Wednesday, June 22, 2016
And the WGA does its best to ensure proper recognition. But things can get very complicated.
I’ll just deal with television here. The feature world has its own tangled web. There were something like sixty writers involved in THE FLINTSTONES movie (and look how great that turned out).
Even though a scribe may write a draft, in almost all cases the showrunner and his staff will polish or rewrite the script. Even if the original writer is on staff.
That can still mean that 90% of the original writer’s script makes it to air, but it’s also possible that 0% of his draft is left. Should the 90% writer receive the same credit as the 0% scribe? And if not, who among the rewriters deserve credit and how much? And is the original writer entitled to something because he wrote the first draft?
You start to see where it gets sticky.
And that doesn’t even address the issue of “story credit” vs. “teleplay credit.” All of a sudden the Mideast Crisis becomes easier to solve than an episode of DR. KEN.
If any writer other than the original writer wants to share credit the script must go to the WGA for arbitration. This protects the original writer from showrunners just attaching their names.
And this is important for two reasons. The recognition obviously, and also, residuals are determined by credits. So if a showrunner shares screen credit with you he will also share in royalties.
The WGA has a Credits Manual, or as I like to call it: “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It tries to specify how to determine each writer’s contribution. But in most cases it’s a judgment call. That’s why, when scripts are being arbitrated, there are usually more than one arbiter. Credits are determined by committee.
Each showrunner has a different policy regarding credit for rewriting. Some, like me, never take shared credit. I’m getting paid nicely as the showrunner. Improving scripts is my job. Whoever does the first draft gets sole credit. I would say that most showrunners subscribe to that policy.
So how do you know if the name on the screen really contributed most of the script? You don’t. But if you keep seeing the same name pop up you figure he routinely gets a lot of his stuff in.
This is getting long so I’ll pick it up tomorrow. But I want to discuss a new challenge for determining fair credits – scripts that are room written. How’s that for a cliff-hanger?
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM