screenwriting have improved drastically in the last 20 years. Even writing in the early 80s is exposition-heavy.

    Yes, MBAs run most industries there’s no argument there. However, what we idealistic cinephile’s forget is that these businessmen deliver “value” to their mass audience. Examples of value: Kids want superheroes, special effects and action, girls want predictable romance, adults want believable drama, etc.

    These moviegoers don’t demand as much of their filmmakers as the folks on this site; they don’t want the next MEMENTO, they just want to be entertained. Railing against the system is 21st century windmill tilting. Be happy that films like the superior BEFORE THE DEVIL… still get made and move on.

  • dcc77

    REPOSTED WITH EXCERPTS VISIBLE:

    Arizona Joe:

    — Hollywood filmmaking is an industry, just like the automobile industry or the electronic appliance industry or the healthcare industry —

    And it has been since the 1920s. Yet, great films have always been made in spite of this fact.

    — Hence, in this system, Paddy Chayefsky or Clifford Odets is not king… —

    When was the writer EVER king? Maybe a few directors had some power for a while but no writer ever wielded much power or influence, even if they were a world-renowned literary talent slumming in Hollywood, like Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Faulkner.

    — Craftsmanship and quality have gone out the window in the name of quick profits and gargantuan bonuses. —

    While certain films age well, the overwhelming majority make you wince when you haven’t seen them in 10 years. Special effects, cinematography and even screenwriting have improved drastically in the last 20 years. Even writing in the early 80s is exposition-heavy.

    Yes, MBAs run most industries there’s no argument there. However, what we idealistic cinephile’s forget is that these businessmen deliver “value” to their mass audience. Examples of value: Kids want superheroes, special effects and action, girls want predictable romance, adults want believable drama, etc.

    These moviegoers don’t demand as much of their filmmakers as the folks on this site; they don’t want the next MEMENTO, they just want to be entertained. Railing against the system is 21st century windmill tilting. Be happy that films like the superior BEFORE THE DEVIL… still get made and move on.

  • malibugigolo

    There is really sexy picture of Faulker, sans shirt in the book. And a great anecdote about how Billy Wilder got into it with Raymond Chandler, who was quite the wallflower, resorting to sliding notes underneath his door.