Generally speaking, books about screenwriting are written by people who aren’t very successful at it. For example, Story by Robert McKee (who is played by Brian Cox in Adaptation) is an impressive combination of how-to and motivational books. But McKee had time to become the leading screenwriting coach because he wasn’t in all that much demand as a screenwriter.
Goldman, in contrast, was an extremely highly paid screenwriter. But during a brief recession in the movie business in the early 1980s he wrote a memoir/how to book, Adventures in the Screen Trade. The most famous quote in that book:
“Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
For example, in Goldman’s heyday, sequels, such as the Jaws sequels, were typically low budget affairs that weren’t expected to come close to the original in box office. Now, in contrast, it’s assumed that sequels ought to average at least as much as originals.
Why? Are audiences less easily bored? Have screenwriters gotten more skilled since Goldman’s day? Less apathetic? Has the increasing globalization of movie audiences reduced the risk?