Brain Drain: Are Feature Films Losing Their Prestige Mojo to Television?


In the current edition of John Nolte‘s Hollywood Playbook, this item caught my eye: Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr. and Variety‘s Peter Bart discuss the state of movies and whether or not films are dealing with a brain drain as talented writers and producers head over to television in the hopes of grabbing their own piece of this new Golden Age.


Bart thinks it is all cyclical. Fleming is edging towards despair.

Fleming: Working on the Deadline/Awardsline Emmy issues prompted me to binge my way through cable series like True Detective and House Of Cards. It really got me depressed about the movie business.

Bart: Why?

Fleming: Because those series and 10 more like them are better than anything I see on a movie screen. For the 25 years I’ve covered it, film has always been the sexiest, most prestigious part of the business. … But now, it feels like the ecosystem has been damaged. The creative vision on the big films comes from executives who give creativity-stifling one-step screenwriter deals, with emphasis on reaching four quadrant audiences. Producers have been marginalized. Should the authorship of a picture belong to the studio exec? By contrast, some of the best series are generated by feature writers who couldn’t get hired after studios turned away from smart mid-budget dramas in favor of no-budget genre and high-priced tent poles. I remember Tony Gilroy telling me a couple years ago that movies like his superb Michael Clayton would go extinct, but there should be no funeral because all those writers who made them were flocking to TV and wait and see what happens. Man, was he right. Will the next generation growing up in this creative blight be inspired by mediocrity to dream about having the authority to reboot The Hangover?


First off, “Michael Clayton” sucked. And I don’t think the idea of a “Hangover” reboot will wait for another generation. In five years, “The Hangover” will return with the characters as dads, or something.

Basically, what has happened is pretty much what many predicted would happen 30 years ago when the first big screen televisions and VCRs made the home theatre an affordable reality for the hoi polloi. There will always be masturbatory film festivals so industry types can feel like beautiful people, but everyday movie theatres are more and more reserved for teenagers who want to get out of the house. It is all about the movies they like – horror, R-rated comedy, and the kind of sci-fi/comic book/actions spectacle no 55-inch plasma can deliver.

Sure, there will always be exceptions (like Oscar bait).  As we can see, though, the drama has mostly migrated to where it belongs: on television. That’s a good thing, though, isn’t it?  It isn’t just television that has never been better — dramas have never been better.

More on this conversation between Fleming and Bart here.

One Comment on “Brain Drain: Are Feature Films Losing Their Prestige Mojo to Television?”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet From the current edition of John Nolte‘s Hollywood Playbook, this caught my eye: […]

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