GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument


88. The following appeared in an ad for a book titled How to Write a Screenplay for a Movie.

Writers who want to succeed should try to write film screenplays rather than books, since the average film tends to make greater profits than does even a best-selling book. It is true that some books are also made into films. However, our nation's film producers are more likely to produce movies based on original screenplays than to produce films based on books, because in recent years the films that have sold the most tickets have usually been based on original screenplays.


Question


Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.

Analysis


This advertisement for HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY FOR A MOVIE concludes that a writer is more likely to be successful by writing original screenplays than by writing books. The ad's reasoning is based on two claims.

(1) The average film tends to be more profitable than even best-selling books.

(2) Film producers are more likely to make movies based on original screenplays than on books because in recent years the films that have sold the most tickets have usually been based on original screenplays.

I find the ad unconvincing on three grounds.

First, the mere fact that ticket sales in recent years for screenplay-based movies have exceeded those for book-based movies is insufficient evidence to conclude that writing screenplays now provides greater financial opportunity for writers. Ticket-sale statistics from only a few recent years are not necessarily a good indicator of future trends. It is possible that fees paid by movie studios for screenplays might decrease in the future relative to those for book rights. Moreover, the argument is based on number of ticket sales, not on movie studio profits or writer's fees. It is possible that studio profits and writer fees have actually been greater studio profits or writer's fees. It is possible that studio profits and writer fees have actually been greater recently for book-based movies than for those based on original screenplays.

Another problem with the ad is that it assumes a writer must make an either-or choice from the outset between writing books and writing screenplays. The argument fails to rule out the possibility that a writer engage in both types of writing as well as other types. In fact, a writer may be more successful by doing so. Writing in various genres might improve one's effectiveness in each of them. Also, writing a book may be an effective first step to producing a screenplay.

In any event, the ad provides no justification for the mutually exclusive choice it imposes on the writer. A third problem with the ad is its ambiguous use of the word successful. The argument simply equates success with movie ticket sales. However, many writers may define writing success in other terms, such as intellectual or artistic fulfilment. The ad's advice that writing screenplays is the best way to achieve writing success ignores other definitions of success.

In conclusion, this quick pitch for a book is based on simplistic assumptions about ticket sales and writer fees and on an overly narrow definition of success in writing. To better evaluate this argument, at the very least we would need to know the number of years the cited statistic was based on and the extent to which ticket sales reflect movie studio profits and writer fees.

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