Multi-award winning screenwriter William Nicholson this week related a fundamental truth he has learned about the film industry. "If you want power over your work, be prepared to take the risks and pay the money." His advice to screenwriters demanding greater financial, moral and creative power over their work is to accept that truth... and act.
Tomorrow's film business will, for the first time in history, offer a realistic chance of taking that control. The era of the writer-director-producer is no longer a distant dream. If the piper doesn't accept the payment on offer, he can play whatever tune he damn well pleases.
That's the dream that the great advocates of digital change in the independent film business have in mind when they talk about "democratisation". It's about grabbing a bigger slice of the business by taking responsibility for one's own product and going directly to customers.
A great many will agree in principle with the idea of changing the economics of the business, but actions don't often match the principles: "Lord, give me democratisation, but not now," is the message. There's nothing surprising about that.
In truth, most writers, directors and actors are not in the business of changing the world. They want to write, direct and act. It's just that the business today does not look as attractive as it did in the past. Actually, that's not entirely true - it just doesn't look as good for some as it has done, in what has been a decade or two of growth.
And so there are high hopes that a digital era can make a difference. The belief that there is now a potential for change is helping to concentrate people's minds on what is actually wrong, and the grievances are real enough.
Writers are absolutely right to suggest that they are marginalised. They feel they are the forgotten creators of the great works, outrageously written out of history.They are squeezed between a Hollywood system that has them as mere employees (albeit sometimes well paid) and a European obsession with the auteur, the director.Finance goes to producers, credit to the director and precious little to the writer who conceived the project.
Except that directors also have justifiable concerns. Many feel their contributions are not properly recognised.
Actors have already got their retaliation in early, taking their protest about their share of the digital pie to the streets in Canada with a strike earlier this year.
And try telling producers that they get what they deserve from film. In the independent world, it is often they who mortgage the house and take the personal risks, while others take the glory. The vast majority of producers pursue a film-to-film existence that goes largely unsung. And we don't need to revisit the grievances of exhibitors.
These justified complaints are growing louder every day, but does the promised land of new media platforms offer a solution' That depends. There is a strong chance that, in the short term, digital change may usher in a turbulent period of strikes and disputes as different groups fight for a share of a digital business before it is really established.
It is impossible to shoehorn the old business into the new world. New ideas and new approaches are needed, particularly given that digital rights are unlikely to be sold for a fixed sum as theatrical and DVD rights have been.
The best opportunities for the future lie in co-operation and the breaking down of barriers between interest groups rooted in the last century.
Nicholson is right that if people want digital to change the power relationships in the business, then they need to look beyond their individual share of the pie to take collective responsibilities.