Skip to content

Archive for


What do you want to DO?

When all of us were young, adults kept asking the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It gets drummed into our head so often, most of us pick up it up and integrate it into our lives and we keep asking ourselves the same question. That’s the process that helped lead you to decide you wanted to be a screenwriter, director, producer, cinematographer, etc.

But what you want to be may be different than what you want to do. I’ve known many people who want to be a writer but who don’t really like the process of writing, and directors who love being on the set with all eyes fixed on them waiting for commands, but who don’t like all that it takes to get to the set. I’ve even known producers who hate meetings, despite the fact that a producer who isn’t in meetings probably isn’t producing much.

When we’re young, we dread saying “no” because we fear we’ll miss out on something, but when we age it’s quite possible we’ll regret some of the things we said “yes” to. After all, when you say, “no” that’s the end of it and you move on, but when you say, “yes” you might find yourself in a bad relationship, a bad job, or something else that becomes a trap.

What we want “to be” when we grow up can become such a trap. The myriad biographies of “successful” people make it clear that once you become what you’ve dreamt of, you quickly habituate to it, and so you need something else — or more of the same thing, over and over again.     Read more »


Films on the Web: Good News ?

When home video tape came along, a guy from Dearborn, Michigan had a bright idea: Why not license the rights to major Hollywood films and sell or rent them to home consumers?

The studios thought this guy was loco, but he offered them something like twenty-five thousand dollars for a package of top films he had cherry-picked, and, starting with 20th Century-Fox, one-by-one several other studios signed up. They soon realized they were giving away the store, and ceased being so generous.

Later, Bob Stein, a guy with very little money who lived near UCLA, had a bright idea: Why not license the rights to some of the biggest American classics, insist on access to the negatives to provide the best transfers publicly available, and put “additional material” on the multiple sound tracks on the newly-invented “laserdiscs”? He started a company called Criterion and acquired many of the biggest films for a license fee of around $10,000.

Read more »



Howard Suber has taught generations of screenwriters, directors, producers, and film scholars at UCLA’s celebrated film school for 46 years. Today, his former students are creating films and television programs and teaching film studies throughout the world.    Read more »



“Letters to Young Filmmakers is full of wisdom, insight, anecdote, and knowledge distilled from years of experience, relationships, and contempla­tion. His genuine understanding of how the film business operates makes his advice to young filmmakers sound, inspiring and, above all, useful.”

— Geoffrey Gilmore, Director, Sundance Film Festival, 1990-2010; Chief Creative Officer, Tribeca Enterprises.

“Wise, kind, and direct. Howard Suber’s advice is as piercing as Don Corleone  telling Michael who not to trust, and just as vital. I LOVE this book!”

— David Koepp, screenwriter Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Spider-Man, War of  the Worlds, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

“This master teacher of film provides us with a multitude of brilliant insights and sound, sage, advice. He has mentored generations of writers, directors, and producers with his intelligence and compassion for the art of film and the industry that sometimes manages to produce it.” 

— Tom Sherak, President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.   Read more »


Contradictions in the System

The article linked below by Los Angeles Times columnist,  Patrick Goldstein (my favorite, because he’s so knowledgeable), discusses how the current crop of Oscar nominees are not getting the usual “Oscar Bounce” from their nominations, and he also talks about the contradictions between the kinds of films the studios make and the kinds of films that are nominated for Academy Awards.

Since, by definition, the majority of members of the Academy include most of the people who make the decisions about what films to produce, what we clearly have in the film industry in our time is cognitive dissonance, “anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald put the idea this way:

 “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

 For about the past five years in interviews about the Academy Awards I’ve found myself saying, “Isn’t it interesting how four out of the five leading nominees [depending on the year] are films that were turned down by every studio in town but are now being hailed by the same people who didn’t dare make them.”                Read more »