Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Cinema: How are Hollywood films made?


Writers Guild of America
Interviews with Hollywood screenwriters, tutorials and advice on writing, resources, and much more.

Having trouble writing your screenplay? Wordplay features articles and tutorials as well as industry advice from Hollywood producers, writers, and executives.

Writers Under Fire: The 1950s

In the 1950s, the Supreme Court declared that studios that owned chains of movie houses had a monopoly. The practice was declared illegal, and this ruling marked the beginning of the end for the Hollywood movie moguls, the all-powerful studio heads who had reigned in the early days of the studio system. As screenwriters increasingly worked on a freelance or project-by-project basis, and as the powerful studios weakened, writers no longer enjoyed the same protection they once had.

At the same time, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began their campaign against suspected Communists. They doggedly pursued possible Communists in the film industry, which included going after screenwriters. Without the protection of the studios, writers were easy prey.

From 1947 to 1960, many writers, including the famous "Hollywood Ten," were blacklisted as a result of their investigation by HUAC. They were not allowed to work in the movie industry, sometimes for more than a decade. To stay afloat, many blacklisted writers went underground, writing under false names and using someone else to "front" their work. The blacklisting ended in 1960. That year, Dalton Trumbo, one of the blacklisted screenwriters, was given credit for writing the popular films Spartacus and Exodus.

Screenwriting today

Screenwriters today are important and often powerful players in the filmmaking process. They are paid as well as directors and producers are, and their work is considered an art. Screenplays are often published and sold to the general public in bookstores just like novels and plays.

Though rare in the 1930s and 1940s, many screenwriters today are asking to direct in order to guide their script through the filmmaking process. The number of writers who turn to directing steadily increases year after year. Even if they do not direct, screenwriters often have a say in the project from script through production, collaborating closely with actors and directors to foster their ideas through to finished film.

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 "Cinema" is inspired by programs from American Cinema.


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