I discussed how difficult it is to assign proper recognition on screen credits. You can find that post here.
Today I want to discuss “gangbanging,” which is the delicate slang term writers have for room writing drafts.
A moment to discuss the difference been “and” and “&.” If used correctly (which is not always the case), an & between two names means those two are a team (and considered one entity). For example: “Written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs.” If a writer does a draft and another writer later comes in and rewrites it enough to share credit, this is what it will look like on the screen: “Written by Gore Vidal and Ethel Mertz.”
The WGA tries to limit the number of writers who can share credit. Only two writing entities can share “written by” or “teleplay by” credit. And the same for “story by” credit.
So the very maximum number of writers would be eight – but that’s four teams of two (lots of &’s).
Still with me?
A growing trend is to now “room write” scripts. All of Chuck Lorre’s shows are written that way. No first drafts are assigned. Eight or ten or twelve writers all sit around a table and together they write the first draft. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT was like that too.
The point is, when you see the writing credit on one of these shows it’s utterly meaningless. And to me, this is wrong. The credits committee needs to address this new form of writing. More and more shows are doing it and you could argue the pros and cons of such an approach, but I think we’d all agree the people involved deserve to be recognized.
Another problem is that even if the Guild did allow everyone to get credit, the screen time allotted for the writing credit is so short you’d never be able to read all the names. The producers could hold the credit longer but the network would scream bloody murder.
And finally, you might ask, “So what? If names are being rotated you’ll get yours on a few.” True. But what if one of the episodes wins an Emmy? And it just happened to be one you’re not credited for? And you wrote that big poignant speech that put it over the top. If you’re listed as a solo writer the Academy requests that you only enter your episode if you indeed wrote most of it (let your conscience be your guide), but gangbanged scripts are a different animal. So again, in the name of fairness, some new ruling should exist to cover this form of television writing.
I don’t have the solution. But I’m one person. Maybe if ten people approached this problem together…