Arthur Fiedler was a musician with the Boston Pops Orchestra for 15 years before being chosen as its conductor in 1930. It was a position he held for 50 years. A young conductor once told me that the reason he chose conducting was because of the longevity of career. The reason for the longevity is the older a conductor gets the greater his repertoire, experience and knowledge becomes.
Granted for Hollywood screenwriters, 40 is considered old for feature writers and 30 is considered old for TV. But that has more to do with the industry than talent. Perhaps that will change as distribution channels change making the film business less focused on Hollywood blockbusters that hit the coveted 18-25 male demographics.
But writers write, right? One way Alfred Uhry beat the Hollywood odds was writing his first play when he was over 50. It opened at a small theater in New York an ran for six weeks. Uhry was thrilled with that because it was just long enough for his relatives to make their way to New York to see this play he had written about his grandmother.
But the play struck a cord and ended up on Broadway, and eventually Driving Miss Daisy was made into a film winning four Oscars including best picture. (To go along with the Pulitzer Prize.)
Theater*, and certainly novels, have less to do with writers needing to be young because the audiences are more diverse. It will be interesting to watch as the boomers get older, and Internet distribution grows, if screenwriters over 60 will be in demand. (Until then we’re stuck with hearing about law suits involving agism in Hollywood.)
Here is what the writer best known for writing the detective character Mike Hammer had to say on writers getting older;
“If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he gets.”
The key thing on the side of boomers is quite a few of them have a little stash in the bank. (Or at least have a friend or two who does.) In a world of low-budget and micro-budget filmmaking it would seem there would be one or two that would forgo buying a yet one more toy or taking one dream vacation to make a feature film. With 4 million baby boomers turning 60 each year for the 15 or so years there has to be some older screenwriters success stories in the near future. If you hear of any, let me know.
*Case study from the world of theater: Ibsen was over 50 when he wrote, A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, and An Enemy of the People. Those are his masterpieces. (Though Ibsen began writing plays as a teenager, today I doubt many people have heard, read or seen any of the plays he wrote in his first 30 plus years of writing.)