Married to writer John Emerson, the pair wrote one of the first books on screenwriting in 1920: “How to Write Photoplays”. I have been running a weekly series based on the book. You can access those posts here. Today: The Kinds Of Stories That Sell [P. 72]:
Amateur photoplay writers, if they hope to attain success, should first direct all their creative efforts toward coaxing a check from its lair, although, of course, they must never lose consciousness of their artistic ideals.
Once they have achieved fame, they can afford to go into art for art’s sake alone. It should be remembered that in literature and drama alike there is an artistic side and a practical side. Often the real masterpiece lies unnoticed for years, while the potboilers sell like hot cakes.
This one of the best chapters in the book as it is remarkable how similar the ideas behind the practices of the movie business are today compared to 1920. Here, for example, the tension between movies as commerce and movies as art. Studios will make prestige and award type movies, but by and large, they are in the “potboiler” and popcorn movie business.
Moreover this perspective quoted here is very much in sync with a post I wrote: Write what they’re buying or sell them your dream.
Next week, more screenwriting advice from 90 years ago.
If you live in the U.S., you can read “How to Write Photoplays” via Google books online here.