Network (1976) – How To Write Satire

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Network (1976) – How To Write Satire

Network (1976) – How To Write Satire


– What do you mean, “have a crack at it”? – I’d like to program it for you. … Develop it. I wouldn’t interfere with the actual news itself, but TV is showbiz, Max. And even the news has to have a little showmanship. Everything that was discussed about television in that movie has happened. Except we haven’t killed anybody on the air yet. That’s the only thing that hasn’t happened deliberately. But other than that everything has happened: News as Entertainment Paddy Chayefsky’s classic 1976 film Network tells the story of Howard Beale. A TV news anchor who goes a little bit crazy and starts actually telling the truth on TV. He is soon exploited by an ambitious programming executive named Diana Christensen which angers Max Schumacher, the head of the news division, who believes the news should remain pure. The film correctly predicts how damaging the impulse to make everything on TV entertaining would be to the integrity of the news . And how making entertainment the only qualification for being on TV would allow fringe groups to push themselves into the mainstream. It’s a biting satire and when it was first released the TV industry hated it. Paul Friedman, a producer of The Today Show, called it unfair. Newscaster Edwin Newman said that TV producers wouldn’t stoop so low for ratings. And that there’s evidence that the opposite is true. The president of CBS News said it was just such a caricature. It simply couldn’t happen. – The American people want somebody to articulate their rage for them. I think it’s safe to say that we’re living in Chayefsky’s nightmare. But considering how sharp and prophetic his film turned out to be, it’s almost hard to believe just how much he doubted the content of the story as he wrote it. In 2001 the New York Public Library acquired a bunch of notes that Chayefsky made while writing the film that give us an extraordinary glimpse into his writing process. Specifically they reveal his struggles in handling an ever sprawling story and deciding on an ending, clarifying the themes of the allegory and figuring out where the love story would fit. Network is an ambitious film. And one of the biggest troubles Chayefsky had when writing the script was balancing his ambition with what could be accomplished in a story. In his book on the production of the film “Mad as Hell” David Itzkoff notes that “Chayefsky had wanted to tell a story that was global in its scope from the continents banning clashes of Governments and corporations to the atomic level collisions of mere people.” But as he wrote his cast of characters inflated and he struggled to figure out a logical way to bring it all to a close. Most of the many ideas he rejected sound way too complicated and too detached from the main characters to make sense in the story. Ideas like: “By the end of the picture all the networks will have been bought by other multinationals” Or “What if the multinational corporations declare war on … Chile”? That’s kind of random. Or what if the revolutionary group kidnapped Beale as a way of attracting attention to their group. Compared to these big, complicated sequences, the NDP actually ended up picking seems quaint. In the finished film, Beale’s ratings tanked when his delivery takes a more depressing turn. Unable to cancel the show because the president of their parent company likes it. The network decided to have Beale assassinated. He is. The end. It’s a simpler ending, but it can be because it’s allegorical. In an allegory everything in the story is a stand-in for something else in the real world. And every character and incident in Network has an allegorical meaning. In the ending Beale is assassinated by a group of communist radicals who Diana has given their own TV show. So by having the network hire them to do the killing it shows how corporations can co-opt any ideology to serve their profit-driven motives. The ending may not be global in scope as Chayefsky originally intended. At least not in the actions recorded on film, but it is as far as what it’s saying as an allegory. So these two problems actually end up being the same problem. Because the biggest issue that Chayefsky faced when putting together the screenplay was figuring out exactly what he wanted it to say thematically and finding a method to express that in a story. At the top of one page Chayefsky writes “The show lacks a point of view” “We are making some kind of statement about American society and its lack of clarity is what’s bothering me even more I’m not taking a stand. I’m not for anything or anyone” Later he writes that the story has “… no ultimate statement beyond the idea that a network would kill for ratings and even that doesn’t mesh with the love story and whatever the love story says thematically” So how did Chayefsky solve these issues? Well, it’s difficult to say definitively since it’s hard to pinpoint how far along he was in the process when he felt this way, but I think his solution is to make the love story the focus of the allegory. In the finished film Matt Schumacher represents hard, honest journalism while Diana Christensen represents the corrupting influence of television. Though he falls in love with her, he leaves her once he concludes that she is incapable of love – You’re television incarnate, Diana. Indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality Allegorically the message couldn’t be clearer. We the people who want the news to remain honest have to reject Diana’s version of television. Otherwise we’ll be degraded as she is. – If I stay with you I’ll be destroyed like Howard Beale was destroyed – Like everything that you and the institution of television touch was destroyed But in his notes it didn’t start out this way. He initially referred to Max as “Hotshot” and his place in the allegory was exactly the opposite. He was gonna be a young news producer who is hired to bring his hit tabloid format to an ailing network newscast It’s only later that Chayefsky Recasts him as a 50 year old president of the network news division. A tough but righteous fellow. This version of the character was divorced unlike the final version who’s still married but most importantly he sees himself as someone who upholds the highest traditions of journalism. This character would then battle against a regional news director who resembles the hotshot Max was originally going to be. Later Chayefsky added a love interest for Max who is very different from the love interest he ends up having in the finished movie he describes her as a No-bullshit girl who sees through all of Max’s high principled bullshit. A character who would come to represent the virtuous path he needed to follow. I think it’s here that Chayefsky ran into trouble with the allegory and figuring out just what the love story meant. After all if Max is already someone who respects the highest traditions of journalism, How can a romance with a virtuous girl help him get where he already is ideologically? There’s no conflict there. Nothing for him to learn from her. Chayefsky’s solution is to combine the hotshot adversary character with the love interest character. Now we’ve got an interesting push and pull. He’s attracted to her physically and emotionally but morally repulsed by her. It’s at this dynamic that forms the backbone of the story and clarifies its allegorical message. Great stories are not born fully formed but it’s rare for us to have such a clear picture of how one was formed, to see a creators reasons for every decision they made along the way. And I think there’s great value in that both because of the lessons we can draw from asking why he made these decisions and as a reminder that art gets better over time. Though he won three Academy Awards for screenwriting Chayefsky maintained that writing was just work. “Perseverance counts more than Talent”. He once said. “Stop thinking of writing as art. Think of it as work.” “If you’re an artist whatever you do is gonna be art.” “If you’re not an artist at least you can do a good day’s work.” This video is sponsored by Vrv. If you haven’t heard of it Vrv is a great streaming service that packages together a bunch of other channels that you may have heard of. And if you click the link in the description you’ll get a 30-day free trial. So check it out especially if you like anime because they’ve got channels like Crunchyroll and Funimation that are filled with excellent animes shows like: Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia. Right now, I’m watching Cowboy Bebop on Vrv which is wonderful because I can’t count the number of times that show has been recommended to me and I finally get to watch it. I’m also glad that they’ve added Mubi to their roster of channels since it’s filled with indie movies that you might not otherwise get a chance to see so it’s a great deal for cinephiles like me. For a limited time you can go to Vrv.co/justwrite Or click on the link in the description to get a 30-day free trial of Vrv premium. Oh, yeah, and they’ve got the new season of HarmonQuest on there, too If you need another reason. If you like this video and want to see more videos on movies and writing literary history and criticism then make sure to go over to my patreon page at patreon.com/justwrite And you can support this channel for as little as one dollar a video to help ensure that this channel keeps going. I want to thank all my current patrons for continuing to support this work. Thanks for watching everyone. I’ll see you soon and keep writing.

100 thoughts on Network (1976) – How To Write Satire

  1. My longstanding co-worker asked me what I was doing after work. I told her going to my second job. And she said, "Have fun writing!"I was listening to this driving from my day job to my night job of writing. I laughed.

  2. The fact that this video doesn’t even touch how smart and sophisticated the dialogue of this film was speaks to how brilliant the screenplay is

  3. This is a really good reminder for novices like myself, to not get too married to your screenplays original: premise, plot, theme, or characters. Nothing is final until you type — "The End"… and even then — it's still not final. Good stuff.

  4. When the movie came out I had been a news junkie all my young life, and I didn't like it. Couldn't take it seriously. And was I ever wrong!

  5. Man, the only problem with this video is that it's short haha. This movie intrigues me a lot, and it was really interesting to see all this information about it. Thanks

  6. I know it’s not the masterpiece Death Note was, but I’d love to see a video from you on My Hero Academia, maybe on why it has become such a successful title compared to its competition

  7. Great stuff. My own writing tends to be highly allegorical, but I know I often struggle to form an engaging story out of that. To see that even such a masterpiece had this problem initially, and how some foundational ideas had to be changed for it to work, is really inspiring to me. Thanks a lot for this great analysis.

  8. Chayevsky is right: writing is work. The writing you've never heard of is art. The writers you've heard of are not the best at what they do, but the best at gaining attention for what they do. If it happens to be good, then all the better. Excellent video. Thank you for your hard work.

  9. Maybe people do love him, but rarely put him alongside the best directors of all time. Sidney Lumet is probably the most underrated filmmaker of all time.

  10. Despite it being dated in many ways, the core ideas and social statements are more relevant today than they were in 1976. This is an absolutely brilliant film. You owe it to yourself to see it if you haven't already.

  11. I have a slight different take on the romance. What I like about Network it's shows how Max (the disillusioned cynic) is in bed with Diana. They are basically part of the same sick dynamic. Max doesn't show the alternative – a positive, empowering, uplifting, enligthened view of people and the world to counter the corrupting influences – he uses the corruption to affirm his own cynicism – he needs her. Ideologically they are more similar than different, they believe life is rotten but she chooses to embrace and exploit it, and he whines about it… you see the same dynamic play out today with Trump, ironic funny newscasters, etc.

  12. One of my all time favorite films. I didn't know that Chayefsky had such trouble coming up with the script, so this was quite informative to me. Kudos.

  13. So that's where System of a Down got the idea for their epic intro to the song "Sugar." It's still relevant today

  14. your sub count is way too low for the quality of your videos. subbed yesterday when I saw your series on the hobbit.

    keep up the good work.

  15. God I hate this fucking movie. It would make an interesting essay but it's such a dull film. Endless overly poetic, overly dramatic monologues that take forever to say what they're trying to say.
    The sub-text and the allegory is thought provoking but the movie is so profoundly unentertaining

  16. maybe the corporations can seduce some individuals with corrupted ideas, but not all ideologies are subject to greed…only weak minded individuals

  17. I would love to see an analysis of "The Horse Whisperer" as I think it is one of the most underrated movies of all times 😉 please 😀

  18. We're getting off the subject that the movie Network is still happening in today's time we do and act out as what the television tell us to do it's controlling a generation and a generation to come like it said it would we have the tube with us now all the time tablet's and smart phones we dress eat and act like the tube and the people we see on it just like Howard Beal said 🤔 and they always remake movies but they never remade this one I wonder why.

  19. When writing I’ve frequently had a lot of that same kind of conflict trying to figure out what the hell it is I’m making. It’s nice to see that Im not the only one questioning just about everything I’ve put to paper hehe

  20. There a need for more videos about Network right now (and more people need to know about it), as it's mindblowing how prescient it was, and how accurately it descibes the current times. I assume everyone commenting here has seen it, and if so, show it to two people you know who haven't (and then have them do the same).

  21. Never thought of this before, but this makes me think of night crawler. Another movie about sensationalized news media that people felt was too extreme or too unrealistic. Makes me wonder how that movie will look in another decade.

  22. so if the Network is satire, stretched as it may be, Anchorman could be tied as a satire of the Network. far-fetched? not as far as you think

  23. I'm an Artist and I love to make stories and I wanna do Comic Books, so this videos are help me to re-think somethings, so thank you.

  24. I love the film as it contains some of the best homegrown American rhetoric – 'I'm as mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore' 'Do you think the Soviet Politburo sits around talking of Lenin, Marx and Revolution? No they sit and discuss the price of gold and oil on the world market'

  25. You should totally do an episode about COWBOY BEBOP, now that you've seen it. I think the characters are very well written, and would love to see some analysis.

  26. howard beale spoke the truth in opposition to a news dept head that wanted to keep the news pure, thats' what you said. makes no sense. please explain how the truth is impure.

  27. Not only can any organisation adopt any ideology to serve their profits, also any organisation can become infiltrated and taken over and used by any ideology

  28. I thought the Max-Diana relationship was a weak link in the film. What does Max, a guy on the way out, have to offer Diana? Network is a very good movie, but this relationship subplot was its weak link.

  29. It's now worse than what is portrayed in Network. Citizens have been conditioned into believing everything spewed out by their favorite politicians and news media while rejecting without consideration all opposing opinions because they have been manipulated into credulously accepting the propaganda of the party-centric nationalism.

  30. I really really really loved this presentation of a writer's process. It's super helpful. Can you do more videos that focus on the behind the scenes process rather than the way the final result looked?

  31. This film shows how television 📺 runs people lives without them even knowing it and it’s still going on in today’s time 🤔 That why this Film will never be remade Wake Up Sheeple!!!!!! Television & Social Media is the greatest Brainwashing Tool on this Generation and a Generation Too Come.

  32. This movie should be remade with New World Order and 911 conspiracy. Forget the romance. Who has the balls to make that movie? No one thats who.

  33. Its a good movie but its hard to digest, its way too technical and filled with jargon. Not a kind of movie for a repeat.

  34. If one were to marry a woman like Diana Christenson, it would be a disaster if someone like that would have children.

  35. I honestly feel that this film isn’t discussed as much as other classics because the truth hurts

  36. Don't want to bring the comments section for this down to gutter-level, but there's something memorable (at least I remember it) about Max and Diana's love scene when even at and during her sexual climax, Diana can't stop talking about television. This was such a powerful scene, indicating borderline career obsession, that I'm surprised it hasn't been ripped-off more often. Say what you like about Chayefsky (ahem, Altered, ahem, States), but he certainly pushes the envelope of originality.

  37. I know I’m a year late, but your analysis of this film reminds me of the film Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler is the center of the news but more psychological and thrilling in my case. I didn’t do an analysis of the film.

  38. Based on Christine Chubbuck's on-air suicide at WXLT-TV Sarasota Florida, 1974. Shot herself in the head with a pistol. The crew thought it was a joke.

  39. Network wasn't a Satire. There is no comedy in Network. It is a polemic.
    https://sweetnessonmovingimages.home.blog/2019/12/10/television-drug-of-a-nation/

  40. The problem with the script is the love story. Diana has to sit there saying nothing when Max denounces her, unable to fire back. She should say that Max has just used her to help him over his midlife crisis.

  41. Just had something strange happen just before this video played guy comes on and say's in a ad Donald Trump our president just got impeached witch is not true until our senate says so. Dam liberals and Democraps lies and then after video played I'm Mad As Hell And I'm Not Gonna Take This Anymore! Wake Up America 2020 to the republic for the republicans, God Bless People Fighting to get our country back from corruption before it's to late MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN (Vote 2020 for trump and show them the power of people)!

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