Film Industry Quotes
Compiled by John W. Cones

The following is a collection of quotes from a variety of observers of the Hollywood- based U.S. film industry that tend to support the need for film industry reform. None of these individuals are associated with the FIRM web site in any way. Where only the author's name and page number are provided, please see the FIRM site bibliography for more information on the source of the quote.

Poor Quality Movies

" . . . movies are one of the bad habits that corrupted our century . . . an eruption of trash that has lamed the American mind and retarded Americans from becoming a cultured people." Ben Hecht as quoted in Kent, Nicolas, Naked Hollywood--Money and Power in the Movies Today, St. Martin's Press, 1991, 131.

"Religious and political leaders, film critics, studio executives, and most ominously, many consumers agree, too many movies are excessively violent and mean-spirited, gratuitously sexual and profane, and mind-lessly similar and formulaic." Pierce O'Donnell, 102.

"There was once a time when popular American movies told the stories of adults. Now they tell the stories of adolescents, of all ages; the values and thoughts of most Hollywood movie characters are no more complex or interesting than those of the typical teen-ager. Even characters in their thirties or forties behave in a simple-minded, narcissistic way, and rarely do they have serious opinions about anything." Roger Ebert, xiii.

"Hardly ever do we get an American movie about adults who are attempting to know themselves better, live better lives, get along more happily with the people around them. Most American movies are about the giving and receiving of violent pain." Roger Ebert, 618.

The studios' " . . . desire to repeat their successes is encouraged by the mass audience, the members of which often value familiar plots, characters, and morals over more artistically innovative fare." David Prindle, 25.

Lowest Common Denominator

"The potential audience for movies is as diversified as it is that for books, for magazines and for newspapers . . . (but) Hollywood has consistently prepared fare suited to a young and relatively uneducated audience . . . " Hortense Powdermaker, 109.

" . . . Hollywood has cheapened the teen-age years into predictable vulgarity . . . most Hollywood movies think teen-agers can (only) experience . . . (and are filled with) . . . egotism, lust, and selfishness . . . " Ebert, Roger, Roger Ebert's Video Companion, 1994 Edition, Andrews and McMeel, 1993, 401.

David Puttnam said: "[t]he medium is too powerful and too important an influence on the way we live to be left solely to the tyranny of the box office, or reduced to the lowest common denominator of public taste." Charles Kipps, 230.

The submission process itself " . . . favours the acceptance of simple, recognizable plots and characters and encourages the rejection of scripts dealing with complex ideas in an original way." Nicholas Kent, 139.

French director Francois Truffaut states that " . . . what impressed him the most (about Hollywood films) was not their differences, but their resemblances." As quoted in Custen, George F., Bio/Pics--How Hollywood Constructed Public History, Rutgers University Press, 1992, 26.

"Screenwriters have grown so lazy in recent years that it's almost too much to ask them to resolve a plot on human terms. The last reel of most thrillers now involves the obligatory death of the villain, as if death were a solution." Roger Ebert, 644.

Lack of Diversity

"There's a whole world of subject matter that will never be touched by the major studios." William Goldman, 52.

"The studio elite, the twenty-four white males over fifty--'The club'--has been impoverished by their sameness, by their lack of diversity . . . " Quote from Pierce O'Donnell in Gaydos, Steven, "Piercing Indictment", Los Angeles Reader, December 11, 1992, 14.


"Fewer movies, higher risks with spiralling costs, and uninspired decision making have dramatically reduced the opportunities for alternative points of view to make it to the silver screen. In the process, movies fail to portray current socio-economic realities, reinforce degrading stereotypes, and promote a homogenized, Caucasian world view that alienates large segments of society." Pierce O'Donnell, "Killing the Golden Goose", 105.

The " . . . search for a product that has international appeal (also) tends toward homogenization of the medium . . . great weight of the U.S. market and the U.S. film industry tends to give the increasingly homogenized product a cultural bias." Joseph Phillips, 335.

"Movies that have something intelligent to say . . . are becoming increasingly rare. In their place moviegoers are served . . . movies that trade on sex and violence and have little redeeming social value . . . Filmmakers and studios make exploitation films when they can't think of anything meaningful to say." Mark Litwak, Reel Power, 308.

The " . . . majors . . . like stars (and) . . . sequels . . . When a new project is pitched to them, they respond best if it is a 'high-concept' idea . . . a description that can be encapsulated in a sentence or two and whose commercial potential is immediately discernible. Because the audience for . . . films . . . is assumed to be immature and unsophisticated, high-concept ideas tend to involve cardboard characters, melodramatic plots, flashy special effects, and as much violence as possible. High-concept entertainment, in other words, is a cartoon with live actors." David Prindle, 33 & 34.

The major studio/distributors " . . . increasingly judge projects based on their marketing potential." Mark Litwak, Reel Power, 97.

The " . . . films which are available at any moment on screens stem from commercial decisions rather than from consideration of aesthetic quality or more detached concerns about where a society ought to be going and how to get there. In the absence of a cultural policy, company accounts and management loyalty to stockholders become the arbiters, for philanthropy and service to the public (contrary to our popular, media-reinforced myths) are not intrinsic characteristics of the business system." Guback, Thomas H., "Film as International Business: The Role of American Multinationals" article appearing in The American Movie Industry--The Business of Motion Pictures (edited by Gorham Kindem), Southern Illinois University Press, 1982, 340.

The studios " . . . have altered the tradition of ploughing back profits in pursuit of an entire range of different sorts of films . . . today--comic-book pictures are only breeding more comic-book pictures, something that has never happened to this extent before." William Goldman, 158.

"There are three kinds of movies--(1) movies that aspire to quality and succeed (2) movies that aspire to quality and don't succeed (3) movies that never meant to be any good at all." This third group, according to Goldman, " . . . comprises the majority of commercial films . . . movies for which the original pulse was either totally or primarily financial. Rip-offs, spinoffs, sequels, etc." William Goldman, 127.

"Everyone in Hollywood spends their time talking to one another all day, then having dinner with the same people at night. The perks are outrageous, the power absolute, but it's a ludicrous, insular world, as reflected in the fact that it gives birth to so many mediocre pictures." Jake Eberts as quoted by Peter Bart, 14.

" . . . one of the reasons that U.S. majors make so many bad pictures is because film production is forced to fit a studio's distribution commitment. Ready or not, a . . . (motion picture) often has to go into production on a given date to fulfill a major's distribution schedule, hence many roll imperfectly cast, without satisfactory script and other supposed prerequisites. They become product." Roger Watkins of Variety's London bureau, writing on May 13, 1981 and paraphrasing the remarks of David Puttnam; as quoted by Charles Kipps, 34.

"The people who are in control, who are harming others--those people will construct justifications for themselves. They may do it in sophisticated ways or non-sophisticated ways, but they're going to do it. That much is in human nature." Chomsky, Noam, The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many, Odonian Press, 1993, 73.

Independent Film

"Filmmakers find it difficult to interest studios in offbeat projects." Mark Litwak, Reel Power, 100.

Independent filmmakers " . . . serve the public interest by taking chances . . . " They are " . . . responsible for much of the industry's innovation and vitality . . . The majors tend to be very cautious in their artistic decisions." David Prindle, 33.

Business Practices

"Screen entertainment companies have . . . evolved a plethora of business practices to make their market more manageable . . . They range from the perfectly respectable to the marginally sleazy to the outright illegal." Prindle, David F., Risky Business--The Political Economy of Hollywood, Westview Press, 1993, 20.


" . . . there are two industries working side by side in Hollywood--making movies and developing movies. Unfortunately, the two seldom have anything to do with each other. The development industry is where hundreds, even thousands, of scripts get developed without a prayer of being put on film . . . This development process generates . . . unmentionable waste . . . Writers sometimes support entire families on script deals for years without ever seeing their names on the screen . . . movies rarely result from this process . . . (but) if a producer has enough scripts in development, he can earn sufficient income from development fees to survive without going into production . . . a supervisory fee for bringing a development deal to a studio can range from $25,000 to $50,000 and more . . . " Linson, Art, A Pound of Flesh--Perilous Tales of How to Produce Movies in Hollywood, Grove Press, 1993, 92 & 93.

Conflicts of Interest

"It is very difficult to get a good law firm to represent you against a studio in Hollywood . . . because the firms all represent movie studios and find that representing you is either a conflict of interest or a very dangerous idea." Piece O'Donnell from Art Buchwald's introduction to O'Donnell, Pierce and McDougal, Dennis, Fatal Subtraction--How Hollywood Really Does Business/The Inside Story of Buchwald v. Paramount, Doubleday, 1992, xvi.


"Who can you trust better than kin? Nobody. So, the question is: Does this old Hollywood tradition keep new blood and fresh ideas out of the movies?" Terry Pristin, cover page.

" . . . clearly, nepotism works to the disadvantage of those from the outside. And some say that has consequences for moviegoers, as well as moviemakers. 'The movies pay a price for having a relatively limited view of American society,' said author Neal Gabler, noting the scarcity of blacks, women and other minorities in the studios' higher echelons. 'That's clearly to the detriment of American movies.'" Neal Gabler quoted in Terry Pristin's article, page 71.

" . . . kinship is . . . important . . . nepotism is fairly common in the industry. However, cultural kinship is as important as biological. Executives can trust and feel at home with relatives, old boyhood friends, and others who speak their language and who concentrate on profits and power." Hortense Powdermaker, 114.

"'With certain exceptions,' wrote Gore Vidal of his years as a contract writer to MGM, 'the directors were, at worst, brothers-in-law; at best, bright technicians." Nicholas Kent, 134.

" . . . kinship with one another is paramount . . . ultimately club blood is thicker than water . . . " Paul Rosenfield, 13.

" . . . Hollywood has always been known for practicing nepotism . . . In the new Hollywood, people make deals with their relatives or use a connection with a family member as a means of introduction to someone with clout." David Prindle, 61.

Of " . . . the major movie studios, only MCA (Universal) has an anti-nepotism policy (today), and favoritism toward relatives seems particularly prevalent at Paramount and MGM as well as Sony." Terry Pristin, 7.

"Nepotism still reigns in Hollywood and people can acquire titles, thanks to their connections. A great deal of power comes from the elements that are attached to a project, and there are many agents, lawyers, business managers and so on, who get a variant of the producer credit on movies because they control the stars who are attached to the film." Nicholas Kent, 186.

"Things haven't changed since the days of Selznick: It helps to have an uncle--or a father, brother or aunt--in the business . . . Do Hollywood's clannish ways affect the movies we see?" Terry Pristin, 7.

Favoritism in Hollywood is actually "[m]ore common than nepotism. . . . [but, it is] " . . . favoritism of a different kind--not to one's own relatives but to the relatives of one's friends." Terry Pristin, 7.

"One rule remained absolutely inviolable in both the Old and New Hollywoods: you had to know somebody to get anything done. People rarely got jobs or made deals in Hollywood . . . unless they were part of a network or 'family' that played together as often as they worked together." O'Donnell and McDougal, 23.

"Whether for reasons of self-protection, familial duty or genuine pride in their blood lines, people in the movie business have always given preference to their relatives or the relatives of their friends . . . [in] " . . . an industry built by Jews from Eastern Europe, many of whom started in the garment trade, this kind of favoritism has always seemed natural." Terry Pristin, 7.

Executive Shuffle/Musical Chairs

"Hollywood is an extended insiders' club, where lawyers, agents, managers, and studio and production company executives routinely play musical jobs with each other." O'Donnell and McDougal, 52.

" . . . there is always a question that whoever's in charge today, may not be there next week . . . Today, the top production jobs at the major studios are filled by a bewildering succession of executives who shift from company to company as if they were playing an elaborate game of musical chairs." Nicholas Kent, 41.


"Ours is an industry built on relationships evolving from trust, integrity and loyalty. The exhibitor who remembers a distributor's help when there were fewer films is likely to return a favor to that same distributor when there are too many films . . . On the other hand, there are exhibitors and distributors with short memories and little sense of reciprocity." Alan Frieberg as quoted by Jason Squire, 344.

" . . . the club takes care of its own." Paul Rosenfield, 31.

"This is a club that protects itself . . . " Paul Rosenfield, 14.

"Typically, when an executive at a studio steps down or is pushed out, the studio gives said executive a consolation prize . . . an 'overall production deal.'" Dawn Steel, 233.

There's " . . . an artificiality to competition within the club . . . " Paul Rosenfield, 35.

Control Through High Salaries

The " . . . unusually high salaries are as important a control as the big profits. It is extremely difficult for the writer, the actor, the director, to do other than the bidding of the studio heads. He is paid highly for his docility, and it is an unusual man (or woman) who will take a chance on losing a (huge) salary . . . in order to keep his personal and creative integrity. Beverly Hills houses have been described as the 'most beautiful slave quarters in the world.' . . . With the best- paid slaves . . . " Hortense Powdermaker, 35.


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