Wycliffe A. Hill is the grandfather of the cookie cutter Hollywood movie. Author of Ten Million Photoplay Plots: The Master Key to All Dramatic Plots, which was published in 1919, Hill created an assembly line approach to writing screenplays: character + dramatic situation + setting = movie.
For example: “An old man wrongfully accused of a mine explosion + seeks refuge from a band of outlaws + with a woman whose house he enters for a hiding place.”
Each piece of the formula is interchangeable (the old man wrongfully accused could easily be a young man with a gambling problem), and Hill’s book consisted of numerous examples for each category to create an almost infinite number of (bland) plot combinations for would-be screenwriters.
Hill didn’t stop there though, eventually creating “an actual mechanical scriptwriting robot” and selling “Plot Genie books that used a board-game spinner for random plot generation.” Because why imagine a plot when you can just play ripoff Clue instead?
Unlike his screenplays though, which he actually struggled to sell, Hill led a life that could never be written by a screenwriting robot, eventually teaming up with a shady lawyer named Morgan Marmaduke and an imprisoned serial killer named Bluebeard Watson to search for a lost buried treasure in the hills outside of San Diego.
Learn the true story of Wycliffe A. Hill, “the man who invented the Hollywood schlock machine.”