Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Looks at the Movie-Makers

By Hortense Powdermaker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
The Scribes

WRITERS, as well as producers, are part of the mésalliance which eventually gives birth to a script. What kind of people are the writers? Although they differ as do all members of any occupational group, certain uniformities appear; and as usual, the exceptions as well as the norm contribute to our understanding.

The best way to understand writers, or any other people, is through their motivations. The primary one for Hollywood writers is the same as it is for everyone else there, namely, the inflated salaries for which the industry is famous. Mediocre writers with no particular ability swarm there with the expectation of earning up to a thousand or more dollars a week. Gifted and talented writers come when they are broke, or are attracted by the idea of getting rich quickly. Usually they do not plan to remain, but many stay and are sucked into the system. Only a few struggle against it. These are the ones who, in addition to the desire for big salaries, have a genuine interest in making movies, a special facility for seeing stories in film imagery, and who are hopeful of utilizing some of the potentialities of the powerful medium. For some, also, the traditional fascination of anything connected with theater or movies acts as an added spur. Diverse motives are blended but underlying all is the basic one of easy and big money, which few writers, gifted or ungifted, can earn outside of Hollywood.

Most of them before coming to Hollywood made only a precarious living. They were newspaper reporters, sold an occasional radio script, did play reading in the offices of Broadway producers, read manuscripts or proof in publishing houses, or wrote advertising copy. Some had won a one-act play writing contest in college or the local Y. A number had written unproduced plays which an agent or producer said showed promise. Others were white-collar

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