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  • Credit

    Hey all – I have a question about WGA credit.

    I just finished an assignment. I was screenwriter #5. It is an infamous project and none of the previous writers managed to deliver. Amazingly I nailed it and my version is structurally, tonally, stylistically completely different from the others.

    The story is based on a true story and there have been several books written about it. I basically just took as much from various sources as I could.

    I can confidently say that this is my screenplay and that there isn’t a single word taken from the other versions. However I hear different things being thrown around by my writer friends such as “the first writer will get credit no matter what“. I was even told to put the previous writers names on the title page of my draft.

    Assuming the movie gets made I feel that it would be absurd if one of the other writers got credit for my work just because they tried and failed to crack the story a decade ago.

    So am I in for a nasty surprise?

  • #2
    Re: Credit

    Congratulations! Perhaps I’m mistaken, but doesn’t the WGA look over the script’s various incarnations (arbitration) to determine credit?

    WGA screenwriting credit system

    WGA Screen Credits Manual (a PDF download)

    see page 4 Section “D. WRITING INDEPENDENTLY OF PRIOR SCRIPTS” and also page 14 section “i. Original and Non-Original Screenplays”
    Clint Hill
    Member
    Last edited by Clint Hill; 03-15-2019, 08:12 PM.
    “Nothing is what rocks dream about” ― Aristotle

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Credit

      Congrats!

      The following two links to 3rd & Fairfax have discussions about credits from the head of the Credits Dept. at the Guild. Both interviews are at the top of each podcast.

      3rd & Fairfax: Ep. 19

      3rd & Fairfax: Ep. 20

      HTH,
      Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

      -Steve Trautmann
      3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Credit

        Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
        I can confidently say that this is my screenplay and that there isn't a single word taken from the other versions. However I hear different things being thrown around by my writer friends such as "the first writer will get credit no matter what". I was even told to put the previous writers names on the title page of my draft.
        Having the title page correctly represent all the writers involved is important, which is something Lesley Mackey discussed in Ep. 19. Arbitration is covered in Ep. 20.

        HTH,
        Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

        -Steve Trautmann
        3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Credit

          If i'm Not mistaken, which my apologies i'm on limited wi-fi at the mo, but I think it's the draft that gets greenlit that is the one that is used to determine credit, at least the starting point. Then any rewriting that's done during production.
          "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
          Hollywood producer

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          • #6
            Re: Credit

            Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
            If i'm Not mistaken, which my apologies i'm on limited wi-fi at the mo, but I think it's the draft that gets greenlit that is the one that is used to determine credit, at least the starting point. Then any rewriting that's done during production.
            That's not correct. The arbitration committee reads everything that emerged from the entire development process, going back as many years as necessary.

            Now, this is the part where I may be mistaken: it's my understanding that source material isn't taken into account when determining credit, which is why the first writer almost always end up with a credit (because he/she is credited with having originated every character, scene, and situation that in fact originated in the book/article/etc. on which the project was based).

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Credit

              Originally posted by KitchonaSteve View Post
              Congrats!

              The following two links to 3rd & Fairfax have discussions about credits from the head of the Credits Dept. at the Guild. Both interviews are at the top of each podcast.

              3rd & Fairfax: Ep. 19

              3rd & Fairfax: Ep. 20

              HTH,
              Originally posted by KitchonaSteve View Post
              Having the title page correctly represent all the writers involved is important, which is something Lesley Mackey discussed in Ep. 19. Arbitration is covered in Ep. 20.

              HTH,
              Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
              That's not correct. The arbitration committee reads everything that emerged from the entire development process, going back as many years as necessary.

              Now, this is the part where I may be mistaken: it's my understanding that source material isn't taken into account when determining credit, which is why the first writer almost always end up with a credit (because he/she is credited with having originated every character, scene, and situation that in fact originated in the book/article/etc. on which the project was based).
              KitchonaSteve knows for sure, so please visit his links, and then there’s this from the WGA Screen Credits Manual:

              “4. Source Material
              Source material is all material, other than story as hereinafter defined, upon which the story and/or screenplay is based. Source material is material assigned to the writer that was previously published or exploited and upon which the writer's work is to be based (e.g., a novel, a produced play or series of published articles), or any other material written outside of the Guild's jurisdiction (e.g., literary material purchased from a non-professional writer). Some examples of source material credits are:
              "From a Play by,"
              "From a Novel by,"
              "Based upon a Story by,"
              "From a Series of Articles by,"
              "Based upon a Screenplay by,"
              or other appropriate wording indicating the form in which such source material is acquired. Not all assigned material is source material. For example, literary material written by prior participating writers and research material are not considered source material. ”
              “Nothing is what rocks dream about” ― Aristotle

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Credit

                Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
                KitchonaSteve knows for sure, so please visit his links, and then there’s this from the WGA Screen Credits Manual:

                “4. Source Material
                Source material is all material, other than story as hereinafter defined, upon which the story and/or screenplay is based. Source material is material assigned to the writer that was previously published or exploited and upon which the writer's work is to be based (e.g., a novel, a produced play or series of published articles), or any other material written outside of the Guild's jurisdiction (e.g., literary material purchased from a non-professional writer). Some examples of source material credits are:
                "From a Play by,"
                "From a Novel by,"
                "Based upon a Story by,"
                "From a Series of Articles by,"
                "Based upon a Screenplay by,"
                or other appropriate wording indicating the form in which such source material is acquired. Not all assigned material is source material. For example, literary material written by prior participating writers and research material are not considered source material. ”
                Yes, I know what the definition of source material is. My point was that, when determining screenplay credits, I didn't think the existence of source material was taken into account when assessing the contribution of the first writer; looking over the SCM, that seems not entirely right-- here's what the manual has to say on the subject:

                "Selection from Source Material:As a guideline for arbiters in cases involving a non-original screenplay based upon source material, it is a fundamental principle that selection of screenplay elements from the source material is a part of the creative process of writing the screenplay. Arbiters should give weight to any writer's original and unique utilization, choice, or arrangement of source material when it is present in the final shooting script, but not the employment of basic story elements that any other writer may have also selected. (See screenplay elements - Section III.A.4.b. See story elements - Section III.A.2.)"

                In practice, this generally means that the first writer, even on an adaptation, will get credit.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Credit

                  The fact that people are not clear on credit and arbitration speaks volumes to how complicated it is.

                  What I am having issues wrapping my head around is the following: let's say there is a story based on real life events and possibly on a book written about those events. The characters and basic narrative are going to be reflective of what actually happened. So it becomes less about inventing characters, and situations, and more about how the story is told.

                  I find it hard to believe that the first writer gets credit just because he was the first writer if that draft and the subsequent drafts were not used for production.

                  Does anybody actually know what the arbitrators look for?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Credit

                    Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
                    That's not correct. The arbitration committee reads everything that emerged from the entire development process, going back as many years as necessary.
                    yes, my apologies, i didn't mean to imply that the starting point IS ONLY the greenlit draft.

                    what i meant is that the credit starts with the final draft that was greenlit (including any rewritten parts during production) and then they compare that to all the previous drafts to determine who gave what contribution.

                    they have to have an end point at which to 'compare' ALL previous drafts. i realize i was possibly unclear in what i meant. i understand that they review ALL drafts.

                    cheers all~
                    FA4
                    "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
                    Hollywood producer

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Credit

                      Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
                      The fact that people are not clear on credit and arbitration speaks volumes to how complicated it is.

                      What I am having issues wrapping my head around is the following: let's say there is a story based on real life events and possibly on a book written about those events. The characters and basic narrative are going to be reflective of what actually happened. So it becomes less about inventing characters, and situations, and more about how the story is told.

                      I find it hard to believe that the first writer gets credit just because he was the first writer if that draft and the subsequent drafts were not used for production.

                      Does anybody actually know what the arbitrators look for?
                      they look for the differences. real differences. i think it has to be a specific percentage of change. if the narrative is basically the same, then it will probably go to the original writer. but if it goes from being an underwater story, then it's moved into deep space, that's a big change that can affect a lot of the narrative. changing character's gender, changing it from a big budget spectacle to a small contained film. changing a character's attitudes and values, i think it all goes into consideration.

                      i remember reading Alien Engineers which is the first draft by Jon Spaiths which ultimately became Prometheus. Damon Lindelof wrote the final draft known as Prometheus.

                      i have both drafts and there are moments that remain the same from the original but there are also really big changes to the narrative that were in Lindelof draft.

                      they received shared credit with two other writers: Dan O'Bannon and
                      Ronald Shusett

                      i read the process a while ago, and if you want to better understand it you might want to dig into it.
                      "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
                      Hollywood producer

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Credit

                        these two links will probably help you (as well as others)...

                        https://www.wga.org/contracts/credit...survival-guide

                        https://www.wga.org/contracts/credit...credits-manual for film...

                        https://www.wga.org/contracts/credit...credits-manual for TV.
                        "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
                        Hollywood producer

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Credit

                          OK but in a science-fiction universe invention is much more likely.

                          Let’s say that producers wish to make a movie about Dick Cheney. They acquire a book that focuses on Dick Cheney’s life with particular focus on the Iraq war.

                          Four writers come in over a decade and tell the story of Dick Cheney in a fairly linear way. The events are overlapping and the characters are the same. In other words, Dick Cheney has a heart attack. Dick Cheney meets with George W. Bush about being his running mate. Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his buddy. These events are present in all drafts simply because that’s what the story is.

                          Then a fifth writer comes in and tells the story in a very different way – structurally, stylistically, totally. That’s the version that gets made.

                          Would the previous 4 writers still be entitled to a credit?

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                          • #14
                            Re: Credit

                            I've been through an arbitration, and ultimately it's subjective based on the panel of writers judging, although there are guidelines in place for them to follow. I thought I had a clear case for sole credit (against a director who re-wrote me). While almost all the dialogue had changed, the plot was more or less the same, and the characters were essentially the same (in my opinion). But the panel felt that the main character's personality had made an important shift from reactive to active in the director's draft, so I ended up sharing credit. You just never know. And that's just an arbitration involving two drafts - his and mine. Can't imagine what it's like when there are six drafts from six writers.
                            https://twitter.com/DavidCoggeshall
                            http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1548597/

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