How do you co-write a script?

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  • How do you co-write a script?

    I have someone right now who's asking me if they can take one of my script ideas and co-write it with me. I was initially going to agree, but then I thought to myself

    How exactly do you co-write a script in the first place?

    I'm sorry if this seems like a silly question. But in your past experience, what is the process of co-writing a script? Does one person do the first draft and the other polishes the second? Do they take turns writing 5 pages until completion? Or is it something different?

    I always understood how two writers could creatively collaborate on a project. I just never understood how two writers could physically write a script together

  • #2
    Re: How do you co-write a script?

    You do it whatever way is comfortable for the two of you. There is no one way. Some people alternate drafts, some write different acts, some write in the same room at the same time. I've heard of one relationship where one partner lies on the sofa and babbles while the other one does all the actual typing.

    But you also have to really know why you want to do this and do some paperwork first. You should have a contract. If you search the archives here, you'll find tons of threads about people who have been burned by partnerships because they didn't make sure they were both clear on credit and work load ahead of time.

    And think of this as well: if you write this with a partner, and it actually gets traction, you and your partner will be considered a team. You'll be repped together, should you get that far. If you want to use this to look for a rep on your own, it will be useless for that because a rep has no way of knowing which contributions are yours and which are your partner's.

    I'm not saying don't do it. There are probably plenty of writers here who've partnered up more often than I have and can tell you more. But just be aware of the pitfalls before you dive in.
    emily blake
    Member
    Last edited by emily blake; 01-13-2014, 08:23 AM.
    Chicks Who Script podcast

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    • #3
      Re: How do you co-write a script?

      I did a ghostwriting job (yes, I signed a contract) last year. What basically happened was I wrote a script based on the person's treatment. She emailed me her version of the script. It has most of my stuff with her stuff added. I told her what was good and what wasn't and she's currently polishing it. It's basically give and take.
      "A screenwriter is much like being a fire hydrant with a bunch of dogs lined up around it.- -Frank Miller

      "A real writer doesn't just want to write; a real writer has to write." -Alan Moore

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      • #4
        Re: How do you co-write a script?

        I work with a writing partner, and each script we've worked on has been different. Most of the time (since we both have full time jobs) we extensively outline together and the pass scenes back and forth, constantly rewriting each other. On some rare occasions we've managed to have a week at a time to get together every day and bust out the script. And there are also projects where one of us will write a compete draft and then give it to the other to totally rip apart. There are many ways to do it depending on the people and the situation.

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        • #5
          Re: How do you co-write a script?

          Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
          I work with a writing partner, and each script we've worked on has been different. Most of the time (since we both have full time jobs) we extensively outline together and the pass scenes back and forth, constantly rewriting each other. On some rare occasions we've managed to have a week at a time to get together every day and bust out the script. And there are also projects where one of us will write a compete draft and then give it to the other to totally rip apart. There are many ways to do it depending on the people and the situation.
          Now that sounds like a good system, with splitting up scenes and rewriting each other. I'll definitely look into this

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          • #6
            Re: How do you co-write a script?

            Originally posted by Liv96 View Post
            Now that sounds like a good system, with splitting up scenes and rewriting each other. I'll definitely look into this
            Good luck.
            "A screenwriter is much like being a fire hydrant with a bunch of dogs lined up around it.- -Frank Miller

            "A real writer doesn't just want to write; a real writer has to write." -Alan Moore

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            • #7
              Re: How do you co-write a script?

              Originally posted by Liv96 View Post
              I have someone right now who's asking me if they can take one of my script ideas and co-write it with me. I was initially going to agree, but then I thought to myself

              How exactly do you co-write a script in the first place?
              My advice is to just take it slowly. What is this person bringing to the table? Maybe start with an exchange about where they see the story going from your initial idea. This way you can see if you have a similar take, if they are bringing something you are excited about or if they just don't have any original ideas of their own and want yours.
              wry

              The rule is the first fifteen pages should enthrall me, but truth is, I'm only giving you about 3-5 pages. ~ Hollywood Script Reader

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              • #8
                Re: How do you co-write a script?

                Every writing partnership needs to find its own style and dynamic so work out a process that is comfortable for you both, whether it's in the same room most of the time or working apart or somewhere in between. You might want to take the lead for different scenes then review each others work. Go with what's most comfortable and productive.

                Importantly, what Emily said about a contract and being clear about your mutual expectations. Nothing will test a friendship quicker than a dispute over property, in this case intellectual property. Even if you think you know and trust each other, have a clear written agreement over roles and rights and ownership including get-out clauses.
                Last edited by DavidK; 01-15-2014, 12:03 AM. Reason: + "with"
                "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

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                • #9
                  Re: How do you co-write a script?

                  From Emily:

                  ...

                  I've heard of one relationship where one partner lies on the sofa and babbles while the other one does all the actual typing.

                  ...
                  This is one dynamic where I know I can contribute....
                  " Don't really like writing. But I do like having written." Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad.

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                  • #10
                    Re: How do you co-write a script?

                    Odd pages and they do even pages.

                    Bill
                    Free Script Tips:
                    http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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                    • #11
                      Re: How do you co-write a script?

                      Originally posted by wcmartell View Post
                      Odd pages and they do even pages.

                      Bill
                      God, that sounds like it'd be fun.

                      An article on the topic from the highest-grossing writing team in Hollywood history.

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                      • #12
                        Re: How do you co-write a script?

                        I suppose I should chime in here. I won a major contest and did several pro jobs (one which may yet get produced) with a partner, who I no longer am doing new material with.

                        I'll talk about how we did it, focusing mostly on what we were doing when it was working well. Other people do it differently.

                        My writing partner and I were friends and collaborators before we tried to write together. I had directed him in several shorts, and worked with him on the development of a short screenplay of his. We trusted each other. We liked each other. We had seen dozens of movies together and had lots of conversations about what worked and didn't work about it. A third friends of ours ones told us that it was amusing to see a movie with the two of us, sitting between us, because we both had such similar reactions to moments on screen.

                        We would, initially, hash out an idea in a room together, working on an outline, just throwing stuff back and forth. I would draw up lots of diagrams (which I do when breaking a story). He would generate lots of scene ideas and I'd try to fit 'em in my diagrams, but it was largely a free-form discusison that lasted weeks, that ended when we had a solid outline for the entire movie.

                        We would then go off, one of us would take scene 1, the other scene 2, and write them. The next day, we'd meet, read each other's work, and discuss. "I liked this." "Why'd you do this?" "I think you missed something here." Then we'd go and rewrite the other's scenes. We would continue this back-and-forth passing of scenes until we were both happy.

                        If it took more than 2 or 3 passes, we'd sit down and talk about it again. Generally our attitude with disagreements wasn't "I'll give you this one, you give me the next one," but rather, "Even though I like this scene, I trust your judgement, so if something is bothering you let's find something that makes both of us happy." (This changed as the partnership stopped working so well. I don't think that's a coincidence).

                        And whatever point we got to when we were basically just doing minor cleaning up, we'd start the next two scenes, and repeat the process.

                        When we got done with the first act, we'd put all the pages we had together and read it. Then get in a room, discuss our reactions, and edit it together - both at the same table, looking at the same screen (or, later, with mirroring, looking at the same live document on two different screens).

                        When we finished the whole script, we'd repeat that process. Put it all together, go read it, usually once for big-picture stuff and again for detail stuff, and then discuss what needed to be done. New scenes or sequences would get handled like original scenes (one writes, then we trade). All of the editing at this final stage, except for stuff like windows, was handled with us both in a room, approving every change. (We'd have marked up paper copies to work from).

                        We'd repeat that full read through a couple of times, and then we were done.

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                        • #13
                          Re: How do you co-write a script?

                          Here's a MAJOR consideration: there may be two writers, but there can be only one voice.

                          So who's voice is the script in? Yours, or your partner's?

                          more aptly, it is going to be in voice of your main character. So whichever partner best embodies the voice of the main character, that partner is the lead.

                          There has to to be a lead, despite all the above 'we shared and passed back and forth, and approved every change together' methodology. After all the editing and approved changes are done, ONE PARTNER must/should go back and rewrite everything from their POV and in their style, giving themselves the right to make changes and choices where they deem necessary.

                          The result is a cohesive script with a strong, singular voice of style and character. A good read. Not a mish-mosh that clearly looks like two or more people scotch-taped it together from oppsite ends of the universe. These scripts are so easy to spot it isn't funny.

                          there's no referee in a writing partnership, so someone has to break the ties (re; arguments/stalemates) between partners. And there will be ties/arguments/stalemates. it's the creative nature of a writer to take their story their own way--can you check your ego at the door and give in to your partner even though you may think your way is better? Can you know when to swallow your pride and when to stand up for it because you are dead-solid sure your angle is the right one for the story?

                          Choices are never made on a 'you give me this one, I'll give you the next one' axiom. that's amateurish. You make the best choice FOR THE STORY and FOR THE CHARACTER VOICE.

                          Which is why there is one partner who must have final say, right or wrong. Agreed or disagreed.

                          Usually the partner with the most experience/produced scripts is the lead. If you are a male-female team and your lead character is a woman, then the female of your team has the lead. Not negotiable. Sorry, fellas, women write better female characters than men do. And vice versa.

                          if you are a team of the same sex, well, you've got some choices to make. Make them up front. Accept and move on, for the good of the story.

                          And when that ego starts making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up part way through act two...get a haircut. You agreed to this.

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                          • #14
                            Re: How do you co-write a script?

                            Originally posted by callingit View Post
                            There has to to be a lead, despite all the above 'we shared and passed back and forth, and approved every change together' methodology. After all the editing and approved changes are done, ONE PARTNER must/should go back and rewrite everything from their POV and in their style, giving themselves the right to make changes and choices where they deem necessary.
                            Your point about the script needing to feel like its all one voice is a good one, but this is nonsense.

                            Readers should not be able to tell who wrote what. Heck, more than once my writing partner or I credited our partner with a line we wrote individually.

                            But the notion that there's ONE WAY to achieve this is nonsense. Literal nonsense. That you have to do the above is directly contrary to my professional experience, we were didn't do anything like that, and got hired, and attached directors and talent.

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                            • #15
                              Re: How do you co-write a script?

                              Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                              Your point about the script needing to feel like its all one voice is a good one, but this is nonsense.

                              Readers should not be able to tell who wrote what. Heck, more than once my writing partner or I credited our partner with a line we wrote individually.

                              But the notion that there's ONE WAY to achieve this is nonsense. Literal nonsense. That you have to do the above is directly contrary to my professional experience, we were didn't do anything like that, and got hired, and attached directors and talent.
                              Agreeing with Ronaldinho here. I've worked with my partner so much, I have times when I can't remember which one of us wrote what.

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