Skip to content

Recent Articles


THE POWER OF FILM – Recommendations

“Those lucky enough to take Howard Suber’s legendary classes in UCLA’s Film School made many others want to read his book-in-progress. Now that he has delivered it, filmmakers, scholars, and anyone else with a serious interest in film can rejoice. A fascinating and thought-provoking work.”

— Alexander Payne – Director/Screenwriter, The Descendents, Sideways, About Schmidt, Election

 “Howard Suber’s understanding of film storytelling fills the pages of this wise, liberating book. Much of it is surprisingly contrary to what ‘everyone knows.’ A remarkable work.”

Francis Ford Coppola

What Aristotle did for drama, Howard Suber has now done for film. This is a profound and succinct book that is miraculously fun to read.”

–David Koepp – Screenwriter
War of the Worlds, Spider-Man, Mission Impossible, Jurassic Park            Read more »


Breaking the Screenwriting Rules

by Howard Suber


Everybody in Hollywood knows the top three rules of screenwriting:

1. Write what you know.
2. Films must have a happy ending.
3. Films must have three acts.

But few people know what these rules all have in common:



Why They Hate Our Movies

In forty years of teaching at the UCLA film school, I’ve often had discussions with filmmakers and critics from other countries about the fact that, since the late 1920s, American films have generally received 85 to 90 percent of all the revenues from film distribution around the world. (What other major American industry has been that successful for that long?)

On a teaching trip last month to Europe, I once again heard the explanation that people outside the United States so often give for this remarkable fact: “You Americans spend so much money on your movies that it’s impossible for us to compete.”

Although few in America dare to speak his name any more, things are different in Europe, so I responded to my hostile audience member by saying, “That’s vulgar Marxism. The capitalists who own the industry – about half of whom are not Americans – would gladly pull their money out of Hollywood and put it into some other country’s films if they were as commercially successful. So much money is spent on American films because so much money is made on them.”

Why do people around the world continue to prefer American films after all these years? I don’t think it’s because our films are “better”; I think it’s because most American films sell something that people want, something they’re hungry for, and can never get enough of.

Read more »



In my UCLA class, “Strategic Thinking in the Film and Television Industry,” I said this week that very large proportion of the time and effort we spend discussing or writing about motivation, in films or in life, is a waste of time that doesn’t yield much that is useful for understanding human action – and certainly not for trying to figure out how to deal with people.

I used Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs as an example, where the author makes a big point about Jobs being adopted, and then repeatedly reminds us that this left him feeling abandoned but special, with the suggestion that this accounted for why Jobs was so often an asshole when dealing with other people. (There are two million adopted people in the U.S. today – are all of them assholes?)

I was referring to a section of Letters to Young Filmmakers, which I am including below because it has a complete explanation of my point. Read more »


The Power of Film with Howard Suber