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Old February 17 2013, 04:17 AM   #2
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Re: Is the writing credit undervalued?

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
Everybody always gives credit to the actors, and people who are really into movies give a lot of credit to the director, but should we give more of the credit for a good series to the writers?

With a few rare exceptions like Charlie Kaufman, a handful of scifi icons, and writers who are also directors, nobody ever knows who actually wrote the script. But isn't the writer the single greatest influence on the quality of the TV show or film? Not even great actors can make a crappy script work, and a great script can make mediocre actors look brilliant.
The thing is, the answer is completely different depending on whether you're talking about TV or film, at least in America. TV these days is very much a writers' medium; the writers are the producers, the showrunners, the people whose decisions shape the show from week to week, while directors come and go and follow the lead of the showrunners.

But in Hollywood feature films, writers are effectively powerless. Yes, the script makes the difference between a good movie and a bad one, but most movie producers and directors don't realize that -- or don't realize that not everyone can write a good script. Directors and producers have all the power, but writers are treated as disposable. Typically a bunch of writers are pitted against each other in the attempt to churn out a viable script and the end result is a hodgepodge of bits and pieces of their various contributions, many of which go uncredited; or they're brought in as, essentially, contractors whose job is to write down the story as the director or producer envisions it, or to assist the director or producer in putting together a script. Many directors see a script and dialogue as just a framework around which to build the shots and music and editing and effects they want to create, seeing story as secondary to the craft of filmmaking.

So in Hollywood features, it's hard for any writer to have any substantial influence on a film, unless that writer is also the producer or director, like Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Nora Ephron, or Gary Ross. Even the credited writer may have very little to do with the shape of the final film.

In short, yes, absolutely, writers should get as much credit and recognition in feature films that they get in television. But that's not going to happen until the feature film system is reformed in a way that gives writers more agency and control over their work, that makes the process of writing movies less of a sausage factory and lets writers stand on a more even keel with directors and producers.
Written Worlds -- Christopher L. Bennett's blog and webpage
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