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

By Hortense Powdermaker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
Assembling the Script

WRITING in Hollywood can be compared to an assembly line, but one in which the assertion of an individual's ego, usually the producer's, is generally more important than the quality of the script. Since the Hollywood structure is somewhat fluid, a star or director may also dominate the script, but rarely does a writer. As we have seen, the front-office executive is always in the background ready to wield his authority, too.

The script is the basic raw material from which a movie is made. If it is weak or shoddy, a good picture cannot be made from it, any more than a strong bridge could be constructed with poor steel. The importance of the script to the finished movie cannot be overestimated. Therefore, how scripts are written is significant not only in understanding Hollywood, but also in answering the question of why movies are good or bad entertainment.

While many people engaged in the production of movies realize the script's importance, they take for granted the system in which it is turned out. The anthropologist, of course, takes nothing for granted, but analyzes the way any part of a system functions in relation to the whole.

To make clear the nature of movie writing, it is necessary to replace the usual connotation of the word "writer" by its meaning in Hollywood. There, writers are part of the production of pictures rather than authors. A bon mot in the community is that "writers in Hollywood do not have works, but are workers." In the customary and literary sense, a writer is a person who has the desire and ability to write about his experiences and observations, for others to read. These observations reflect his philosophy or point of view about life.

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction - Why an Anthropologist Studied Hollywood 3
  • Chapter I - Habitat and People, Mythical and Real 16
  • Chapter II - Mass Production of Dreams 39
  • Chapter III - Taboos 54
  • Chapter IV - Front Office 82
  • Chapter V - Men Who Play God 100
  • Chapter VI - Lesser Gods, but Colossal 111
  • Chapter VII - The Scribes 131
  • Chapter VIII - Assembling the Script 150
  • Chapter IX - The Answers 170
  • Chapter X - Directors 185
  • Chapter XI - Acting, in Hollywood 205
  • Chapter XII - Stars 228
  • Chapter XIII - Actors Are People 254
  • Chapter XIV - Emerging from Magic 281
  • Chapter XV - Hollywood and the U.S.A. 307
  • Index 333
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