Screenwriting : A Screenwriter's Role (in a screenwriting CAREER) by Lisa Clemens

Lisa Clemens

A Screenwriter's Role (in a screenwriting CAREER)

I posted this on a thread about why screenwriters are the only artists whose work is changed/edited. Something which is not true by the way. A lot of art forms have been edited but that's not my point. My point is that if you want a career in screenwriting, one that can sustain you, pay some bills etc, then you have to be prepared for the fact that this business is a collaboration. It's like any other job where you have to sell someone on your ability to deliver what they need, just like any job interview. Then once hired (or once your screenplay sells) if you are lucky, you'll have a director who keeps you involved in rewrites, asks your opinion etc. But bottom line is that in order to get a film made there are budget restraints, locations may hamper how something will work out, actors may improvise, etc. As someone who wants to continue to work in an industry I love, I'm not about to bite the hand that feeds me by throwing a hissy fit if the film comes out and my ideas for the end titles have changed or if an actor doesn't say the exact line I wanted in there. I want to be thought of as someone who is a team player. This business is a collaboration after all. Too many cooks in the kitchen can indeed spoil the soup, so if I am agreeable to changes on the script the director or producers BOUGHT from me (making it theirs now) then rather than have a different writer replace me, I will be kept on board and at least the changes made to the script will come through me, and not someone with a different voice and style than mine. On Case Number 13, I made sure to be available at all times, answering all calls, texts and e-mails immediately and making changes as needed. As a result of being easy to work with, I was asked my opinion on a variety of factors. I was even rewarded for my hard work by being brought across country for a set visit. (and yeah, making changes that were needed to the script while I was there! I had my laptop on set too!) More importantly, being agreeable and easy to work with and available at al times (sometimes taking calls in the middle of the night - three hour time difference between NY and California!) I was hired again. This is my goal as a screenwriter. To KEEP WORKING. If I wanted to make pure art, I'd make this my hobby not my career. Anyway, I hope anyone who wants a CAREER in screenwriting will read this article. It's very revealing and true. and remember this joke... How many screenwriters does it take to change a lightbulb? It doesn't matter the Director will change it anyway. (so hold the ladder!)

A Screenwriters Role
So... you wanna be a screenwriter. Ok. Do you like torture? Do you have endless patience? Are you a team player? After you've created a story, fallen in love with your characters, and spent endless ho…
Bob Saenz

Thank you for posting my blog. Appreciate it.

Bob Saenz

Oh... I understand the specifics. I've directed and I've been on enough sets in my life as an actor that I know what goes where and why. As to vision... not all scripts have vision... they may have a good story or good story idea, but it is the director, in my opinion, that, in the big picture, gives vision to the story... Doesn't bother me to be on sets as a writer because I understand completely the director's job.

Michael L. Burris

Lisa I rarely do a hey check this out as a rule but here is an interesting article extremely relevant to what you posted. Check the date out on the article. Bob you may like it too. It makes you wonder in the ever changing media world does anything ever really change.

Geveryl Robinson

Great and helpful post, Lisa. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa Clemens

Mitchell I will read it all ASAP. I glanced over some of it, it looks fascinating. Back then of course there were no female writers let alone producers or directors so at least SOME things have changed for sure!

Michael L. Burris

God love you women. The world as a whole and the world of media would be a terrible place without you all. With that said my granny used to have a plaque on her wall that said. "God created earth and rested, God created man and rested, then God created women and ever since God or man has rested" LOL! I'm really not sexist but there have been times in my life when that saying has resonated so true. Yet perhaps that is what entertains all us men. Therefore women should and do have their voice and places in any form of media as well. Good luck with all your endeavors Lisa.

Geveryl Robinson

I'm gonna have to start calling you Yoda because you just have too much knowledge/insight about screenwriting/film. :-) Thank you so much for this article. Again, it is informative, and makes me happy that my leads (in everything I have written) are women who don't sit around talking about men.

Lisa Clemens

When I take a break from screenwriting, I read about film and writing haha. Saw an interview with Samuel L Jackson where he talked about a scene in Capt. America. Apparently the writer used a story, very similar to one in Samuel L Jackson's youth as part of a story his character tells. Jackson said, "I don't know who the writer is (Aw, doesn't he look at the names on his script??) but some how he got a story I don't think I've ever told, and used it!" See, it pays to RESEARCH! :) How much more convincing is a story the actor tells that is close to his reality!

JC Young

Amen. One of the first things I tell producers and agents I talk to is that I am very open to suggestion and changes. I will always explain my logic though if I am questioned about my reasoning, but if something needs to go or be altered, I'm ready for it. One thing I get a kick of is being told by one creative person to add a scene only to have the next one tell me I didn't need it at all. 'Funny you should say that, sir. I was just thinking about cutting that.'

Katharine Carter

as an inspiring and up and coming screen writer, thank you

Doug Nelson

I like that word “collaboration”. Filmmaking is a team sport. It’s your choice (as a writer, director, actor, DP, audio engineer, grip, editor…) to collaborate with the others… or not.

Sarfroash Ali

awesome word its very true...i love to know about fact on that things who are the important.

Rafael Piovesan


Lisa Clemens

Personally one of the most satisfying aspects for me has been being involved with the rewrites for 13 and being involved with it's evolution. It was never a matter of, "That's a bad idea, change it, " it was usually because situations changed on set (the historic house where filming was taking pace had started putting up expensive antique Christmas decorations and so lines were added the day before shooting to reflect and explain them, rather than risk taking them down and breaking/having to replace them exactly as they were if they were removed!) or an actor in rehearsals contributed something, etc. Even writing to begin with in collaboration with someone else is a benefit. Whether it's my usual writing partner or the person I'm currently writing for/with, they are both directors and have done some cinematography and action choreography, and so while I'm good with story and dialog, they have vast experience in visuals and how things will look cinematically. Why would I NOT want their input?!

CJ Walley

Personally I enjoy collaboration too. A movie is a product and the screenplay is just an early and ongoing part of product development. I come from a design background so I'm used to working from initial drafts to finalisation. How smooth and enjoyable that process is really comes down your ability, your professionalism and your alignment with the client.

Doug Nelson

Dan - I used to just write scripts but a little while back, I decided to produce some of them. The producer is the one who makes it all happen - can you say collaboration?

Rodrigo Diaz

Great advise. Can we leave our ego behind? Only if you want a career in screenwriting. Simple and to the point, both, you and Bob. Thanks!

Pierre Langenegger

That's because screenwriting is a craft, not an art.

Doug Nelson

Screenwriting is a craft; story telling is an art and bringing the two together is a rare skill indeed.

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