SPLITSVILLE (Classic Post)

Penny from Huntington Beach asks:

A co-worker and I agreed to work on a script together, when I found out how much work was involved I quit my job and started writting full-time, but, with no help from my partner, I would have to call her and basically pull teeth to get us to meet so that we can pull ideas together. She put in about 40 hours at most. And I did all the writing, formatting, it took me nine months, but am now done. I paid for all the ink, and paper, and submitted the script to a manager to read, she wants us to polish up to bring to the next level. I contacted my partner, and she no longer wants to be a part of it, says she has no time. I typed up an agreement that she would get 25% of the earning if it would ever make it. Thats more then fair… But, she is not returning my calls. I don’t know how to get her name off of the script, I sent it in to the writers guild a while back, and her name is on it… I would like to change her title to creative consultant, but, how can I do this when she is a deadbeat. I want to start working on it again to bring it to the next level, but want her name off of it since she is no longer a part of it.. HELP. what do I do??

Your problem is very common, but you will not like the answer. Writing partnerships often fail and the only real solution is to come to agreement with your partner over handling of the material. Given that she will not speak to you, this is not likely to occur. Absent some agreement with her, you are not entitled to unilaterally “get her name off the script” for the simple reason that she helped create it.

You may want to retain an attorney. The attorney may be able to get her attention and negotiate something. However, try to get an attorney who will help you for a nominal fee. Do not make the mistake of investing much more money and time into this script unless and until you have an agreement with your former partner that satisfies you before you make the additional investment.

Should you get your partner to seriously negotiate, you should seek to negotiate away any credit for screenwriting by her. At most, she should share a joint “story by” credit with you and you should have the screenwriting credit. Also, her credit (and yours) must be subject to the terms of the WGA if the script sells to a signatory.

Your circumstance is cautionary to anyone considering a writing partner. Follow these guidelines:

  1. Choose your partner carefully – writing a script takes a long time and represents an enormous personal commitment. Casually initiating a writing partnership is a big mistake.
  2. Address partnership problems as they arise. Do not ignore them and continue to invest time and money into your script. Partnership problems tend to get worse and worse if they are not addressed up front.

This should not dissuade anyone from working with a well-chosen partner. Some of the best writers around are writing teams. Writing with a partner can be very rewarding. Just choose the right partner.

I hope this helps. Good luck….

Category: The Business


Here’s something new for the Thinking Writer: new feature, new category. A survey of news of interest to screenwriters.

Scary Story For Screenwriters – before you decide never to circulate a script again, my opinion is, this is still the exception.

Fear Strikes Out – passing of a screenwriter. We are part of a tradition. It’s good to see who comes and goes.

Richard Walters – on why he loves America…. (Hint: it’s the screenwriters.)

Akiva Goldsman on DiVinci Code – about adapting novels.

Category: News


S. Pettyway of Connecticut asks:

What’s the deal with that writing program “Dramatica Pro” and is it really worth it? Or Should an inspiring screenwriter such as myself stick with the old tools of the trade, my heart and mind.

After having played with many programs over many years, my feeling about software and technology in general is that the best thing it can do for you as a screenwriter is get out of your way. Screenplay formatting software (Final Draft and others) is terrific when it is not buggy because it just sits there and lets you write. Some outlining software is pretty good this way, too, but it does not seem to be much better than a legal pad or index cards.

Programs like Dramatica Pro seek to impose a particular story philosophy on you. In fact, that is their whole reason for being – to shape your ideas to fit their story philosophy and thereby make your task easier and make the result better. The problem is, part of being a writer is developing your own story philosophy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard to understand as many well thought out ideas about story as you can, but I find any software that tries to marshal me into its story structure and concepts quickly becomes extremely frustrating.

There is no shortcut.

You are the creator of the story; you are not merely a scribe filling in blanks. This is not a moral position, but a statement of fact. Filling in the blanks simply does not work. Ideas about story structure are all imperfect – mostly after the fact analysis (even the old Aristotle). That means you need to invent each story you write – struggle through the issues the same as every writer, even the best of them, reinvent your personal story philosophy as you go, and no software, no book, no video tape, no CD will ever give you the answer. You must find it for yourself.

With all that said, there may be some successful screenwriter somewhere who made a sale using some story crafting software, but I guarantee it wasn’t because of the software. If you enjoy tinkering with new software (I know I do) and have a couple hundred bucks to spare – go ahead and play with it. Play is good and it might inspire you to create something. But don’t spend your food money or your school money or your mortgage money on it. Writing software is just a toy.

Category: Resources