Remember to Credit The Screenwriter!

Remember to Credit The Screenwriter!

While we at Screenwriting Research Network strive to force a focus on screenwriters, we need allies in the non-academic world to properly credit them.

In that vein, I recently wrote to the Guardian’s film critic about a moment in his review of ‘Gangs of New York’ where he credited the director for a visual moment that occurred, clearly and firstly, in the original script — something that happens far too frequently. Often, such letters yield nothing outside of getting the issue off my chest, but today I received this response:

“Dear Dr Welch: many thanks for your email, which has been passed on to me. Your comment is entirely fair: I should have credited this moment to the screenwriters: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan. With all good wishes,”

I received this response after sending this email to The Guardian’s film desk:

“As a professor of Screenwriting History for an MFA program in the U.S. I greatly enjoy sharing your reviews of American films with my students, so I hope you don’t mind my noting a small mistake I found while researching your review of Gangs of New York – but again, being a professor of Screenwriting History (not film history because film history is the history of directors) I found you fell victim to one of the age-old issues of the old auteur theory. You credited a visual moment to the director when, in fact, it had existed in the original script, therefore the credit ought to have gone to the writer(s) and their imaginations and use of quality research.” 

“The streets erupt in a saturnalia of lawlessness, to which the director adds an inspired touch: an escaped elephant from Barnum’s circus trumpeting down the rubble-strewn streets.”

Yet that elephant was in the script (which I researched at the WGA Library in Los Angeles) all along, as you can see:

“116 EXT. CANAL STREET DAWN

The first thing we see is an ELEPHANT, who trumpets fearfully at the sudden sound of the shattered door. The gang stops, wary of this huge refugee from Barnum’s Museum, but the animal is more frightened of them. It hurries on down the street…”

I only make this point because those kinds of errors lead to the continued idea that directors are the only authors of a film – an idea most film programs are debunking by the day. I hope critics (since they are also writers) will remember screenwriters more prominently in their work in the future. I have taken to reminding people that, when you speak of your favorite films you rarely recount memorable camera angles, but in fact you recount your favorite dialogue and that is the realm of the writer. Often, as in this instance, many of the visuals credited to directors were first imagined by writers as well.

Dr. Rosanne Welch

There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American Television: From Freelancing to Writers Rooms – Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (52 Minutes)

There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American Television: From Freelancing to Writers Rooms – Dr. Rosanne Welch

There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American Television: From Freelancing to Writers Rooms - Dr. Rosanne Welch [Video] (52 Minutes)

There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American Television: From Freelancing to Writers Rooms - Dr. Rosanne Welch

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Thanks to meeting my friend and colleague Dr. Paolo Russo at our annual Screenwriting Research Network conferences, I was invited to spend a week at his university – Oxford Brookes – lecturing on the History of American Writers Rooms and giving notes on screenplay treatments written by his MFA candidates.

It was a wonderful experience to share ideas cross-culturally since I’ve studied and watched programming from the UK for years and their students have watched lots of American television programs.

We had the chance to compare development strategies from both countries and I met the other folks in Paolo’s film department who came from as far away as Canada and as near as Italy. And having been a lifelong viewer of Morse and Lewis, I enjoyed finally having time to walk through Oxford and see everything from the pubs where the Harry Potter actors hung out during filming and the quaint churchyard where C.S. Lewis is buried. I can’t wait to go back again for the 2020 SRN conference!

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The Shard, the Walkie-Talkie and more London skyline via Instagram

What are your favorite sights in London? Add them to the comments below!

The Shard, the Walkie-Talkie and more London skyline

Off to London today with my Oxford Brookes University students for a film research trip. Gathering resources for my own paper and book, too!The Shard, the Walkie-Talkie and more LONDON skyline via Instagram

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* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
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† Available from the LA Public Library

A cloudy day in London Town… via Instagram

What are your favorite sights in London? Add them to the comments below!

A cloudy day in London Town... via Instagram

A cloudy day in London Town…

Off to London today with my Oxford Brookes University students for a film research trip. Gathering resources for my own paper and book, too!

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* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Narnia Themed Windows at Holy Trinity Church in Headington via Instagram

Narnia Themed Windows at Holy Trinity Church in Headington via Instagram

Narnia Themed Windows at Holy Trinity Church in Headington via Instagram

– and then I found the window dedicated to his Narnia books inside – it’s etched (not stained) so it’s hard to see but Aslan’s face is in the upper left with the Dawn Treader below it and the castle of Cair Paravel on the bottom right. Imagine being a writer who wrote something so lovely that the churchyard has to place location signs from your grave…and other writers would seek you out all these years hence.

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* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Met a mini-Aslan on my way to CS (Clive Staples – who knew?) Lewis’ grave at Holy Trinity Church in Headington via Instagram

Met a mini-Aslan on my way to CS (Clive Staples – who knew?) Lewis’ grave at Holy Trinity Church in Headington

Met a mini-Aslan on my way to CS (Clive Staples - who knew?) Lewis' grave at Holy Trinity Church in Headington via iInstagram

– and then I found the window dedicated to his Narnia books inside – it’s etched (not stained) so it’s hard to see but Aslan’s face is in the upper left with the Dawn Treader below it and the castle of Cair Paravel on the bottom right. Imagine being a writer who wrote something so lovely that the churchyard has to place location signs from your grave…and other writers would seek you out all these years hence.

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* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

First day of lecture/research trip to Oxford-Brookes! (Oxford, UK) via Instagram

First day of lecture/research trip to Oxford-Brookes! (Oxford, UK)

First day of lecture/research trip to Oxford-Brookes! (Oxford, UK)

I’m off to the UK once more to spend a week teaching Screenwriting to the students of Oxford Brookes University. This is part of an exchange program between Oxford Brookes University and the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting.

 

Paolo Russo, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, has twice spent a week as a guest lecturer here in Los Angeles and now I get a chance to spend a week with his students. This Master Class is just one part of my activities there. I’ll be working closely with his screenwriting students individually and also get a chance to visit some important research locations like the Bodleian Library.