Do you future screenwriters know?
Upon completion of a film, the producer must present the proposed credits for screenwriting to the guild. If any of the writers object or if credit is to be assigned to a producer or director of the film who rewrote someone else’s screenplay the WGA requires the parties to compile drafts of the screenplays and an account of their work on each. This information is submitted to arbitration by a panel of three members of the Guild, which renders a decision.
The WGA resolutely rejects the auteur theory that only the director is the “author” of a film and so when a “production executive” (a producer or director) claims credit, he or she must meet a higher standard than others to receive credit. A writer must contribute at least one-third of the final screenplay to receive credit. If subsequent writers labor on an original screenplay, they must contribute more than half of the final screenplay to receive credit. If a production executive works on a script, he or she must contribute at least half the final product to receive credit.
The WGA negotiations are so complex that they have resulted in a strange code in which the difference between the word “and” and an ampersand can be measured in millions of dollars and years of glory. A screenplay by, say, “Christopher Marlowe & Thomas Middleton” means that the two men are a writing team but, if it says “Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Middleton”, the pair might never have met and may well have spent months in litigation.
WGA: Writers working collaboratively as an established team may split WGA minimum compensation, and are both credited for literary material. When writing teams are credited for a film or television program their names are separated by an ampersand (“&”). When writers worked separately (one writer is assigned to rewrite the work of another), and both receive credit, their names are separated by an “and.”
Only three writers may be credited for the screenplay if they collaborated and a maximum of three teams of three may be credited no matter how many actually worked on it. For example, Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) had about a dozen writers, as did Hulk (2003). The film adaptation of The Flintstones (1994) supposedly had over sixty writers. Those awarded credit for creating the characters elsewhere and the original story are not included in this limit.
The Guild also permits use of pseudonyms if a writer requests one in a timely fashion but has been known to refuse to accept one which makes a statement. For example, screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski wanted to take his name off the Babylon 5 spin-off series Crusade and substitute “Eiben Scrood” to protest the changes made by the production company. The WGA refused, however, because “it ‘diminished the value’ of the show and basically made light of the studio” said Straczynski.[