Author Andrew Klavan says being a conservative in Hollywood is bad for his bottom line.
The award-winning novelist told the packed crowd what it’s like to pitch screenplays in today’s film climate. Turns out it’s not just about talent or ambition. If you don’t line up behind the Democrats’ platform you’ll have a harder time getting gigs.
Hooray for Hollywood?
The Daily Wire podcast host recalled moving to Hollywood in the 2000s just as his screenwriting career caught fire.
His novels “True Crime” and “Don’t Say a Word” had drawn interested from film studios, and ghost stories were suddenly in vogue. It’s a genre he knows intimately. Why not go Hollywood?
“I’m middle aged. This is the time for me to work in Hollywood if I’m ever gonna do it,” he says of his mind set.
That meant either pitching your screenplay ideas to studio representatives or showing how you can best bring their ideas to the big screen.
That’s where the trouble began for the celebrated writer.
Hollywood Politics 101
“You go into these rooms and you start by having a pleasant conversation,” he says. At the time the War on Terror was just heating up.
“This is how every conversation started: ‘Is George W. Bush a monster or what?” Not every one. Just 50 to 75 percent of the time,” he says.
The rock ribbed conservative tried to be polite, but “my temperament makes me incapable of being quiet,” he says.
A few years later, he had another Hollywood meeting, the worst of his screenwriting career. This time, a “very famous” director had dug up an older script Klavan had written. The director suggested a meeting to see how they could update some of the technology referenced in the screenplay.
So far, so great.
“It was a big opportunity for me,” the writer notes. Once again, ideology got in the way.
FAST FACT: Andrew Klavan won the Edgar Award in 1990 for his paperback “THE RAIN..”
The Obama/Romney presidential fight was in full swing at the time. That immediately influenced the discussion.
“I sat down and within 90 seconds he said to me, ‘Republicans, they don’t care about Mitt Romney. They just wanna get the N-word out of the White House.’ And he didn’t say the N-word,” Klavan recalls.
“That’s a guy who has the power to offer me a very important job,” he adds, “and he’s telling me that that’s who I am.”
“I was remarkably restrained. I said, ‘I think it’s a little more complex than that.’ But that’s the end of the meeting,” he says.
That ‘Narrative’ Doesn’t Build Itself
Why should the travails of one right-leaning screenwriter matter? Consider the “narrative,” what Klavan compares to “the air that we breathe.” Hollywood controls the pop culture narrative. It has for some time.
Remember all the war movies that flooded theaters during the 2000s?
“Every one of them portrayed the American soldier and intelligence people as criminals,” he says. Think “Redacted.” “Rendition.” “In the Valley of Elah.” “Lions for Lambs.”
While American men and women were giving their lives for their country, Hollywood cranked out propaganda films painting them as the enemy, he says. Even the films critical of the Vietnam War, like Oliver Stone’s “Platoon,” hit theaters long after the fighting had subsided.
Klavan on the Culture
Klavan couldn’t stay silent. He produced editorials sharing his views on both politics and the entertainment community, sometimes at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood site. [editor’s note: This reporter formerly oversaw that site]
“Of course my phone pretty much stopped ringing … It was a substantial hit to my income to lose,” he says of airing his political thoughts.
Klavan isn’t the only conservative to share these kind of stories. Last year, right-leaning comic Heather McDonald warned that speaking out in favor of Donald Trump meant risking your Hollywood career.
This week, conservative actor Nick Searcy of “Justified” fame shared a chilling post on social media.
Heard from a number of friends of mine this week who said that they were afraid of letting their opinions be known in Hollywood, because they knew that it would cost them work.
And some who told me stories of how letting their political beliefs be known actually HAD cost them work….
Every few years, they make another TRUMBO or a GUILTY BY SUSPICION or a GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK about the evils of McCarthyism and the terrible blacklist — with no awareness that they are the NEW McCarthy, the NEW blacklist, the NEW “fascists” — a word they throw out constantly, a word that they could not define if their next limo ride depended on it.
Klavan warned his LPR audience against thinking pure economics can bring ideological balance to Hollywood. Show “business” doesn’t always work that way, he argues.
“People always say all Hollywood cares about is money. The only people who say that are ones who haven’t worked in Hollywood,” he says. “All those war movies I talked about … every single one of them bombed, and they kept making them and making them and making them.”
Even the press covering Hollywood can’t quite suss it all out. He recalls how Variety scratched its media head over the fact that audiences rejected the War on Terror film genre.
“Variety, our trade paper, wrote an article that said it’s funny people don’t want to see movies about this war. It’s odd,” he recalls. “Then Clint Eastwood made ‘American Sniper’ where the Americans were the good guys, and it had the fifth highest box office of any R-rated movie.”
“Variety was still stumped,” he says. “They live inside that bubble.”
Film as History
For anyone who thinks a single movie doesn’t have an impact, consider the Valerie Plame scandal. Hollywood depicted the imbroglio with “Fair Game,” a film featuring Sean Penn as Joe Wilson. Naturally, the narrative favored the story Democrats had been peddling about the revelations.
“They made a movie where Wilson turned out to be the hero,” he says. And, when the press asked the real Joe Wilson about the film and its impact, Wilson shared a snippet of “liberal wisdom” that every conservative should understand.
“People have short memories … this is the only way they will remember the period,” Klavan recalls Wilson explaining.