Richard Brody of the New Yorker published an article this week under the inhospitable title, “Screenwriting Isn’t Writing.” The article discusses F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unsuccessful bout as a screenwriter, purporting:
Fitzgerald’s time in Hollywood was a period of illusion, of delusion over all. Much to his credit and much to his misfortune, he was unable to sell out. He didn’t condescend to the movies, but took them seriously—so seriously that he made the mistake of thinking that screenwriting was writing, and that it could take its place in his oeuvre, which, in turn, would mark the cinema with his original artistry.
Evidently, Mr. Brody shares “notes on the cinema” with New Yorker readers, which I find surprising because the man seems to have absolutely no respect for film as an art form, and particularly low regard for screenwriters.
Are there screenwriters who write bad scripts? Absolutely. Are there screenwriters who take writing jobs that they detest because they need to make a buck or pay their dues? Of course.
Mr. Brody, are you trying to say that amidst the sea of bad scripts, there aren’t ANY that you think are worthy of the title “art”? No, screenwriting isn’t novel writing. Screenwriting isn’t literature. Screenwriting is screenwriting. It’s an essential piece of a collaborative form of art and entertainment that has brought joy, insight, growth, laughter, tears, and a sense of communal experience to the majority of people around the world for over a hundred years. Is that not a pursuit worthy of a great writer?
You would almost certainly argue that the best novels stand on a higher plain than the best scripts. I can’t argue with that, because novels are completed works meant to stand on their own (unlike scripts). But can you really argue that novels in general are superior to film? Or that novelists are superior writers? Or that novelists do not also “sell out”? It only takes a glance around a book store to see that a lot of terrible novels get published. The only difference between a bad novel and a bad film is that less people are aware of the bad novel.
Ahh, I feel better. Readers, please add your thoughts in the comments.