UPDATE, Oct 17, 1:30 p.m. PT: A representative reached out to say Payne's comments were taken out of context by the original reporter.

PREVIOUSLY: Alexander Payne is making the rounds for his new movie, The Holdovers, a throwback coming-of-age drama geared for adults. While I haven't seen it, it's one of my most anticipated films this fall.

I love Payne's movies because it feels like he's one of the last filmmakers who makes movies for adults. He's the man behind classic movies like Nebraska, The Descendents, About Schmidt, and Election.

If early reviews are to be trusted, The Holdovers will join their ranks.

His press tour took him to the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon, where he was pressed on the state of American movies. Variety reported Payne said, “One thing with these lower budget, humanist, anthropocentric–whatever what you want to call them–comedy dramas [they make now], is that I miss the mid-range, more expensive adult dramas with visual scope. Where is Out of Africa, where is The English Patient today?”

Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham teaching class in 'The Holdovers''The Holdovers'Credit: Focus Features

After those questions, he added, “Of course, the most difficult thing is always the screenplay. We can criticize financiers and studios and distributors for not making those movies anymore, but I criticize [American] directors and writers for not making them.”

As a writer in Hollywood who pens a lot of these scripts, I naturally took umbrage with Payne's words.

Let me be absolutely clear: I think Payne is a master and an inspiration. He takes a ton of chances (big swings that don't always connect) and he is a craftsman whose hits are enviable, but he is absolutely wrong here.

Placing the blame and even criticism on writers and directors is laughable. I know dozens of people trying to make these kinds of films across town.

The reason they're not made is that no one is paying for them. Studios and financiers are not taking shots making these kinds of films because they've completely shifted toward tentpole storytelling and four-quadrant movies.

There are loads of these scripts being passed around, many appear on The Black List yearly (I was on The Black List last year with one such screenplay!). I have read some wonderful ones, but no one is buying them.

To have an influx of these kinds of stories, we need a studio or a streamer to actively commit to making them, and no one has stepped forward. The reason they are not made boils down to money.

To go around big studios, to an independent financier, you would need a huge package. That means an A-list director, writer, and cast. To get those people attached, you either need a first-hand connection or money behind the film. Money will make it marginally easier, but you still have many reps who won't pass those projects to clients because they fear they're niche, and won't make them a star.

But these kinds of movies used to make people big stars. That's because there was money behind them. If you have neither stars nor the cash, you're not even going to be able to sniff that route. I can't think of a financier who took on a screenplay with no package in recent memory.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph as Mary Lamb offering a comforting hand to Dominic Sessa as Angus Tully in 'The Holdovers''The Holdovers'Credit: Focus Features

If you somehow still want to try that route, then you need to make sure your budget is small enough to ensure the financier stands a chance at making their money back.

This is all before they commit money to the project, in order to draw in the famous faces and names who can get your idea greenlit.

I don't want anyone to be discouraged by this, but I'd like to see the right people be called out for not making these kinds of movies, not the artists who are dying to go back to working on these kinds of films and hoping and praying someone will commit money to them.

I hope The Holdovers makes a ton of money and inspires a comeback. But don't blame the artists if nothing on the business side changes.

Source: Variety