In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series, I’ve presented various reasons why I believe the current Hollywood business models are flawed. But what good am I yelling out what everyone already knows if I can’t offer any solutions?

So here are my solutions. They have their own flaws, to be sure, but at their core they are designed to make the industry operate more efficiently and improve profitability.

Let’s start with feature films. There is no question that the expensive blockbusters have a place in Hollywood. Big expenditures, big production values, big marketing campaigns. These massive undertakings attract big audiences and generate big revenues. Now, I could argue that there is enormous waste of capital in these endeavors, but the truth is that the studios already know this. The problem is that there are so many people that they must keep happy that nickel-and-diming these productions just won’t make much difference. Studios pay big directors and big production people the big bucks because they have the experience and stamina to manage these behemoths. So let’s just leave these babies alone.

I’m talking about everything else. The entire system is a mess from an operational standpoint. We have to take the whole thing apart and redesign it. From Part 1, we learned that a piece of material has to go through multiple gatekeepers before it gets produced. Thousands of writers submit material to hundreds of agents, who filter the material to dozens of producers, who each have 40 projects they are developing, while trying to convince tens of executives to consider these projects, resulting in several dozen movies getting made each year.

Wasted productivity abounds. Enormous amounts of time are sucked up reading material, most of which don’t have a chance of being made. Even more time is used during “meet and greets” in which an executive who has liked a writer’s work will meet said writer at executive’s office and talk about how much they both love movies, each trying to impress the other and, if both are single, sussing out the odds of nooky. Then the writer gets sent off to come up with a pitch for something the executive wants to see made into a movie, and 98% of that effort goes unrewarded (excepting nooky scenarios). Throw in the amount of time everyone spends fighting traffic to go to lunch meetings or meetings at other studios, and the dollar value of this wasted productivity, if converted to cash, would provide every American with free healthcare forever.

And don’t tell me this filtering system works. Most films stink and most films lose money – a lot of money. It’s the blockbusters and occasional sleepers that generate Hollywood profits.

Here’s how I propose fixing this dysfunctional system.

As mentioned in my earlier articles, the fear inherent in the system results in the hiring of expensive talent in order to hedge bureaucrats against the loss of their job. So while there are talented “A-list” people worth every penny they are paid, it leaves a sizable talent pool underemployed. I call this pool the Bridesmaids (or Bridesgrooms so as to eliminate gender discrimination). The Bridesmaids have the following in common: 1) Exceptional and proven talent, 2) Never had a movie produced or TV pilot go to series, 3) Stay in the game because they are so close to having a movie or series produced, 4) Are paid well, 5) Are consummate professionals and great team members.

There are dozens of these Bridesmaids.

The other pool is the Journeymen (or Journeywomen, see above parenthetical). They share all the traits of the Bridesmaids, but they haven’t yet had a shot at a pilot, have sold a pitch here and there, and have a modest rewriting or TV series staff career going. They are highly reliable, work quickly, and are hunting in a big way for the big dream.

The studios need to return to the system in place in the mid 20th-century with these pools as their cornerstones. Hire anywhere between 50 and 100 Bridesmaid and Journeymen screenwriters. Filter out those that specialize in self-indulgent personal crap. Find the people who can deliver. Throw in a dozen young new talents with original voices. Keep the truly best A-list writers. Give them each an office in a central location, where they can all mingle, bounce ideas off of each other, bitch, moan, and do what they do best – create.

Give them weekend retreats at a nice resort with the marketing department. Educate the writers on how marketing works. Yes, we know success is random, but marketing is a mélange of science and art and when it works, it really works. Bring the writer into the process. Vaccinate them further against writing self-indulgent personal crap.

Next, the studios choose what movies they want to make. They set up the parameters. The studio bigwigs are being paid a lot of money. With great salary must come great responsibility. If they’re afraid of losing the job, don’t take the job. They have to take responsibility for what they do. They want a thriller? Choose a writer and have him write a friggin’ thriller. Don’t waste time hearing a pitch. The writer’s an employee. He gets it. Let him write something cool. If he doesn’t deliver, pass the project off to another writer to rewrite or kill it.

Oh, and pay those writers. Pay them well by American standards: $150,000 per year, plus WGA benefits, increases per inflation rate. If the film they wrote gets made, a bonus equal to 2% of the production budget. And 1% of gross box office. Yep, you heard me. A gross point (I can hear the screaming in the corridors of power now). Why? Two reasons:

1) The total amount of money spent under this scenario will be a fraction of what is currently spent under the broken system.
2) It changes what is currently a highly antagonistic employer-employee relationship into a partnership. Everyone’s interests are aligned.

Right now, most writers live in a world of hope. They waste productivity. Writers are regularly subjected to free rewrites, exacerbating their generalized rage disorders. The chances of a movie getting made are minuscule, writers know this, so they’re really only interested in getting paid out on their project. Total dollars earned are not reflective of total effort exerted.

But – BUT — can one imagine the levels of productivity a studio would see if a writer is handed a project that the studio has already approved of, that has a higher chance of being produced than under the current system, with a massive life-changing back-end as the carrot?


Go read up on Southwest Airlines, and you’ll see what effect this will have.

[I’ve also just saved the industry hundreds of millions of dollars since there will never again be a labor action, because any writer who complains about this level of treatment has bigger problems than anyone can ever solve. The directors never strike, and SAG/AFTRA is such a cluster f**k that they couldn’t even mount a strike if they wanted to].

When the studio is happy with a script, THEN a producer comes in. The studio selects the producer who is the best fit based on their prior experience. Producer doesn’t like the project? They can’t find the emotional connection to the material? It’s not something they want to do? Then they should pass. They shouldn’t fear being cut out of the system. They’ve been selected because of their past experience. They can take on another project. In the meantime, they are free to develop projects on their own with any writer they wish. Studios can provide various producers a modest discretionary development fund. Not too much. Enough to handle 4 or 5 scripts at a time. That forces the producer to concentrate on the material they love, enhancing their productivity.

Finally, allocate a minimum of fifteen percent of each year’s budgets to new producers, new writers, and new film-makers. You can’t innovate without new blood.

This system also eliminates 90% of the bureaucracy. All those executives – and apologies to those whom I’m friendly with – must move on. And they should anyway. You know why? They’ve been given impossible jobs that truly provide little room for advancement. Now I’ve seen people advance, but it’s about as frequent as the screenwriter who gets a movie made. The job isn’t about getting movies made. The job is about keeping the job. Who wants that kind of job?

Next time: Fixing Television, and Handling the Handlers.

Lawrence Meyers is a screenwriter, author, entrepreneur, and co-founder of PDL Capital. He can be reached at

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