Screenwriters Getting Press

The media relations committee at the WGA must be giddy — the LA Times is giving screenwriters a lot of attention lately. For example, today they did a short profile of Robin Swicord, discussing how she went about adapting MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. It sounds like it was an unusual process:

"I had to go absolutely unprepared to the first meeting," she said. "I
hadn’t read the book since it came out. When I came into the meeting,
it was clear he had a movie in his head."

After she left, she
reread the book and began to take notes. "I wrote an outline of what
the movie might look like," she said. "Mostly, I wrote 18 pages of
musing on aspects of the book — the thematic lines that drove the
narrative of the story. I e-mailed him that. He contacted me and asked
me to come to another meeting."

Hired the next day, Swicord
spent six weeks working on a 70-page outline that resembled a
screenplay without dialogue. "It was the film completely envisioned
with casting and location breakdowns. The idea was that they would be
able to take that and start going to work. Rob had to cast without a
screenplay. It was intense."

On top of that, while she was writing, another writer was simultaneously doing the rewrites:

Because Swicord was still off working on the script as rehearsals
began, Marshall brought in scribe Doug Wright to make changes when

"Some of the lines got tweaked," Swicord says, adding that Marshall promised her that 99% of her script would remain intact.

"He was as good as his word," she adds.

On Sunday, the LA Times, did a lengthy article about the rewrites that plagued FUN WITH DICK AND JANE before, during, and after production. Then, in another article the same day, the paper did a superficial examination of the credit arbitration process on both FUN and MEMOIRS, as well as a few other movies.

Moviemaking has been a collaborative business since Day 1, but rarely
have so many screenwriters converged on so few screenplays. While some
upcoming holiday films may be credited to just one writer, that hardly
means just one writer wrote the whole movie.

In some cases, producers and studios throw different writers at
different sections of a story, adding a joke here, some action there.
In other instances, a writer — or team of writers — does a
top-to-bottom rewrite.

The Writers Guild of America is then asked to sort out who did what and award the credits as it deems proper — a process that invariably leaves someone out in the cold. For example, while only
three writers were credited for the first "Charlie’s Angels" movie, no fewer than 17 scribes took a whack at its script.

2 thoughts on “Screenwriters Getting Press”

  1. How many writers did it take to “write” Charlies Angels? According to the credits, 3. According to the Trades, 17. And according to anyone who sat through it, they should have unscrewed a damn lightbulb instead.


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