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The following appeared in an ad for a book titled How to Write a Screenplay
for a Movie.
“Writers who want to succeed should try to write film screenplays rather than
books, since the average film tends to make greater profits than does even a bestselling
book. It is true that some books are also made into films. However, our
nation’s film producers are more likely to produce movies based on original
screenplays than to produce films based on books, because in recent years the films
that have sold the most tickets have usually been based on original screenplays.”
Discuss how well reasoned... etc.
This advertisement for “How to Write a Screenplay...” concludes that a writer is more likely to be successful by writing original
screenplays than by writing books. The ad’s reasoning is based on two claims: (1) the average film tends to be more profitable than
even best-selling books, and (2) film producers are more likely to make movies based on original screenplays than on books because in
recent years the films that have sold the most tickets have usually been based on original screenplays. I find the ad unconvincing, on
First, the mere fact that ticket sales in recent years for screenplay-based movies have exceeded those for book-based movies is
insufficient evidence to conclude that writing screenplays now provides greater financial opportunity for writers. Ticket-sale statistics
from only a few recent years are not necessarily a good indicator of future trends. It is possible that fees paid by movie studios for
screenplays might decrease in the future relative to those for book rights. Moreover, the argument is based on number of ticket sales,
not on movie-studio profits or writer’s fees. It is possible that studio profits and writer fees have actually been greater recently for
book-based movies than for those based on original screenplays.
Another problem with the ad is that it assumes a writer must make an either-or choice from the outset between writing books and
writing screenplays. The argument fails to rule out the possibility that a writer engage in both types of writing as well as other types. In
fact a writer may be more successful by doing so. Writing in various genres might improve one’s effectiveness in each of them. Also,
writing a book may be an effective first step to producing a screenplay. In any event, the ad provides no justification for the mutually
exclusive choice it imposes on the writer.
A third problem with the ad is its ambiguous use of the word “successful.” The argument simply equates success with movie ticket
sales. However, many writers may define writing success in other terms, such as intellectual or artistic fulfillment. The ad’s advice that
writing screenplays is the best way to achieve writing success ignores other definitions of success.
In conclusion, this quick pitch for a book is based on simplistic assumptions about ticket sales and writer fees, and on an overly narrow
definition of success in writing. To better evaluate this argument, at the very least we would need to know the number of years the cited
statistic was based on, and the extent to which ticket sales reflect movie studio profits and writer fees.