Have you ever looked at the credits on a film and wondered how they can have got through so many writers? There’s a temptation to assume the first writer must have been shit and replaced with the second writer; but sometimes the list can include four or five successful writers – they can’t all be incapable of writing, surely?
Well, yes, sometimes they can. Part of the problem there, of course, is not everyone agrees on what ‘good’ writing is. We can all reel off a list of points: sparkling dialogue, interesting characters, a gripping plot … but all of these things are subjective and not everyone agrees on what they actually are. I’d say it’s easier to identify bad writing, but that’s not true either.
Not everyone likes the same thing.
On the other hand, some successful writers are absolutely fucking awful. They aren’t successful because they’re good, they’re successful because they sound like they’re good. They talk themselves up to such a point they get paid ridiculous sums for their work and when they deliver a pile of shit, it gets hushed up because the production company doesn’t want to admit they paid over the odds for someone who can’t write their own name. It could well be they were good at one point in the past, before their ego got in the way; or it could be they wrote one piece of absolute genius by accident and have lived off it ever since.
Anyway, here’s an incomplete and totally inaccurate list of why you end up with more than one writer on a film:
As discussed, sometimes this is the writer; but sometimes it’s the producer or director. Writer A might deliver exactly the script he was asked for, only to find out the people who did the asking had no idea what they were asking for.
“This script’s rubbish, it’s got a giant monkey in it – how shit is that?”
“Well, you did ask for a sequel to ‘King Kong’.”
“Yeah, but I meant something like ‘American Pie’ meets ‘Casablanca’.
At which point, Writer A gets fired.
CHANGE OF DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER … OR BOTH
Director A gets Writer A to write the script. Director A then falls out with Producer A and gets sacked. This usually involves someone sleeping with someone else’s partner. Director B loves Writer A’s script but because Producer A hates Director A and everything he touched, Writer A gets sacked. Writer B adapts Writer A’s script and does a half-arsed job but they’re still happy … until Writer B is spotted having a drink with Director A’s neighbour and Producer A gets into a strop and fires him.
Director B shouts at Producer A who then has a nervous breakdown.
Producer B sacks Director B to avoid being shouted at and hires Director C and Writer C.
By this point, no one can remember what the original film was supposed to be about, so they decide to play it safe and just remake something from the sixties … badly.
CHANGE OF PLAN
Writer A gets hired to write an Action film, because that’s what he’s good at. Producer A wants to sleep with Actress A, so he changes his mind and turns the film into a female led Rom-Com. Actress A refuses to sleep with Producer A who fires everyone and then has a nervous breakdown.
Alternatively, Producer A asks for a particular kind of script. Writer A delivers exactly what he’s asked for and everyone is very happy. Producer A then talks to his friends who convince him his original idea was rubbish and he immediately blames Writer A for not ignoring the original brief.
Sadly, sometimes a writer dies before finishing the script.
Sometimes, it’s not so sad and the world has one less talentless alcoholic.
OUT OF TIME
Writer A has six months before he needs to start work on his next project. He thinks six months is loads of time to write a film, but has failed to reckon with the Producer and Director’s inability to reach a consensus. Director A thinks the script needs more emotional depth; Producer A thinks it needs more tits. By the time they’ve agreed that emotional depth can be delivered topless … Writer A has moved on and the whole fucking mess gets passed on to the hapless Writer B.
OUT OF MONEY
Sometimes Producer A will promise Writer A ‘X’ amount of money in advance and ‘Y’ amount of money on delivery.
By the time the delivery date is reached, so many people have had nervous breakdowns, died or slept with other’s partners there is no more money to pay the writer. Writer A refuses to release the material; but due to a bizarre contract clause, retains his credit.
Writer B is hired to write a new script for less money and no credit, so the Producer can retain the kudos of having Writer A’s name on the film. Because Writer B is rubbish, Writer A gets blamed for the appalling film and never works again. Conversely, Writer B goes on to run a major studio.
There are many, many other reasons why a film can have more than one writer; but strangely, the script not being good enough is fairly rare. The basic message is: at some point it’s going to happen to each and everyone of us. When it happens to you, don’t get angry, don’t get upset. Just accept it in good humour, make sure you can find someone else to blame and then follow whoever fired you home and key the fucker’s car.