Friday, April 17, 2020

My Life As A Writer: Hollywood's Myopia Will Kill It

A while back, Brian Niemeier observed that most writers are so influenced by film and television that their written prose reads like a transliterated movie. It turns out that this is not entirely incidental or accidental. When you go looking for videos on writing, writing for the screen is far and away the most dominant subset that comes up; writing for OldPub comes second.

Channels such as Film Courage, Behind The Curtain, Tyler Mowery, The Closer Look all focus their writing content on film and television. Specifically, they focus on writing for the Hollywood machine. These channels are the A/V counterpart of OldPub channels like iWriterly; they talk with total myopia on their specific subset of the larger media within which they exist, completely ignoring (save for a few darlings) that other centers of the business even exist, and all of their talk about writing is tainted accordingly.

In short, the same institutional incompetent we see in OldPub is reflected in Hollywood, and because the structure of the institutions are nigh-identical--talent needs agent to shop manuscript around to sell for meager returns and little respect outside of a handful of whales and a few more well-connected insiders--so therefore is the origin of the rot and the progress of its spread. Only the greater size has made it seem otherwise until the last few years.

This also means that Hollywood--as with OldPub and Big Two comics--are going to be disrupted good and hard by the same means we've seen appear to the aforementioned. NewPub has disrupted OldPub significantly now; the paper supply shock is threatening to shutter at least another publisher as well as the last remaining big corporate bookstore chain. If you think the big studios aren't scrambling to find a way to make streaming their bitch, you aren't paying attention; Corona-chan threatens to kill movie theater chains permanently, so that real estate business is as big a weakness as OldPub's paper-pushing problem. Disrupt a pillar, and you can bring down a giant.

And with that comes the exposure of so many "good practices" revealing themselves to be utter horseshit, as the OldPub crowd clinging to WorldCon and the Hugos with white-knuckled terror have to confront now that they've noticed #20Booksto50K and boy are those whores so mad that #20Books eats their lunch all day every day and twice on Sundays. I fully expect a lot of those oh-so-important Hollywood folks to be suffering internal Blue Screens of Death when it hits them that their Best Practices are such hot garbage out in the global marketplace.

Why? For the same reason OldPub can't comprehend why The Shadow is still a compelling character: their dogma rejects the idea such a character could even exist.

This a dogma in Hollywood. Your protagonist has to have a fundamental character flaw, and overcoming that flaw is the price your protagonist has to pay to get what he wants; the world has to change the character to make this happen. If you don't have this, your script gets rejected every single time, and the system of Hollywood won't put money into making it into a movie.

This is a dogma that is defeated with just one comeback: "Explain Dr. No."

The dogma is yet another mutation on Joseph Campbell's Hero Journey concept, formalized into a writing formula by George Lucas and then made Mad-Libs level retarded by books like Save The Cat. It's imposed by Boomers and enforced by their meme-clones, just like you see in OldPub with its own dogmas.

I'll quote Robin Laws' article on Iconic Heroes to explain what Hollywood cannot comprehend:

While a dramatic hero follows a character arc in which he is changed by his experience of the world (examples: Orpheus, King Lear, Ben Braddock), an iconic hero undertakes tasks (often serially) and changes the world, restoring order to it, by remaining true to his essential self.

Prevailing creative writing wisdom favors the changeable dramatic character over his serially unchanging iconic counterpart, but examples of the latter remain enduring tentpoles of popular culture. It’s the clear, simple, elemental iconic heroes who keep getting reinvented every generation. Each such classic character spoke to the era of its invention, while also evoking an eternal quality granting it a continuing resonance. We are going to create a new set of heroes who speak to the contemporary world while evoking the inescapable power of the iconic model.

An iconic hero re-imposes order on the world by reasserting his essential selfhood. The nature of his radical individuality can be summed up with a statement of his iconic ethos. It is the ethos that grants higher meaning to the hero’s actions, and a clue to his creator’s intentions. An iconic hero’s ethos motivates and empowers him.

The Shadow is the strongest example of an Iconic Hero in American media, and it is because that character is iconic that he is hated by Hollywood and fellow travelers in OldPub and Big Two.

Why? Because the Icon is truth personified, and we all know how well those who run the media institutions hate the truth because they hate the Truth.

Now you see why Hollywood teaches writing wrong. It's not an accident. It's deliberate, and because it's been too dominate for too long it developed myopia; this inability to see that alternatives exist, alternatives that embrace the Iconic and thrive accordingly, are what will end up killing it once co-morbidity loads exceed its ability to bear them (as is already the case with OldPub and the Big Two).

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