Weekend Reading - Lessons of Hollywood, by Matthew Specktor
Lessons of Hollywood: On the Fate of “Middle Class” Art
by Matthew Specktor
April 19, 2013
This personal essay by novelist Matthew Specktor is nominally about the movie industry and the business of lit-to-screen adaptations in the 1990s. It’s interesting perspective for anyone interested in economic decision-making in ‘big’ entertainment industries (publishing included) and the (perceived) stubbornness of ‘old’ models:
I worked cheek-to-jowl with people in publishing, in fact my job had a great deal more to do with the world of publishing than it did with the world of film. I saw my bosses in Los Angeles a couple times per year. I spent every day on the phone with literary agents, all my free hours taking editors and writers to lunch, drinks, and dinner. I witnessed the rise of the “literary thriller,” and saw first hand the explosion, the wild proliferation of the gargantuan advance for stylish, usually young, writers unlikely to earn out. Just weeks before I started working for my two actors, Nicholas Evans’s The Horse Whispererstirred up an enormous sensation by selling, on the basis of a slender proposal, for $3.15 million at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In other words, the book business, that fabled bastion of intellectual integrity, seemed to me to behave exactly as the film industry did. To be driven by hype, and hot air, and to involve the placement of outsized bets on individuals perhaps a little more glamorous than they were talented. It was the nature of business, and not even any particular business, that it be so.