John and Craig take an in-depth look at how screenwriting credits are determined. In some ways, credit arbitration is a luxury problem
the movie you wrote got made! but it's one of the most controversial, contentious and misunderstood parts of a screenwriter's career.
Ideally, you're the first, last and only writer employed on a movie. For Go and The Nines, that was the case. In situations where more than one writer works on a movie, figuring out who deserves credit can become an ordeal.
Most non-animated Hollywood features are written under a WGA contract. Part of that contract specifies that the WGA ultimately determines who receives screenplay and story credit (which collapses into "written by" credit if the same writer receives both). This week, we take a look at the rules, principles and guidelines, and offer advice for writers who find themselves facing a credit arbitration.
Plus, a quick visit to CES.
UPDATE 1-18-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John take a look the week's news, including the WGA nominations, Warner's shift to a 56-day video window, the folly of SOPA and the launch of Bronson Watermarker.
Along the way, we discuss Hoda Kotb, Marcus Bachman, and how great HBO Go is. (Really, it's great, and other studios should follow its lead.)
All this and more in episode 19 of Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 1-11-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John look at the year ahead, from resolutions (we don't have any) to reunions (20th!). Along the way, we discuss archery, piano and left-hand weakness.
The bulk of the episode is a discussion of Charlie Kaufman's BAFTA speech about screenwriting and screenwriters, artistry and artifice. Which of us comes down on the side of self-examination and the purity of intentions? The answer may surprise you!
UPDATE 1-9-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John explain what producers do
at least, what they're supposed to do and discuss the myriad subclasses of producers that litter the opening titles of many movies.
Which is the more impressive credit
producer or executive producer? In film, it's the former. In TV, it's the latter. But whatever the title, producers are integral to getting a movie or TV show made.
Craig feels producers can be either anxiety buffers or anxiety conductors. John breaks down four essential roles you find producers filling:
Some producers can fill multiple roles (like diplomat-creative), but you'll often find these qualities spread out among several people on a production, regardless of the size.
Who's that fat cat, and how did he afford such a fancy cigar? Find out on episode seventeen of Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 1-4-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John plug a book by their very first sponsor and discuss elective brain surgery, before tackling an exhaustive but illuminating list of questions from listener Daniel Barkeley.
They're residual questions about residuals, which seems very meta:
Thirteen conversations about a few things, on episode sixteen of Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 12-15-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John look at why the books and seminars purporting to teach screenwriting are generally terrible, trying to reduce the hard work of the craft to a series of formulas and templates.
It's a rare podcast in which I sway Craig's opinion whatsoever, but if you listen really carefully, I think he leaves the show just slightly less negative about screenwriting books than he started. It's all about degrees with Craig.
Plus, we get a visit from the LAPD, follow-up on residuals, and a bit more about unionizing videogame writers.
(Note that none of the books listed above are actually recommended. But we talk about them, so it feels fair to provide links.)
UPDATE 12-13-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John take a look at awards-season screeners before diving deep into a discussion of how residuals work and why they're so important to screenwriters.
Plus, a visit from Craig's cleaning lady, who thinks he's insane.
Near the end of our discussion on residuals, I give some actual numbers on an actual movie. Percentages are abstract; money is money.
I chose Go because I had the most data on it, going back to 1999. It's also useful because the movie was only moderately successful at the box office.
As you can see in the charts below, residuals taper off over the years
but that long tail still adds up:
Keep in mind, there's a possibility that residuals could spike if another home video medium takes off
digital downloads or rentals, for example.
I went into the podcast thinking I could easily reverse the math to figure out how much the studio has made off the movie, but as Craig points out, it's more complicated than it appears at first. Most home video is calculated as 1.5% of 20% of gross earnings, so in order to get an accurate number I would need to sort out how much of Go's residuals are coming from home video (and not television licensing).
But we can still get a sense of minimums: Go brought in at least $30 million in the aftermarket, and likely much, much more.
UPDATE 11-30-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
John and Craig tackle reader questions about self distribution, pseudonyms, separated rights, and studios' feelings about international versus domestic box office.
They also explain the fallacy of equating effort in with value out, discuss why the WGA should address sweepstake pitches and coverage for videogame writers, and offer a Kentucky-born 21+ cure for the common cold.
This and more on the thirteenth Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 11-27-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John discuss musicals, split time lines, split personalities and the human brain.
How does your inner-screenwriter affect how you see plays? Why is writing the second act of a screenplay such a slog? And is hearing voices in your head an asset as a writer? All this and more in the twelfth episode of Scriptnotes.
We spend a good chunk of time talking about the iconic musical Follies, and while there are some good screenwriting lessons to learn, no one will judge you if you skip forward to our discussion of brain books (17:30) or second-act malaise (20:30).
If you haven't Liked us and you like us, consider Liking us: facebook.com/scriptnotes.
UPDATE 11-18-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
When you read articles claiming every Hollywood movie loses money, an obvious question arises: "Why do they keep making them, then?" In this installment, John and Craig explain how the film industry spends and makes money.
It's a big and complicated topic. You could easily spend a semester studying it
John did but this overview should give you a sense of how it all works.
The most important thing to understand is that each film is accounted for separately. Studios charge distribution fees that earn money for the company without paying down the investment in each movie. That's how Theoretical Pictures can turn a profit even when each of the last 20 films it has released shows a loss.
Because we're throwing a lot of terms around this episode, here's a handy cheat sheet:
John couldn't remember the name of it (The Paramount Decree) but it's worth reading up on the 1948 court decision barring studios from owning movie theaters. Not only is it a fascinating anti-trust case, but it greatly influenced how the modern film industry works.
UPDATE 11-17-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.