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The Great American Screenplay

In fiction, all writers (American ones that is) aspire to write "The Great American Novel" and in theater there is "The Great American Play." What particular novel or what particular play happens to claim the top spot is a matter of heated debate. However, in screenwriting there doesn’t appear to be any such debate about screenwriting and screenplays. One reason for this is the nature of film business, where writers have no control over their screenplays once they sell them. Another writer, assigned by the studio, or even the director can make whatever changes they deem necessary. The resulting screenplay may be nothing like the original writer intended, but does that take away from the merit of a good screenplay? Does "The Great American Screenplay" exist or is it made impossible by the Hollywood system?

  • "The Great American Screenplay"sounds identical in practice to The Great American Novel. There's always a so-called "Great American" anything for each generation. Even then, people's opinions vary too much towards creative works whether novels or films to have just one that captures the definition universally. – dsoumilas 5 years ago
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  • "The Great American Screenplay" is slightly different to novels and films because they are never really studied on paper. Even plays, which are written to be seen, are studied in lit classes. You might be able to claim a "Great American Film" by writer/directors such as Woody Allen, Tarantino, Orson Welles. But your right in that a screenplay never really stands alone and untouched because it will always be edited up to and after filming. – Francesca Turauskis 5 years ago
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  • What would the Great American film look like today? – george 5 years ago
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  • I don't think it's the medium that defines a "great American Screenplay," any more than a novel defines the "great American Novel," or a play would with a piece of theatre. Instead, the innate "American-ness" of it is; people say that Steinbeck was a great American novelist because his work was innately American rather than innately "great" in an abstract sense. – Sam Moore 5 years ago
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  • Because screenplays are written with the intention of being filmed, they're more likely to be considered in the context of the completed product. Moreover "Great American" anything is a fairly meaningless distinction. That said, Charlie Kaufman's screenplays are often considered masterpieces even before they make it to film. – markplasma 5 years ago
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