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

By Hortense Powdermaker | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IX
The Answers

IT IS part of man's nature to try and find answers to his problems, and, in Hollywood as in any society, the answers are conditioned by the culture. If a primitive agricultural people are faced with a shortage of rain, their culture prescribes the making of appropriate magic to meet the situation. The answers to the writers' problems are likewise conditioned by the Hollywood social system.

The nature of any particular writer's problem depends, in part, on his position in the success hierarchy. For the young and inexperienced, the question is, How can they learn the craft of movie writing, get jobs and screen credits, and rise in the salary scale? For the successful writers, particularly those with talent, the problem is, How can they gain more control over their material and so increase their personal satisfactions?

There is, of course, more than one answer to each problem.

For the first group, there are the traditional Hollywood techniques: "playing the game" and "knowing the right people." However, although the community emphasizes the breaks for everyone, there is more recognition of the necessity of the writer's having some skill than there is for the actor or producer. Most people think the writer should be, at least, a good craftsman.

But the industry as a whole sponsors very little formal training. Two of the major studios had, at different times in the past and for limited periods, an apprenticeship system for young, promising writers. One selected twelve such writers on the basis of something they had written which seemed to show talent, and gave them six weeks' training, during which time they were paid $75 a week. The group met one night a week with three of the producers. They were given assignments, such as writing a scene to show conflict between two characters, or one which would bring the two

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