Concerning Film

Bertolt Brecht
Translated from the German by E. J. Campfield

In my opinion, screenwriters are up against the following obstacles:

1.) Screenplays are written to cater to the trends of the moment. The independent writer, working outside the studio system, is not privy to the changing needs and requirements of the particular studios. No engineer draws up a complicated design and holds it in reserve in hopes that he will someday find a firm which urgently needs exactly that design.

2.) Those in charge have a deep natural dislike for those who want to be in charge. This natural dislike is shared by those in charge of those in charge, and so forth.

3.) Competition in the film industry resembles a horse race in that exacting attention is always given to colorful saddle blankets and the markings of the horses. The meager independent writer is hard pressed to compete with this.

4.) If the film industry believes trash is more palatable than good work, it is an excusable misconception, given the public’s unlimited capacity for consuming trash, and given the prevalence of writers who equate higher art with boring “misunderstood writers” whose work is beyond the grasp of the general public. But the malfeasance of writers who regard film as trash and yet still write screenplays is inexcusable. There are powerful films that have a pronounced effect on people, who may still regard them as trash, but there are no powerful films produced by people who regard films as trash.

5.) The problems of dealing with the film industry would be largely solved if some other means of selling and distributing artistically acceptable screenplays were invented.

--Bertolt Brecht
September 5, 1922

“Über den Film”
from Schriften zum Theater, Volume II

Translation copyright ©1980, 2008 by E. J. Campfield. All rights reserved.