From the BAFTA Screenwriters Lecture series 2019:
Question: I think when you started writing, it was a time when cinema afforded the opportunity for people to have answered the questions that were in the ether. And somehow, they looked to the big screen to address those questions. I wonder if you agree with that.
There are people that talk about American cinema in the seventies as some halcyon period.
Um, it was to a degree, but not because there were any more talented filmmakers. There are probably in fact more talented filmmakers today than there was in the 70s. What there was in the 70s was better audiences. And a lot of what was happening in the world was people in consternation: women’s rights, gay rights, sexual liberation, drug liberation, anti-war, all of these things were rolling on top of each other. and people were turning to the arts, specificially movies, [asking] what should we feel about this?
Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice was about wife-swapping. Coming Home was about Vietnam Veterans. Unmarried Woman about female liberation. So almost one a week, films were coming out to address things that were on people’s minds.
And when people take movies seriously, it’s very easy to make a serious movie.
When they don’t take it seriously, it’s very very hard. We now have audiences that don’t take movies seriously. It’s very hard to make a serious movie today.
So it’s not that us filmmakers are letting you down. It’s you audiences are letting us down. Because if audiences are receptive to a quality movie, believe me, you’ll get it. we’er all just waiting to make it.
– Paul Schrader