The question of knowing whether screenwriting was really an art form or not, popped into my head yesterday. I couldn't seem to stop thinking about it and this is what I've finally decided.
Although this is really a very complicated question, my answer is simple. No, screenwriting is not an art. Painting, poetry, fiction writing, playwriting, plus many other creative outlets are considered a part of the art world. The more I ponder this, the more I realize that screenwriters are often deluded into thinking that screenwriting has a free flow of ideas, or is a world without walls that they can play and work within. It's just not true.
Screenwriting is a craft and a business. There are hard and fast rules that must be followed if one wishes to be successful and see their scripts on the big screen. If writers wish to be taken seriously by the professionals then they must understand these rules as well as the business of being a writer.
When I wrote "MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent's Guide To Your Writing Career", I hadn't realized the flood gates would burst open and writers all around the world would be reading it. Now I understand why. Most writers have little or no access to the powers-that-be in Hollywood. They try to figure out the best way to get into and stay in the movie business by using lessons learned from other industries as well as life in general. The movie business has nothing to do with any other arena. It is true only unto itself. For the most part, the rules are unwritten. Yes, you can buy tons of books and take tons of classes on how to write a good screenplay. That, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.
After being an agent for many, many years, I've now been a screenplay and novel consultant (read: script doctor) for about 8 years. I look at all of this material and I am amazed at how writers are choosing their stories and plots. Apparently they think that the most unusual plots and stories will let them hit the jack pot. They excitedly tell me that "No one has ever written this before". When I hear that phrase my usual response is: "There is a reason it's never been done, it doesn't work".
My advice is this: Don't worry about being different in your story and plot. A comedy is a comedy, a drama is a drama and action films will always have chases in them. On the other hand you must worry about your characters. This is what will set you apart. This is what will have readers, agents and producers sitting up and taking notice. If your main characters have good personalities, you will get a positive response to a simple script.
Listen and learn!