Credit where credit’s not due

I used to get really upset about being rewritten; but now, not so much.

It used to be if I were hired for a project I would be bitterly disappointed if I didn’t get to see it through to the end. I mean, it’s an insult, right? They’re saying I’m not good enough. Worse, they’re saying the guy replacing me is better than me, aren’t they? Surely, by replacing me, they’ve just told me I’m shit?

Well, no. Not really.

Writers get replaced for various reasons and rarely because they’re not good enough. Even if it is a quality issue, it just means that script isn’t very good, not you as a writer on every project for all time.

Most of the time though, writers get replaced because of something to do with politics or egos or general spineless incompetence. Like:

  1. The director wants more control, he ridicules a script everyone else likes so he can write it himself.
  2. The producer’s wife spontaneously decides she doesn’t want to sell handicraft pencil holders any more and would rather be a scriptwriter. Starting now. On this project.
  3. The producer has forgotten you’re waiting for notes from him about the last draft and gets so wound up by you not delivering the next draft (the one he hasn’t asked for) that he fires you. Presumably for not being clairvoyant.
  4. A project ends up as a co-production deal and the other company (the one putting up the most money) insists on a re-write using their own writer (who they found in Tesco that morning).
  5. Producer doesn’t understand ‘development’ and just keeps hiring new writers for every draft until they run out of time and/or money. “For fuck’s sake, this first draft isn’t perfect either! How many first drafts do I have to commission before someone gets it right?”
  6. Someone insists on a talking monkey. You don’t want to put a talking monkey into a story about how the Beatles got together. They find someone with less common sense/principles.
  7. Producer asks for something. You write it. Co-producer hates it. Original producer blames the writer rather than stand up for his own ideas … you get replaced.
  8. The director hates you because on your last project you sided with the producer against that director who is this director’s cousin/brother/fuck-buddy and he is determined not to work with you … but not so determined he won’t take the money.
  9. You keep giving the producer what he asks for – he’s an idiot with no concept of how a story works, he doesn’t want you to write what he told you to write, he wants you to write something good.
  10. The director has taken a LOT of drugs. Either that or he’s a ‘creative person’ – or ‘fucking retard’ in common parlance. He changes his mind so often he can’t remember what he asked for, even if you show him the email where he asked for it.
And so on.
My feeling now about being re-written is … yeah, fine. Whatever. I’ve done my job as best I can. Either it’s genuinely not good enough or there are external reasons. Either way, so long as I get the credit I’m due, I don’t really care.
Thing is, there are so many people chucking stuff into the mix during production, the chances of the final film bearing even a passing resemblance to the original script are so slim as to be almost zero. Having another writer’s name on the credits is rarely someone stealing your glory, it’s more than likely someone to share the blame … so long as they have actually written a significant portion of the script.
If they’ve just changed the name of one of the characters or written a couple of lines for an actor who couldn’t remember the original line because it had too many syllables … then that’s different. If they don’t deserve a credit, then they shouldn’t get one and you’ve got every right to be upset. And litigious.
Similarly, if it’s a spec script, a labour of love you’re really proud of … which then gets re-written because of the reasons above … yeah, that’s fucking annoying and soul destroying.
But if you’re hired to write a script and for some reason they go with a different writer later on?
Yeah, fine. Whatever.
You did the job you were asked to do, you got paid for it, the script you wrote still exists as a sample/testament to your ability … so, really, what difference does it make?
Sometimes I even relish being re-written. I’m not enjoying this, I don’t like these people … “We’ve decided to go in a different direction, of course you’ll still get a credit and paid.” Whoo-hoo! Get out of jail free!
On more than one occasion, I’ve been hired for something I wasn’t that fussed about. Occasionally, I’ve thought it might be nice to get fired now that I’ve done enough work to ensure payment and credit. In those circumstances, being re-written is a good thing:
“We want to pay you, credit you; but someone else is going to do all the work.”
Um … let me think about that for a moment …
Fuck, more of those jobs, please!
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Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Credit where credit’s not due

  1. Pingback: 2011 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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