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Todd Phillips And Aaron Sorkin Voice Their Distaste For The Writers Guild Of America!

Beaks here...

Todd Phillips has issues with the Writers Guild of America. This is well documented. And his gripes are not at all unreasonable. The WGA's credit arbitration process - which determines who receives a "written by" or "story by" credit on the poster and in the opening/closing titles of the movie - is absolutely insane. I know a lot of working screenwriters, and I can't think of one who'd go to the mat defending the very murky criteria by which all of this gets decided. Phillips explained the nonsense when we spoke last year for THE HANGOVER (after I asked why screenwriter Jeremy Garelick - who was on the set of the film the day I visited - had been denied a credit).

Phillips: It's interesting, and this happens to everybody. Judd Apatow did a massive amount of rewriting on THE CABLE GUY, which a lot of people don't know about. A massive amount. There are weird rules in the Writers Guild, and I don't want to trash the Writers Guild. I certainly don't want to trash the original writers, because they came up with a great idea and a great concept. But if you look at the original script - and the only reason I'm saying this is because Jeremy Garelick is a phenomenal writer and he gave so much of himself. We sort of disappeared for four months and really rewrote this movie: Mike Tyson was not in the movie, there was no tiger, there was no baby, there was no cop car, there was no brother-in-law that came on the trip. We're not talking about "tweaks" to the script; we're talking about massive rewriting. But the Writers Guild has these insane rules that if you're also a director on the movie, you have to prove this insane amount of work - and they have very nebulous rules of what that work is. It actually went through an arbitration, and I don't know what happened. I'm not a big fan of the Writers Guild. The WGA. The Whiners Guild of America. (Laughs) And you can't not be in it. You don't realize when you go into the film business... I mean, you don't go into filmmaking to be a part of groups and things. Then suddenly they're like, "You've got to join this union, and you've got to join that union." I don't even believe in the way they do this certain stuff. It's disappointing. But it's mostly disappointing for Jeremy. I'm still the director of the movie; my name's on the movie, and people who know my films can feel me in this movie. But Jeremy did a massive amount of work. And the fucked up part is it's not even the fault of the original writers. They even agreed. But they Writers Guild was like, "No, no, you're being pressured by the director, so we're not going to stand for this." It's just astounding.

I thought Phillips would do everything in his power to avoid this on his subsequent films, but, evidently, he had another bad experience with DUE DATE. I haven't seen the film yet, but it's not hard to believe that Robert Downey Jr. did a substantial amount of rewriting on the movie; he's extremely collaborative (I watched him practically re-stage the Stark Exposition map scene in IRON MAN 2), and generally has a good idea of what's going to work comedically. But Downey was predictably denied a "Written By" credit by the WGA for DUE DATE, so Phillips decided to voice his displeasure in an "Awards Watch Roundtable" session convened by The Hollywood Reporter. The below excerpt is notable for two reasons: 1) Phillips is backed up by fellow A-list screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (who, unlike Phillips, is a frontrunner for every screenplay award being dished out this year), and 2) they are trashing the union in front of its president, THE COMPANY MEN writer-director John Wells.
They elaborate on their grievances in the full video, which is well worth watching. Sorkin acknowledges that he probably just kvetched his way out of a WGA Award for THE SOCIAL NETWORK. It'll be interesting to see if this holds for the Oscars as well, since he's thus far been regarded as the prohibitive favorite for the Adapted Screenplay trophy.

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 11, 2010, 1:54 p.m. CST


    by KevinMuller

    Always wanted to do that..haha... I love stuff like this. I admire how much work goes into a screenplay

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2 p.m. CST


    by Toe Jam

    So a union has rules and regulations that actually end up hurting a good number of its members rather than help them out? Color me surprised. Actually, I'm a supporter of most unions, but some -- like the WGA -- really fuck over hard-working individuals.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2 p.m. CST

    Lucas (and Robert Rodriguez?)

    by ufoclub1977

    Decided not to follow the requirements of their guilds, didn't they? They are not members, I think.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:05 p.m. CST

    Such amazing bravery on Sorkin's part. Yawn

    by Proman1984

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:07 p.m. CST

    Didn't these guys write the script for GHOSTBUSTERS 3?

    by Mike_D

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:08 p.m. CST

    Same type of B.S led Lucas to quit DGA

    by KingKirby

    George Lucas quit the Director's Guild of America after being fined for placing the "Directed by" credit at the end of "The Empire Strikes Back". He had been given special dispensation for doing it at the end of "Star Wars" in '77, but was not "permitted" to repeat the stylistic choice he had made on the original...of course, so many films do it now, including some by his buddy, Steven Spielberg, who would have directed "Return of the Jedi" had Lucas not quit the Union, which is why he went with the late Richard Marquand instead. Stupid Hollywood shenanigans.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:11 p.m. CST

    interesting stuff.

    by RedHorseVector

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Lucas and Tarantino aren't members of the DGA

    by Billy_D_Williams

    Because they're too powerful to stand for the bullshit unions in hollywood. Spielberg didn't even have an agent in the 80s.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:20 p.m. CST

    People don't realize that awards are more about

    by estacado1

    playing your politics right rather than actual quality of work. And those who know don't bother watching the award shows. And they wonder why ratings for award shows are dropping.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:25 p.m. CST

    Jill's Obit? WHEN?

    by Tigermyth36


  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:29 p.m. CST

    hey Beaks!

    by only1

    THANK YOU for posting this!!! Watching the WGA prez's face was awesome... especially so when Sorkin's talking. It's kind of a cross between hero worship and deer in the headlights. They guy ain't got a clue!

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:29 p.m. CST

    William Faulkner: It was Andrew Kevin Walker

    by ShiftyEyedDog2

    also Fincher's writer for the outstanding SE7EN.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:31 p.m. CST

    Richard Donner had a similar experience on Superman

    by Drunken Irishman

    He talked about it on the DVD commentary. He brought in the late, great Tom Mankiewicz to rewrite the script which was started by Mario Puzo (he of The Godfather fame), David and Leslie Newman (of the oh so shitty Superman III and the even shittier Santa Claus: The Movie) and Robert Benton (of the superb Kramer vs. Kramer - most of his revisions were cut by the producers, those notable idiots the Salkinds and Pierre Spengler) but the WGA refused to give Mankiewicz a credit on the film and so Donner went around them (and gave them two middle fingers up in the process) by giving him the credit 'Creative Consultant,' which apparently irked them no end.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:36 p.m. CST

    Who would admit to writing The Hangover.

    by Dennis_Moore

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 2:45 p.m. CST

    restaged it eh?

    by TheHumanBurrito

    So what you're saying was the map scene was even more silly and illogical beforehand? I guess a dry turd is better than a runny one...

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:04 p.m. CST

    really have to admire

    by joel007

    how fiercely protective and how seriously Aaron Sorkin takes what he does for a living.Lots of people in this world (and, oddly, in the entertainment biz as well) don't take how difficult writing is seriously, what a craft it is. Aaron Sorkin goes way over the top in defense of it, because he needs to. Kudos.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:23 p.m. CST


    by Billy_D_Williams

    wrong, the original writer was paid and therefore adequately compensated for his script...but if his draft doesn't end up on screen, he doesn't deserve credit because he didn't write the fucking movie. ideas are a dime a dozen, everyone has an IDEA, are you kidding? how many can make that idea work in a dramatic screenplay? very fucking few. by your logic, i am owed tons of money and credit for the movies i've seen that have come from my ideas i thought of while taking a morning shit. obviously that theory doesn't water and the original's writer idea is worthless...he was paid for the expression of that idea, and if that draft was never used, he doesn't deserve credit, period. and they give credit to the author of the book of adapted screenplay for publicity reasons, per the contract.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:24 p.m. CST

    wga is a bunch of bullshit...

    by chainsaw_shawn

    Now I'm gonna let you in on something. I'm a published novelist. In order for me to begin writing screenplays and shopping them around. I gotta be a member right. I called the nyc office and the lady tells me the one time membership fee of $1000! WTF who seriously got that money to get into the wga? I got bills to pay! I think its a bunch of Bullshit to pay to join. So exorbant. wtf is wrong with them.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:40 p.m. CST


    by Orbots Commander

    I could be mistaken, but from what I've read, they impose the fee only once a script is sold, not before. <p> Anybody feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. To be clear, I'm no fan of the WGA either. As Sorkin put it very well, the organization should be about protecting the non-working writers, not the creme de la creme of the writers like Sorkin who are in constant demand and have agents to work out their deals.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:42 p.m. CST

    Orbots Commander

    by Billy_D_Williams

    correct, you're not actually able to join the guild until you sell a script, so the thousand bucks shouldn't be a problem.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:46 p.m. CST

    Agree with the observations made

    by Tacoloft

    WGA is not allowing free market principles to thrive. They are their own worst enemy. (Kindof like the U.S. government) hmmm...

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:47 p.m. CST

    its an oxymoron

    by chainsaw_shawn

    But you have to sell it first to become a wga member & no one will buy your script if your not a wga member. It's still a too high fee. WTF comes first?

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:52 p.m. CST


    by Orbots Commander

    Again, from what I understand, that's not the way it works. <p> Nobody checks to see if you're a member while they read or consider your script. There's no oxymoron, otherwise nobody would ever break in. If you do get an offer for a sale or option though, you're sent a form letter, that automatically gives you entry into the union with a fee. <p> Again, if I'm wrong, anybody with other knowledge or a member of the WGA, please feel free to chime in and correct me.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 3:59 p.m. CST

    thx orbitz

    by chainsaw_shawn

    That makes more sense... but a thousand dollars still kind of high in my book...500 I could scrounge up with sometime but shit a g? Bit harder my friend.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 4:18 p.m. CST

    But that's not with every sale.

    by Orbots Commander

    That's an annual fee, which, true, it is fairly high, considering that most members aren't full-time working writers, but do it on the side while they work their real jobs or wait tables, or whatever. <p> But if you're lucky or good enough to sell, say, three screenplays in a year, you won't have to shell out $1000 each time. <p> Still, I agree with Philips and Sorkin. It's a kind of extortion that you need to be a member of the WGA in order to continue to sell your work. <p> Whatever, there's bigger things in the world to get bent out of shape over, and though I'm aspiring, I'm not a working writer, so it technically doesn't even apply to me.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 4:21 p.m. CST

    Orbots Commander is correct

    by Billy_D_Williams


  • Nov. 11, 2010, 4:41 p.m. CST

    WGA is a cancer in Hollywood

    by gun_will_travel

    Do you remember the last strike? The end result was serious pain for the smaller people in the industry and more reality TV. Ugh. The creative people need more freedom, not more rules. This is one area of the industry where no union is necessary.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 4:48 p.m. CST

    ....was I the only one...


    ...who thought the Hangover was so ridiculously overrated, and ultimately a waste of the talents of the likes of Ed Helms and Jeff Tambor...also Bradley Cooper...says alot about the state of comedy that is being churned out in the film world....

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 4:53 p.m. CST

    Sorkin knows his shit.

    by V'Shael

    And he's got awards up the wazoo, it's not like he needs the WGA at this point. He can speak truth to power.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 5:09 p.m. CST

    WTF? hangover.

    by chainsaw_shawn

    I loved the hangover... Funny as fuck! are you kidding me. It was overhyped but i had a good time.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 5:29 p.m. CST



    Dunno dude....thought it wasn't 'great', but 'okay' the first time...thought I'd missed something, and watched it again on DVD, and still the same....very watchable, but not great, with any side-splitting LOLs...guess hype just serves to equal disappointment...

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 5:31 p.m. CST

    First time...

    by chainsaw_shawn

    All it takes is one time to watch it... Why buy a movie, that you can watch only one time...

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 5:47 p.m. CST

    Good job guys

    by PorkChopXpress

    I think it's great that these guys have essentially transcended the need for a writer's guild and can speak up about the ineptness and pointlessness of it. They're right about the fact that such a tiny percentage of the guild membership is actually working, too...but it's that way with virtually every guild in Hollywood. I know a ton of card-carrying editors that are not working and joined simply in the hope that it would connect them to more jobs...which it hasn't. They pay dues on the off chance that they'll be offered a union job and be able to take it. The guilds are a joke.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 5:56 p.m. CST

    been watching the hangover..

    by sonnyhooper

    ...a lot lately now that it's in heavy rotation on HBO and cinemax. and i gotta say everytime i watch it i catch something new to laugh about. usually some tiny little thing that i had not noticed before, a look here, a line there. i know the movie was overhyped, but to hate on it because it was popular is kinda silly imo.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 6:33 p.m. CST


    by Gap Toothed TV Boy

    Isn't it mildly ironic that the writer of "The Social Network" claims to know nothing about technology?

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 6:52 p.m. CST

    After having read that fascinating book from Michael Piller...

    by qweruiop

    ...the one that was posted on this website about the creation of Star Trek: Insurrection, it's still hard to feel sorry for any of these WGA writers. These are the same writers that ask for months of time in order to help "conceptualize" their writing, all while still being paid ooodles of money for it. And like most things involving people having problems with a system (in this case the WGA), these writers complain but do nothing about it. Why aren't a batch of writers then creating a new, separate guild? Or branching out on their own? Or at least focusing their efforts into changing the system from within? Because that takes unpaid, streneous effort on their part, and everyone knows that it's much easier to talk than to do.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 7:03 p.m. CST

    They are all men...

    by J.B.M.A.

    Coincidental? Surely some great female writers out there?<p>Oh, and Aaron Sorkin : " Don't read the internet." Quoted for truth.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 7:33 p.m. CST

    Question about THE HANGOVER:

    by CountryBoy

    Did they ever explain the presence of the chicken in the hotel room? I didn't really like the movie much at all, but I thought it was hilarious that they left that tidbit unexplained, as if it was just part of the general mayhem of that night. Or did I miss something?

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 7:34 p.m. CST

    UGG and UGG voice their distaste for Todd Phillips

    by UGG

    1 Make a decent movie.<p> 2 Grow a pair and don't let jewish newcomers determine your vision.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 8:16 p.m. CST

    Get rid of ALL unions! Theyre useless!

    by Starship Captain

    Why the fuck do you need a union to be a writer? If you're creative and sit at home all alone and pound on a keyboard to write a script, and if you then hustle your ass off to sell your own work, why the hell do you even need a union? I know the usual answer will be to prevent studios or producers from taking advantage of a writer, but he's not a fucking infant. He/she is an adult who can make their own decision if they want to take the job or money being offered, the same way you'd decide for ANY job and salary offer put before you. You either think its due compensation for the work that you did, so you take the money...or you walk and keep your project to yourself. Whether to file it away or try to sell it to another bigger. That's how business is done, especially when you're a freelancer like a writer or ANY creative type working in a place like Hollywood (actor, cameraman, makeup, whatever).<p>Like all unions, the WGA only exists to stick its hand into the wallets of its members, to make money for itself. The truth is unions in the 21st century are bullshit and anti-capitalist. It goes back to what Orbots Commander brought up. Who the fuck should be FORCED to pay an annual fee of $1,000 simply to have the RIGHT to keep selling your own work? That's bullshit and it alone is reason to abolish unions like this.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 8:18 p.m. CST


    by dukeroberts

    I don't understand why union membership is required to work at ANY job. I understand the purpose of unions (in some cases), but compulsory membership in order to work should be against the law. People work to make a living for themselves and their families, not to give away their hard earned money without a choice to a bunch of thugs. We already have Congress and taxes for that. A union membership requirement is bullshit.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 8:20 p.m. CST

    Starship Captain

    by dukeroberts

    Hear, hear!!!

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 8:30 p.m. CST

    remember John Wells produced West Wing

    by BadMrWonka

    he and Sorkin are old friends. Wells was the ONLY reason Sorkin was convinced to come back for the end of The West Wing. if anyone can take it straight, it's Wells. he's not a shy little boy. <p> and they're both 100% right about the WGA.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 8:31 p.m. CST

    in all fairness...

    by mcgillj

    I have seen previously the CREDIT "based on an idea BY". Granted. IF a script is HEAVILY rewritten could the ORIGINAL writer not be given "based on an idea by" credit? It's BULLS&IT that so many writers are CUT out and never see any credit. Andrew Kevin Walker ALSO did some rewrites on "Fight Club", as was posted they named the THREE cops Andrew, Kevin AND Walker to circumvent the WGA rules that would NOT allow him credit for his work. I NEVER knew Apatow had rewritten "The Cable Guy", interesting story that one. BUT.. Walker, Manckewicz on "Superman" (sorry if I messed up his name) are just two of the more PUBLIC stories. WHY should you give SOLE and only credit on a screenplay to someone WHO only came up with the STRUCTURE? What about "dialogue" credits.. Tarantino, and I have ZERO idea how much he rewrote, is also uncredited for his rewrite on "Crimson Tide". And I DO Know for a fact he IS the one who, at least anyway, came up with the NAME of the ship.. The U.S.S. Alabama. The WGA is working to protect the original writers.. which, is great.. but there are many many people who do NOT get credit, although it can work in a writer's favor too. I am betting Tarantino isn't too sore losing out on his contributions for "It's Pat!".. LOL.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 9:10 p.m. CST


    by chainsaw_shawn

    It does seem like the WGA rips you off. their services offer you a foot into the movie industry with connections and fellow writers. I also tried getting a book agent when i was younger and shipping out my manuscripts. never a call or letter back from anyone in those so called prestigious writing houses. It sucked. that's why im out doing my own.

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 9:21 p.m. CST

    "The Writers Guild credit arbitration process is completely fair

    by Daniel_S_Duvall

    I interviewed Susannah Grant for the March/April 2000 issue of Creative Screenwriting magazine. One quotation from her: "I think that the Writers Guild credit arbitration process is completely fair, and I think the writers who end up getting credit are the writers who deserve credit. I believe in supporting the Writers Guild credit process because in the long run, it's the fairest way to do it. If you don't get credit, don't take credit, unless there's been some horrible injustice."

  • Nov. 11, 2010, 9:49 p.m. CST

    I think the writing process has reversed over time

    by Adelai Niska

    In the classic hollywood of old, one writer would put out a script, which was then 'polished' by four of five others who were part of the studio's full-time writing staff, but never massively restructured. In that system, giving the first writer sole credit was perfect, and if the others did more than average, they could be co-writers. <p> Today, projects get passed around and typically it's the LAST writer who shapes the overall script, and the FIRST writer's work is basically wiped out. The WGA is still handing out credits like it's 1940, but times have changed.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 12:10 a.m. CST

    no guilds, no benefits. and other shit.

    by mrgray

    1) To address Chainsaw and the whole "I'm a novelist and trying to sell scripts" nonsense. First of all, if you're a novelist whose work has attracted notice at all, creative executives will be happy to meet with you. Problem solved. Second, the issue has more to do with risk than anything. Spec scripts are a risk and right now the Hollywood environment is very low-risk. It's not that they'll ONLY buy scripts by WGA writers, it's that by having a WGA membership you can prove that at SOME point SOMEONE produced your work. Of course, you could nut up and try to get your shit done the indie route, but your whining doesn't exactly strike me as the talk of a person likely to nut up. <p>2) As ineffective and inefficient as the unions in town can be, they're also the only way some people can get benefits. If you're a struggling writer or freelance editor or independent director who is trying to live off your film/TV work, you need some kind of benefits package. Of course, if universal healthcare was a bit more... universal and fiscal conservatives stopped being "my money is mine and even though I'm a member of a society that grants me great freedoms I'll be damned if I help that society by chipping in via taxes" douchebags, the whole union thing might become unnecessary. <p>3) I find it weird that Sorkin is ragging on the WGA because it doesn't protect the little guy when *without* the WGA the little guy would be even MORE boned. <p>4) Wait, so this same site the other day rags on Jessica Alba for saying that she makes up her dialogue but then states that Robert Downey Jr deserves writing credit for Iron Man? Double standard much? <p>Look, here's the thing: if you're not the writer, it doesn't matter how much fucking "work" you put in. You're not the writer. These guys are acting like it's a matter of fucking principle when it's NOT. It's a matter of MONEY. Robert Downey Jr has made laughably, insanely more money than any of the writers on these projects. To suggest that he should get even MORE is ludicrous in the fucking extreme. This might be a case of the WGA being OVERprotective and I get these guys being frustrated with it. But it also seems like they're greeting that overprotection with overreaction.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 1:07 a.m. CST

    why such an exorbitant fee?

    by moosetutters

    does the guild help you with your spelling? i agree with a protective bond of artists, but it smacks of rampant fucking greed to charge anything, - its like ISBN numbers being issued in the USA, something like $150 for ten, but it costs ZERO bucks for ten ISBN's issued to publishers in Hong Kong, - fucking greed, its our downfall, just you wait n see...

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 1:11 a.m. CST

    by the way...

    by moosetutters

    ....writers whose work gets canned ahould still get credit, for example "preliminary writing credit", - the final screenplay writers had to stand on someone elses shoulders to complete their work, or at least start off from somewhere. Which screenplay bears absolutely no resemblance to its predecessing drafts????

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 2:48 a.m. CST

    The Hangover

    by lessthanmensa

    The Hangover was more painful to sit through than an actual hangover.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 2:49 a.m. CST

    And you, WGA

    by lessthanmensa

    You can eat a bag of dicks.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 3:44 a.m. CST

    The WGA...SAG...DGA...are buffers, people.

    by Cheif Brody

    They are there to keep the "Joe Scmoes" and "Alan Smithees" OUT of the Hollywood game. <p> You send a great script idea to the producers of "Modern Family", for get a form letter from 2oth Century Fox Television that says..."Thank you for your interest in Modern Family. Unfortuneately, we are unable to read unsolicited material/script ideas at this time. Perhaps submit your idea to an agent, and have your agent get in touch with our production company. Best of luck!" <p> Then you find out how much an agent costs...I mean a GOOD agent...who can actually GET a script in front of TPTB of Modern Family. <p> Then, once you've PAID the agent...he tells you you must join the WGA to even be considered...then you find out how much THOSE dues are. <p> Then you put a revolver in your mouth and pull the trigger. <p> These Unions are all put in place to give the Average Joe a ton of HOOPS to jump thru to get into the Big Boys Club. <p> It's called payin yer dues. LITERALLY. <p> But what this is guys jumpin in and adding ideas TO the original authors original concept. <p> It's a tricky line. I mean...Benchley wrote Jaws screenplay...Carl Gottlieb took that story and hacked at it. Milius, Sackler and Shaw contributed to "The Indianapolis Story". Only Benchley & Gottlieb were officially credited. have to imagine...with Spielberg working around a NON WORKING SHARK...that ideas flew in from everywhere as he vamped each day. <p> The scene where Brody's kid mimics Brody's hand gestures and facial expressions at the dinner table...or Quint crushing a metal Narragansett beer can in his fist...and Hooper crushing a styrofoam cup in response. Where these scenes written by Benchley...or Gottlieb? <p> Fuck no. Did they advance the plot an inch? Fuck no. Did they give you better insight into the minds and feelings of these characters? <p> Fuck YES! <p> THAT is where the WGA need to become more open to the COLLABORATIVE nature of filmmaking. <p> Sorkin and Phillips are merely saying it's no longer "Cut & Dry", Black & White" as to "who wrote what" in Hollywood. They are trying to enforce the "Old Studio System" down the throats of filmmakers. <p> But...they hold all the power. And that's....just wrong, in my humble opinion. <p> BTW...My idea for Modern Family? Rosario Dawson guest stars as Sophia Vereaga's long lost (and evil) sister from Columbia...who tries to seduce EVERY male cast member to get a green card...including the gay guys. <p> The thought of Ty Burrell trying to fend off her sexual advances practically writes itself. <p> Anyways... That episode airs in three weeks. Make sure you watch...and you can thank me later!

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 8:21 a.m. CST

    All Unions Should Die.

    by Darth_Kaos

    The idea of Unions is a awesome concept,'to protect and serve the best interest of the worker'. But over the last 6 decades Unions have only served to benefit the egos of unions and those who "lead" them. Every Union(and I mean EVERY UNION) is corrupt and mis-handled. I would never join SAG,WGA,DGA or any UNION.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 8:29 a.m. CST

    The WGA and the strike

    by hst666

    I want to preface my comments by saying I have no idea how competently negotiations were carried out or everything that went on. I will say this:<p><p>It seemed like a primary reason had nothing to do with how much writers made, but how much the producers made off them, which is perfectly logical and legitimate. The writers were requesting an increase for DVD and digital distribution profits. Moreover, the digital request was for a percentage of digital profits - e.g., if there were no profits, the writers would get nothing. The fact that the studios didn't want to give that was appalling to me.<p><p>However, I do agree that the way of assigning credit appears to be arcane and stupid.

  • If the story is completely different, I can understand the lack of credit. And there are probably writers whose work has been so substantially altered that the writer would prefer to not be credited. <p><p>Having said this, if someone comes along and substantially rewrites a script like Todd Phillips writing pertner on the Hangover, or even a part like RDJ, then they should be added as co-writers. I think the analogy between co-directors and co-writers is inapt here.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 9:42 a.m. CST


    by chainsaw_shawn

    I don't whine. I bemoan he fact its an exorbant fee to join up. I just think its too many hoops. Cmon son, 1,000$ I'm not James fey I dont have a multiple book deal and have an agent or pr firm. my book was an independent urban release. It did modestly but no wide exposure. now I'm on my own paying for everything. I am a bit bitter. LOL

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 9:56 a.m. CST

    Cheif Brody

    by SonicRiver

    The purpose of the unions isn't there to keep anyone "out of the game", as you put it, although this may be a secondary effect. They exist because they generally help to advance the interests of their members. Generally speaking, it helps existing writers for the industry to have processes which make it easier for them to have their scripts read by TPTB. It doesn't help them if they are treated the same way as a harry potter fan fiction writer who wants to turn towards more commercial endeavors. Could you seriously imagine the mountain of shit that would have to be sifted through if you had an open script policy on a popular tv show? It would be ridiculous to contemplate. The unions realise this, and the solution which helps their members work. <p> If you don't have a reputation, and you don't have connections, but you want to be a successful writer, then you have to get a decent agent, and you have pay them what they're worth. It sucks, but it's just the way the world works.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 11:05 a.m. CST

    I disagree with Phillips

    by Lionel_Richies_Hipster_Frames

    As a writer who has sold to studios and has had multiple meetings with Phillips and his troll of a partner Scott Budnick, I completely disagree with what he says here. In 2 cases I wrote spec scripts that sold in bidding wars between competing studios. After the studios bought them, rather than work with me on shaping the rewrite to what they were looking for, they instead paid off my guaranteed steps and went out and hired other writers to rewrite me. These other writers then demanded page 1 rewrites wherein they can make a grab for lead credits off the spine of what I had written. My manager had gone in and read one of these rewrites and he said the writer who took over for me basically went in and changed everything from the characters names to locations in addition to story and dialogue and destroyed my script which then was put into turnaround and died on a shelf at the studio. Rewriting is an opportunity for assholes to pretend the idea was theirs in 8-12 weeks when it never would have been created if it weren't for the months and sometimes years the original writer put in. It's like being an architect designing a house and then having the interior decorator come in and take credit for the architectural design. With another script I sold they hired a director who met with me over the project to discuss a rewrite. The asshat never looked me in the eye and then after the meeting I learned that he was giving the script to his best friend to rewrite. It wasn't because he was a better writer. It was nepotism. In that situation the best friend destroyed the script. They came back to me and paid me to fix it and then the director left for another project and that one is now sitting on a shelf at a studio. The WGA is pretty useless, but it does try to protect the original writer knowing the crap that goes on with your material once it is sold. What happened with me in those 2 cases was pretty gut wrenching. I'm not from LA. I wasn't born into the business. I'm a talented writer who was able to sell my first spec without an agent. My script sold itself that first time. I'm all for making the screenplay better and working with the studio and producers/directors to do so, but when you realize they would rather get a flavor of the moment or a friend to rewrite you just because they can, it's frustrating and in some cases heartbreaking. There's also a contingent of directors who want that screenplay credit so bad they'll change whatever they can to make a grab for it. Also, in my contracts with the studios, if I get a reduced or shared credit I get less money when the movie gets made. I'm not saying the original writer should only work on a script, but I do think the original writer's rights have to protected since the whole show wouldn't exist without their time and effort. One of the hardest lessons to learn as a screenwriter is that the minute you sign that contract and cash the check you give up all rights to your screenplay and unless you are very fortunate, you probably won't be around to see it get made.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 12:13 p.m. CST

    nepotism. yeah.

    by chainsaw_shawn

    When i was younger I would have given my left nut to sell a spec script knowing that the upfront money. Is really good. But now I make sure my shit is copywritten, because the studios love raping your shit and claiming its their own!

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 12:24 p.m. CST

    Ignoring the WGA for a second

    by J.B.M.A.

    As a jobbing sound guy in the UK I'd be happy to see Unions as strong as those representing technical crew in the US over here. Only the sparks have retained decent represetation in Britain and thus have kept wages and working hours to standard. My counterparts in the US have a much better, system of remuneration thanks largely - and despite their faults - to the unions.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 1:29 p.m. CST


    by SonicRiver

    Just out of interest, how much did you get for your spec scripts? It amazes me that studios will pay good money for scripts, and then do nothing with them. Such a waste.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 1:49 p.m. CST

    Cheif Brody

    by Billy_D_Williams

    The unions don't keep anyone out of hollywood, the agents do, they're the gate keepers as no one in any power in hollywood will read a script from an unknown unless it's submitted by a legit agent. this is to keep producers and studios from being swamped with millions of shitty scripts. Ironically an agent wont even read a new comers script unless it comes recommended from another agent, an actor, or a studio person, etc. major catch 22...the only backdoor is sometimes agents check out loglines from unknown writers sent to them in an email...if they like the logline, they'll read the script (actually their assistant reads it first, and if they like, the agent reads it), this is how I was able to get a major agent at a major agency (CAA the biggest in hollywood) to read my script. I got a list of dozens and dozens of agent emails and just spammed them all with my logline. ONE AGENT out of maybe one hundred said yes, and he was a CAA the odds are not in your favor...he ended up liking the script but didn't think it was commercial enough to sell. And agents don't "cost" anything, they only get paid (10%) when they sell your work. if you're paying an agent to sell a script before it's even sold (meaning you lose money no matter what happens), you're being ripped off. no legit agent charges money to sell a script until it's been sold and he collects his 10% fee.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 1:53 p.m. CST


    by Billy_D_Williams

    sorry to hear your troubles, but your architect analogy doesn't make much sense. a script is a blueprint (whether its a bible or not splitting hairs) and is not a finished movie, just like a blueprint for a house doesn't mean jack shit until the house gets built. i hate to break it to you but a script is 1/3 a is not an end unto itself...screenwriters don't publish screenplays and get them sold in book stores, a script is there to be built upon by other talented people and in the process things will change. a script is VERY important, but it is still only 1/3 of the process. this is why i hate when screenwriters bitch and complain that "they ruined my script", they ruined the MOVIE, the script is not a movie, it is there to be translated into cinema and a script can only be "ruined" by another writer, but it's like splitting's not like your script is ever going to be like it is on the page when you go see the movie, unless you're a powerful director who wants to protect the written word.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 2 p.m. CST


    by SonicRiver

    I'd love to hear the logline for the script that wasn't commercial enough to sell.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 3:31 p.m. CST

    billy d wiiliams

    by chainsaw_shawn

    And without a script there wouldn't be a movie. That's where the source material comes in. Without it they have nothing. Getting an Argentina today marketplace is ridiculous and most of the time the person reading isn't even the agent, its the assistant!

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 3:32 p.m. CST


    by chainsaw_shawn

    *An agent

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 3:34 p.m. CST

    It's more about the potential for abuse than anything else

    by lettersoftransit

    directors have wide latitude to change things and if you are not careful about giving directors credit for when they really did have to change things and they changed a lot, then you'll end up giving lots more directors writing credit when they changed things arbitrarily or even laterally just to grab credit. Nearly everybody who's in the room when something gets revised or shot comes away feeling they were the only perason who really mattered. Having said that, yes, lots of people get screwed even after they've had to redo a project from scratch. But people are always going to be screwed, and if we have to err a bit on one side or the other, it's most fair (or the least unfair) to err on the side of the original writers

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 3:55 p.m. CST

    The complaint about destroying a script is silly.

    by Orbots Commander

    I agree that, unless a movie is made, the screenplay is never going to be read outside of studio people and potential directors. You have to accept that once you sell a spec screenplay, it's the studio's to do with as they please. Just take the check, walk away and go work on your next script if you wish. <p> If you don't like that, you're better off writing novels.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 4:30 p.m. CST

    The FLINTSTONES changed the arbitration rules....

    by Big Dumb Ape

    While the arbitration process may get messy or have it's own faults -- to defend the WGA just a little bit -- keep in mind there are definite reasons why the WGA realized it had to bring some sanity to the process, in terms of "who" gets credit or not. For those who've forgotten their history, a lot of this goes back to 1994 and the first FLINTSTONES movie. A quick summation from IMBD...<p>No fewer than 35 writers worked on the film. Steven E. de Souza turned in the original draft in 1987, though Michael J. Wilson's 1992 draft later became the working model. When director Brian Levant signed on, he recruited Gary Ross to handle the screenplay; Ross turned in his draft in 1993. This was junked. Various other writers, including Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, worked on the script before Levant was finally happy in August 1993. Though just three writers ended up being credited, a total of 32 people (including Levant and producer Bruce Cohen) were awarded the film's Golden Raspberry for Worst Screenplay.<p>Those 32 people are heavily responsible for the arbitration process being what it is today, and they definitely caused the process to become more hardlined. Which is why this all goes back to THE FLINTSTONES. Basically, because of his TV background, when Levant took over the feature version of FLINTSTONES, he figured the best way to make the movie funny would be to have a huge-ass round table of writers constantly spit-balling gags -- much like teams of writers did at the time working on TV sitcoms.<p>The only problem was, at the end of whipping THE FLINTSTONES into shape, all 32 writers wanted screen credit, regardless how much they had contributed, simply because they knew a screen credit would earn them a piece of the pie and a life-long royalty payment. But Universal scoffed at the idea of having to list 32 writers onscreen, not to mention they balked at the idea they would now owe royalties to THAT many writers. On the flip side, the WGA likewise agreed that it would look truly retarded to have onscreen credits for 32 different writers, hence the creation of a new rule stating that a writer could only get onscreen credit if he contributed a set amount to the final script that reached the screen.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 5:02 p.m. CST

    Also to the WGA's credit -- story vs screenplay

    by Big Dumb Ape

    One other thing: to the WGA's credit, as part of the arbitration process, it actually is trying to protect the ORIGINAL writer as best it can, so the person who created the original idea/script doesn't get completely hosed.<p>As "Lionel Ritchies" talked about in his great post, too often a producer or studio will acquire a script only to instantly request a rewrite. Which ALWAYS cracks me up since it's such a crock that someone will say they LOVE a script so much that they're willing to buy it, but then...once a contract is signed...they'll call it CRAP and feel a need to immediately rewrite it. And as Lionel Ritchie noted, too often the re-writer will change ridiculously silly things like names or locations to simply try and lay claim to full authorship over the core idea, even though he clearly had NOTHING to do with it.<p>Unfortunately, re-writers like that are uncreative hacks, nothing more than whores after the money and screen credit/royalties. And that usually results in the original writer not only getting his idea trashed, but also seeing his screen credit bumped down to a simple "story by".<p>Sadly, that person usually becomes forgotten since people will focus on the "screenplay by" credit. But whenever I'm in a theater munching on my popcorn and I see a "story by" credit pop up, I usually think to myself "Oh ho! So THAT'S who REALLY came up with this thing!"

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 5:19 p.m. CST

    still counts

    by chainsaw_shawn

    But even if the source material came from a novel or short story it still counts. You end up wondering if they just followed the story to a tee, would it have been better or different? Case in point harry potter movie 6 there was supposed to be this huge battle royal from the book. In the movie version it was totally written out! WTF?

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 6:24 p.m. CST


    by Lionel_Richies_Hipster_Frames

    In response to your question about how much I got for my spec scripts it was in the low-to mid 6 figures. The first one I sold was in the lower range. The 2nd spec I sold was higher since that first sale established what my "quote" (price my last script sold for) was to studios. They knew they had to, at least, offer more than my quote. Now all of those deals come with guaranteed steps. A step is a rewrite or a polish. You get paid more for a rewrite than you do for a polish. I usually have gotten 3 guaranteed steps in each of my deals. You would think that gives me a sense of security that the studio was willing to let me take a crack at 3 rewrites before looking for other writers, but sadly the studio will just pay out those guaranteed steps up front if they want to boot you off the project. With my first spec sale, I had never met anyone at the studio before and I lived in NYC. Before they even flew me out to LA for my script meeting, they were courting other writers to rewrite me. They hadn't even met me yet and the only reason I decided to sell it to that studio was they had the most complimentary things to say about my script during the negotiations. I took less than an another studio offered to go with the studio that fucked me from Jumpstreet. Welcome to Hollywood. On the 2nd spec I sold everyone in town pretty much had met me and I in between I had landed a book adaptation that is probably going to get made next year with me as the sole writer of the adaptation. Still, the hack director they attached to the script had ulterior motives and told the studio to pay me off so his friend could work on the rewrite. I actually confronted the douche a year later about it at a party and he admitted to me that his best friend was about to have a baby and he wanted to do him a solid, but he was a big fan of mine. Dick. So, in answer to your question, studios will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for spec scripts and never make them. They will also pay you for guaranteed steps/rewrites that you never even have to do because they want to kick you off the project. That's why Hollywood sucks and is going to fall apart just like the music industry has. So much money is wasted it's not funny.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 6:46 p.m. CST

    When i was younger...

    by chainsaw_shawn

    Yeah i remember when inheard they was paying 50,000$ for spec scripts when i was in high school and i was writing. I was just dreaming to sell to the highest bidder a part of me didnt even care if it got made or not. But now that im older and wiser i want recognition for my hard work. You should be taking your idea and getting paid for them. Why let some idiot scumbag take your shit and trash it, put it on the shelf and never get done. If you wrote something epic it should be made, come hell or high water. I wish i could find an agent to get my shit seen. @lionel ritche: how i go about finding a true agent who's gonna go to bat for me. because some idiots dont even hit me back! lol.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 10:50 p.m. CST


    by Lionel_Richies_Hipster_Frames

    I'm the exception, not the rule. I sold my first script without an agent. A producer read my script and took it out to all the studios and it sold. It usually never happens like that. It gives me the confidence that my writing ability is good that I was able to sell without representation. After I sold it every agency in town wined and dined me and tried to sign me and I was able to pick an agent after that. Your best bet to finding an agent is getting to know assistant's at agencies. Assistants are the quickest way to an agents attention. If you get an assistant on your side and they like your script they will put the script in front of their boss in order to show them what they are made of. The fact is you have to know someone. It doesn't have to be Tom Cruise, but if you know someone who works at an agency or production company in any capacity and they like your writing, that's your quickest way of getting repped. That said, agents are not the gateway to selling in Hollywood. Your talent and ideas are. Despite what you think of most Hollywood movies out there most writers who can make a living at this are pretty talented people. The studio system and moron producers are the one's shaping cinema into 90% garbage these days. So I guess my advice to you is go through everyone you know. If you don't know anyone who works at an agency or production company, then if you're serious you might want to move to LA and get a job at one of those place to gain the contacts and network yourself. A lot of people who started out working desks as assistants segue into writing careers.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 11:09 p.m. CST

    Lionel, Chainsaw etc.

    by LOST_FAN

    You know, there are enough of us in here; we could start our own studio. Then we could only blame ourselves.

  • Nov. 12, 2010, 11:35 p.m. CST

    LMAO@blaiming ourselves.

    by chainsaw_shawn

    LOL and even if the movie sucked it would still be better than the sheer crap hollywood puts out.

  • Nov. 13, 2010, 12:35 p.m. CST

    "I'm not your friend, buddy!" "I'm not your buddy, guy!"

    by Tall_Boy66

    Once again, if you want a clear and concise explanation about how fucking retarded the WGA is, watch South Park's "Canada On Strike". Lays it out really clearly.

  • Nov. 13, 2010, 1:09 p.m. CST


    by LOST_FAN

    Aint that the truth.