Is the writing credit undervalued?

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by JirinPanthosa, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Vice Admiral Admiral

    Nov 20, 2012
    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.
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    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.
  3. HaventGotALife

    HaventGotALife Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jul 6, 2011
    I think it's a collaboration. You would be amazed as the power an editor has over what performance you see on-screen. Lighting sets the mood of the scene. A well-placed piece of music leads to emotionally. A script can be torn to shreds. Just look at Romeo and Juliet and the way that material has been interpreted. The script is the same, but the action is completely different. The script can be light and filled in with what's done on-set. Sometimes story editors stop a script from going over-the-top. It's the whole production team. No one is bigger than the team.
  4. Australis

    Australis Writer Admiral

    Mar 12, 2005
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Sure, but the problem is that, too often in the Hollywood feature industry, writers are treated as smaller than the rest of the team, as disposable, interchangeable contractors who are granted no control over the process. Their contribution to the collaboration is undervalued, and that's why we get so many movies that are superbly directed and acted and photographed and edited and scored and VFXed and so forth, but have lousy dialogue and characterization and incoherent plots. Look at George Lucas and M. Night Shyamalan -- both excellent technical filmmakers, great with visuals and stylistic stuff, but they insist on writing their own scripts and thereby severely undermine the quality of their own films, because they aren't good writers. And the industry is set up in such a way that this keeps happening.

    Hopefully this is starting to change as more writer-producers and writer-directors who come from television, like Abrams and Whedon and Judd Apatow, become prominent filmmakers. But it'll take time.
  6. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Oct 30, 1999
    When I see a movie with a stellar script, like Lincoln, I certainly notice who wrote it. But that applies only to the Oscar-bait sort of movie that generally comes out in the fall. The other sort, the summer tentpole, is so cartoony, cliched and action focused that by this point they could be written by a computer. Maybe some of them are.

    TV (cable/streaming) is where you find the good writing now.
  7. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Dec 27, 2006
    the real world

    Influence and creative credit are two different things. The producers and the studio executives are the most influential, always have been and seemingly always will be. Nowadays, studios and producers delegate a lot of influence to favorite directors, though.

    Creative credit is something else, and the primary credit should go to the writer. If a producer or a director has assembled a "script" from rags and patches by multiple writers, the result is pretty much guaranteed to be mediocre. Also, producers and directors sometime act as writers. They deserve credit in that case, although for some reason people seem to overlook their role in writing. Sometimes it seems as though screenwriters sometimes get into directing in a desperate attempt to keep the director from screwing up the script.:)

    Incidentally, if there is no script, the main credit goes to the director.
  8. intrinsical

    intrinsical Commodore Commodore

    Mar 3, 2005
    There was a period starting in the late 90s to late 2000s when special effects, stunts and set pieces were thought to bring in the money. I remember quite a few summer *cough* Michael Bay *cough* blockbusters in that era were rumored to have been written only after the action sequences have been filmed and the role of the story was simply to link the separate action sequences into some semi-coherent story.

    I think its no coincidence that those blockbusters did not do as well as hoped in the box office. I think Joss Whedon's Avengers have shown that movie audiences do put as much stock in a good story as good action sequences. So hopefully going forward, writers will get more say.
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Ohh, that goes back to the late '70s and early '80s, when Lucas and Spielberg pioneered the modern FX-heavy action blockbuster and other filmmakers strove to imitate their success. For that matter, it arguably goes back decades more. Think of all the '50s B-grade monster movies from America and Japan that were all about the special effects and thrills, with story and character taking a back seat.

    You might be thinking of the second Transformers movie. Because of the 2008 writers' strike, Bay had to plot out the action set pieces without the help of scriptwriters, and then once the strike ended, he had Kurtzman & Orci assemble a script draft that would tie those set pieces together; but the film wasn't actually shot until after there was a script.

    There have always been some good movies that balanced action and spectacle with strong story, but that's never stopped the film industry from churning out plenty of badly-written films. Case in point -- the giant-monster genre of the '50s and '60s was pioneered by some solidly written, thoughtful films, including Them! in the US and Gojira (Godzilla) in Japan; but in both nations, those films were followed by a spate of lower-quality films that focused only on the action and spectacle and lacked the sophisticated writing of their forebears.
  10. suarezguy

    suarezguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 9, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM, USA
    I agree they should be more acknowledged although other parties do also play large roles in shaping the end products, including how the script-on-screen often "feels."

    I've noticed that foreign (perhaps especially Italian) movies tend to credit more writers.