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Do you have to have a writing partner?

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I ask because I notice that most movie screenplays seem to be written by two or more people.  I see this occasionally for TV credits too, but much more prevalent in movie credits.  Anyone know why this is?  Is it because most movies go through numerous rewrites before they start filming?

I couldn't imagine writing a novel with a partner, but is there something about writing a screenplay that lends itself to a collaborative effort?
#1 - April 18, 2008, 03:30 PM

CarrieAnn

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One of the things to look at is the format of the credits. "Screenplay by Joe Schmo & Jill Schill" means that Joe and Jill worked together. "Screenplay by Joe Schmo and Jill Schill" means that Joe wrote the original screenplay, but at some point later on, Jill was brought in to work on later drafts.

So multiple writers doesn't necessarily mean that it's a collaborative effort. :)

Carrie
#2 - April 18, 2008, 05:12 PM

Z-cat

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This isn't always the case, but to me the more writers, the worse the project. Two seems fine, but three or more, and you can tell up on the screen. It can be a sign of massive re-writes or a script that is just not working, but a financial investment has been made, and they need to make it work, as Tim Gunn might say.
"Story by" credits are often added when someone else provided the idea germ, but wasn't the screenwriter. It's comperable to the "Created by" credit on a TV show. It's that guy's idea, but he didn't write the scripts.
Filmmaking is such a widely collaborative effort that I think it helps to have someone bouncing ideas at you while you write. I've seen a few movies in which all the characters sound alike, and were obviously all written by the same person. Tarantino, Kevin Smith, etc. although they are also the directors, and often the producers. 
#3 - April 18, 2008, 06:06 PM

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Yes, as I started delving into the history of some big movie scripts, I started noticing how often screenwriters were hired, then another one to revise it, then sometimes a third, and it ended up with a trove of credits and a huge deviation from the original idea. This happens a whole lot with adaptations, which I've examined the most.

I think these things are more often by force than strict collaboration.
#4 - April 18, 2008, 09:15 PM
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I think these things are more often by force than strict collaboration.

Ha ha ha ha... I messed with Hollywood for more than 10 years. The only time they're true collaboration is when the pair of names is a recurring combo (e.g., the Coen brothers, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, and a few other regular teams). And there are almost always uncredited writers on a produced movie because the rules for credits -- what percentage of the script has changed, how far along production was when the writer was involved, whether the director changed before or after the writer's involvement, whether it was dialogue only or scenes, etc., are VERY complicated and very heavily weighted against newbie writers without negotiating power. And people brought in specifically to add humor to the dialogue, or to beef up the female lead, or to buff up the male lead, or whatever are frequently uncredited completely (though well paid). And sometimes people opt for assistant producer credit or similar alternatives instead of script by or story by credit.

Just a rule of thumb, but you can safely assume that on a majority of movies, there were at least twice as many writers involved as get screen or story credits. Do NOT get into screenwriting if you have any feelings of ownership at all over your story concept.
#5 - April 18, 2008, 11:21 PM
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think an Editorial Letter for a kidlit book -- but multiply it by 5 or 10 different people within the studio system

Since I just can't stay away from this topic, I will add that in comparison, book editor revision notes are not only kind, respectful, and gentle but sensible.

When people joke about studio/production company notes being things like, "Can you change the main character to a gorilla and could we make the diamond-theft plotline into a UFO with sexy vampires who look like six-year-old children and, oh, it would be great if you could work an RV explosion in there somewhere" -- and what you handed them was a tender mother-daughter drama -- THEY ARE NOT JOKING. And they're not exaggerating, either. I know this from personal experience. (Okay, it wasn't really a gorilla, but otherwise....) :moose
#6 - April 19, 2008, 07:30 AM
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THEY ARE NOT JOKING. And they're not exaggerating, either. I know this from personal experience. (Okay, it wasn't really a gorilla, but otherwise....) :moose

So, Joni, if you don't mind me asking -- were these spec scripts you'd written or rewrites for other's original scripts? Studio writer, what?

How did you "get in" to the system?

(OT to original thread, sorry...)
#7 - April 19, 2008, 09:02 AM
OPEN COURT, Knopf

 :thanks2 so much for all the replies.  Not only did I get my question answered but received valuable insight into how  screenwriting credit process really works.  There's a reason I never got involved in screenwriting because if I was asked to change my character to a gorilla or change my diamond theft subplot to one involving UFOs and vampires, my reaction would be something like this:   :guns
#8 - April 19, 2008, 05:19 PM

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Are you into screenwriting, CC, or did you option Open Court or something cool like that?

So, Joni, if you don't mind me asking -- were these spec scripts you'd written or rewrites for other's original scripts? Studio writer, what?

How did you "get in" to the system?
The old-fashioned way, writing spec scripts, entering contests, getting an agent for them. One was a based-on-true spec script optioned by a rather well-known production company several times (it was so exciting!); did two rewrites before it went through at least two more writers (one of whom was kind enough to send me his draft, though he wasn't supposed to, but we'd talked on the phone before) and then died in development he**, at least as far as I know.

The second close call was also a spec script, pure fiction -- long story, but basically I got on option contract, signed it, sent it back, by the time they got it back from my agent, they'd decided they only wanted to countersign and proceed if I would change what today we'd call an urban paranormal into a gaslight murder mystery -- and, um, nothing in the plot would have worked without some supernatural intervention, so to speak. Not to mention that I wasn't interested in telling a murder mystery. So that deal died.

It took me WAY too many years to realize I did not have the youth, required gender, or schmoozing skills to make it in Hwood. I'm so glad I finally wised up, hee hee. And I knew a very, very talented female writer who won a coveted fellowship at Disney and I haven't talked to her in some years now, but not only did the really fabulous script that won her the fellowship (which I've often fantasized about ripping off; it was one of the best things I've ever read; I hope she someday puts it into a MG novel, for which it would be perfect, but I digress...) NOT get made, or get her established in the biz, but at least for a time the whole experience made her quit writing.  Looking back, I think that more than anything made me realize that I couldn't hack it. If she couldn't make it, I never would. I think it takes a very special kind of writer to survive that environment. I know a couple of Seattle-area screenwriters who are sort of making it -- both young, good-looking, charismatic guys -- including one who's had a couple movies produced now, and while he's being very successful financially, I simply could not deal with the degree to which he's had to let go of his work. And so far, what I've seen produced, where I read his original script, has not been improved by the million drafts in between.

More than you wanted to know, I know! I guess I still have emotions/wounds there!  :moose
:bat

Oh, but Greeneyes, if you're still reading this thread -- screenwriting is fantastic training for novels, too. (And actually, I've never thought about it, but for PBs too, I'm guessing.)
#9 - April 19, 2008, 08:46 PM
« Last Edit: April 19, 2008, 08:48 PM by Joni »
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CarrieAnn

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I completely agree with Joni! On one hand, I wish I hadn't spent so much time writing scripts, because I don't deal well with being told that the script is good, BUT... (Followed by suggestions to change the MC, setting, and the major conflict. Er, if I'm going to change that much, I might as well just write another script!)

But I get a lot of compliments on the dialogue in my novels, which I think is a direct offshoot of the scriptwriting. So at least there's that!

Carrie
#10 - April 20, 2008, 04:46 AM

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I understand about getting jaded and that Hollywood is extremely difficult and insider-oriented. I really have no desire to go there, but writing a script was an excellent exercise. I am sending it to Nicholls and one indie director where I have an inside scoop and that is IT! (She says even as she eyes the bottle of bourbon over the fridge...)

A good writer friend had a script get optioned and was well into development when the deal suddenly got killed. She had written it off as Hwood usual when a *very big star* started development of the exact same historical event and got it all the way to screen.

She quit screenwriting entirely after that. Her heart and soul had been in that project.

It's a scary business and I probably don't have the cajones for it either.
#11 - April 20, 2008, 06:41 AM
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Z-cat

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Hey Joni, I'm glad you're still writing after all that!! :wow
We think it's hard to get ONE agent/editor to like our writing!

My husband is a film school grad who is always writing projects for himself to direct. I asked him once why he didn't write a screenplay to sell, and he looked at me like I just asked him why he doesn't take showers in gasoline while smoking a stogie.
But he loves to talk me through his scripts while he's working. I can't imagine writing a novel that way, but he's always showing me scenes and asking for opinions on his WIPs.
#12 - April 20, 2008, 08:47 AM

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Not too nosy! And who knows, the info might help somebody else.

Congrats on the Nicholls! I made quarter one year and semi another and never got a nibble. But I have a friend who made quarter and had half-a-dozen requests from production companies; her logline must have been better, or genre, or...?

Anyway... I had 1.5 agents. The first was the result of a regular-ol query, but he sent the script to ONE place and when they didn't buy, we were done. So he only counts as half, hee hee. (Talking to him on the phone, I always imagined his feet on the desk and a big stogy in his teeth.)

I got my really good agent, who repped several of my scripts over some years, by placing first in a regional contest (PNWA), and they were there as speakers, and approached me. I did get lots of reads both by agents & prod cos based on kid-lit-type queries before that, and after with a script too far out of their genres, but it's been, oh... 10 years or so since I quit? (Wow.) I got into it when spec screenwriting was just heating up, so I wouldn't be surprised if doors have slammed closed on the volume.

Maybe a recommendation to one through your book agent? (assuming you have one). Or the Austin FF & associated screenwriting stuff (contest, etc.) is probably the single best networking opportunity, or it used to be, anyway. Or option one of your books and retain the rights to first draft of the screenplay, maybe! :moose
#13 - April 20, 2008, 01:29 PM
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The Humming of Numbers
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Oh, but Greeneyes, if you're still reading this thread -- screenwriting is fantastic training for novels, too. (And actually, I've never thought about it, but for PBs too, I'm guessing.)

I've written one YA novel and am sloooowly making my way through the second.  So if I ever start a screenplay (and I don't have to have a partner, woohoo! :bananadance :broccoli :yippee), I guess my novel(s) will be great training for it.  I'm approaching things backwards, as usual.
#14 - April 20, 2008, 05:00 PM

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