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Kermet Key
01-23-2011, 09:38 PM
Screenwriters have to face the reality that as professionals they will at some point be both rewritten and asked to rewrite another writer. My question to the professional members of DD is this: As the one being rewritten would you expect (?) the new writer to have the courtesy to contact you and discuss your script? As the one doing the rewrite, would you extend such a courtesy. Or, do find merit in refraining from contact with the original/new writer?

alex whitmer
01-23-2011, 10:48 PM
I have been on both sides of this fence. It's a tough one, as each case is different.

If, for example, you are asked to rewrite a script that was purchased by a production company, and who owns the rights via a contract that lets them do what they please with it, then as I understand it, you cannot / should not contact the original writer.

There are certainly cases, however, where you can chat with the original writer. When possible, and the working environment encourages it, then by all means.

Then there is the case where you are hired to write a screenplay, and the company/individual that hired you then rewrites it, or has it rewritten, often to your chagrin. As they own the material, it is usually their contractual perogative. Where it gets really ugly is when a rewrite goes against your own morals/principles, or is so poorly done that you would rather not have your name associated with said final draft.

Been there.

I don't expect to be contacted when my material is being monkeyed with. It's part of the game, and not an easy pill to swallow. When rewriting other writer's work, I do look for their rhythms and intents, and respect their 'creation', regardless of level and style.

It can get touchy when rewriting another writer's 'baby' per a producer's instructions. Sometimes you really need to go in and slash some serious fat: take out entire roles/scenes, rewrite fistfulls of dialogue, move it from high budget to low budget, etc.

Often times a rewrite is necessary to fit with what resourses a production company has available, such as taking out a car chase due to insurance costs, changing the age of an actor, removing an 'adult situation or language' scene for rating purposes, as well as FX needs, pyrotechnics, costumes, working with animals, etc. Some of this stuff might be crucial to the the story, and will trigger a significant rewrite to remove (or add) it.

In truth, I feel far more liberated to explore story by NOT communicating with the original writer. And, I would want someone rewrting my work to do so without all my whining and bemoaning.

my two sense

a

fanatic_about_film
01-23-2011, 11:13 PM
Well I'm no expert and have never been hired to write or rewrite anything.

However my view on the subject is quite clinical. If my work has been bought, then it is a piece of property that now belongs to them, and not me. They could scribble all over it with childrens pencil crayons if they want. Set fire to it. Or any number of things.

If I sell a car, it is not mine any more, and the owner can do what they want with it.

Sure, if I have a strong emotional connection with that car, I would HOPE that it goes to a good owner, who takes care of it. But ultimately they can do what thye want. They can modify it. Give it a new engine. Paint it a new collar. Replace parts. etc. They could go easy with it, or run it into the ground. They could lock it away in the garage for ten years.

And they certainly don't have to call me and ask for my advice on what I think they should do.

It's basically none of my business. That's how I see it.

SoCalScribe
01-24-2011, 12:43 AM
Screenwriters have to face the reality that as professionals they will at some point be both rewritten and asked to rewrite another writer. My question to the professional members of DD is this: As the one being rewritten would you expect (?) the new writer to have the courtesy to contact you and discuss your script? As the one doing the rewrite, would you extend such a courtesy. Or, do find merit in refraining from contact with the original/new writer?

Interestingly enough, the WGA MBA has a provision (Article 18) that states:

The Company will notify a writer ... of the names of all other writers then or previously employed by the Company on the same material, or from whom the Company has purchased the material on which the writer is employed.

My understanding is that, while this is provided to guild writers, in practice, it is often overlooked. The intention was so that - as you mentioned - the new writer could call up the previous writers, if so inclined, to discuss the writing and hopefully preserve as much of the original work as possible while addressing Company notes.

Interestingly enough, Article 18 also grants feature/theatrical writers the following rights:

1. To know who worked on the project previously;
2. To know who worked on the project after you;
3. The names of any credited writers on the original if you're working on a remake;
4. Whether (and if so, to whom) the project is in turnaround;
5. If invited to pitch, the approximate number of other writers invited to pitch on the same project.

But I digress...

Would I call up a previous writer? I suppose it would depend on the circumstances around which I was hired. If it was an amicable break between the original writer and company, I might call the writer up, introduce myself, and get some insight about what he or she was going for and what problems were encountered. If it was a nasty break, I don't think it would do anybody any good for me to call the writer up and ask what he or she thinks about the project.

Would I expect someone to call me? It'd be nice, but I wouldn't count on it, or expect it.

catcon
01-24-2011, 07:41 AM
All of the posts so far are good, but nobody's mentioned the $$$. Thirty seconds of pleasantries, all right. But if it involves analysis and hand-holding that should have been done before monies were paid, then it should involve more money.

I'd be thrilled to discuss my sold screenplay with somebody who's now trying to figure out why this character does this or says that, because as a writer s/he's been asked to remove or change the scene but is concerned there's a big payoff elsewhere in the script or some significant metaphor or allegory being served. :bounce:

Yes, I'd be thrilled to discuss it ... for a few bucks, of course.

On the other hand, you have to remember you're working in a "relationship industry", so you have to factor that in when you're pitching your next screenplay to the same producer in the months to follow!

NikeeGoddess
01-24-2011, 08:10 AM
Yes, I'd be thrilled to discuss it ... for a few bucks, of course.
that just seems a bit silly to me. if money came with it then great but i would easily discuss my script with the next writer in the hopes that he or she doesn't royally phuck it up.

prescribe22
01-24-2011, 09:53 AM
that just seems a bit silly to me. if money came with it then great but i would easily discuss my script with the next writer in the hopes that he or she doesn't royally phuck it up.

If the producer is hiring a new writer, it's quite possible they feel you already phucked it up. :eek:

Todd Karate
01-24-2011, 09:57 AM
If the producer is hiring a new writer, it's quite possible they feel you already phucked it up. :eek:

It's also quite possible they're hiring someone else for any of the 50 or so reasons people get hired to rewrite things.

SoCalScribe
01-24-2011, 09:59 AM
All of the posts so far are good, but nobody's mentioned the $$$. Thirty seconds of pleasantries, all right. But if it involves analysis and hand-holding that should have been done before monies were paid, then it should involve more money.

I'd be thrilled to discuss my sold screenplay with somebody who's now trying to figure out why this character does this or says that, because as a writer s/he's been asked to remove or change the scene but is concerned there's a big payoff elsewhere in the script or some significant metaphor or allegory being served. :bounce:

Yes, I'd be thrilled to discuss it ... for a few bucks, of course.

On the other hand, you have to remember you're working in a "relationship industry", so you have to factor that in when you're pitching your next screenplay to the same producer in the months to follow!

As a writer who's no longer working on the project, you're under no obligation to do anything... it's one of those "courtesy" things where - ideally - the new writer is extending the courtesy of speaking with you about the project rather than swooping in and making it their own (if you want to speak, that is). There's no pay involved (at least not by guild rules)... if you don't want anything to do with the project once you're done, no one can force you to be a part of any discussion. At that point, you can just decline a conversation.

I think the idea is that the option is there, even if it's not utilized, and that it's an opportunity for writers to at least share their feelings rather than hacking up each other's scripts without a second thought. It's not really a money-making opportunity so much as a chance to hopefully get the same vision onto the screen that excited people in the first place.

Of course, if you're working on another project or feel that you don't want to waste any more time on the project, there's no reason you can't tell any writer that calls you up, "Hey, it's all yours now. I've spent enough of my time on it. Good luck!" ;)

Screenplay Savant
01-24-2011, 10:06 AM
I've had a number of rewrite assignments. For two of those, I was rewriting screenplays that were written by the attached director. In those cases I did spend some time getting a handle on his intentions, desires, what elements of the script he was most attached to and why etc. so that I could deliver something that reflected his vision.

On two other projects I was rewriting the producers, so again I asked a lot of questions so that I could be sure to deliver something that reflected their visions.

In all those cases the previous writer was involved in the development process of my draft (i.e. they had to sign off on the beat sheet, give notes on my first draft, etc.) Although in the end my drafts were all my vision of their visions. I made the changes that I thought best, and killed their babies if I felt it was necessary.

I am the third writer on my current project. I am still in the early stages of the rewrite - working on a new beat sheet, but I have had no contact with the previous writers, nor do I intend to. My job, as I see it, is to write a draft that delivers what the producers want. As harsh as it may sound the original writers' vision doesn't matter at this juncture. Also I guess I'm a bit uncomfortable approaching the other writers, because this is a first page rewrite. We are going in a different direction with the story and the characters. Very little of the first draft will be included, and none of the material from the second draft (which was a page one rewrite as well) will be used. I don't want to be the one to deliver that news to the other writers.

If this was not a first page rewrite and I wanted to get clarity on something in a previous draft, I would have no trouble contacting the writer(s).

catcon
01-24-2011, 10:07 AM
If the producer is hiring a new writer, it's quite possible they feel you already phucked it up. :eek:

Well, that's quite different from the more likely scenarios in the original post.

I'd simply try to have the company originate the request. Then it's on the record and hopefully there'd be some sort of payback or referral. If some writer just called up out of the blue and expected a lot for nothing, I'd nicely tell him/her to get the company rep to call me. I don't want the job back -- it's just business.

And I'm not just trying to be a stinker. I've learned how to handle these situations from my day job as a computer programmer. A company has me in at my normal rate for the original work, fine. Then they call in some summer student to tinker with the project afterwards -- and expect all sorts of free analysis.

prescribe22
01-24-2011, 10:08 AM
It's also quite possible they're hiring someone else for any of the 50 or so reasons people get hired to rewrite things.

No $h*t.

Derek Haas
01-24-2011, 10:21 AM
My honest assessment of how this happens in the real world... (having been on both sides of this many times.)

"Hey, it's _________" (new writer)

"Oh, hey, how you doing?"

"I'm good... listen, just wanted to let you know that I was hired to rewrite your script."

"Yeah... right. I heard."

"Anyway... I think it's a great script and my only goal is to get it made into a movie. For whatever reason, they weren't ready to make the version you turned in."

"Yeah, totally. I understand. That's what they said."

"All right, cool. Just wanted to let you know and hope everything is cool."

"Of course. Don't **** it up."

"Hhahah. Of course. Well... I probably will but don't hold it against me."

"You got it."

Click.

BattleDolphinZero
01-24-2011, 10:28 AM
I've heard several stories of good intel coming out of the phone call too. Like let's say Derek calls the original writer...

Derek: "Hey, I'm coming onto this project, just wanted to let you know."

Original Writer: "It's all good."

Derek: "Anything I need to know?"

Original Writer: "Yeah, these two producers don't see eye-to-eye. They're pulling the project in different directions. One of them has more juice blahblaha"

I finally sacked-up and made the call on a recent project and I discovered that, though I wasn't allowed to read OW's script, I'd been saddled with a lot of elements he created. The exec told me they were the studio's ideas but they're actually in a script somewhere, from someone else. Not a huge deal but nice to know.