Two For the Price of One - Complications Ensue
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Monday, February 06, 2012

The IPA minimums describe two team writers sharing one script fee. Why is that? When a team writer goes to a gas station or store, does he or she fill half a tank of gas? [Snip.]

What about teams with multiple writers?

Producers are getting the benefits of two writers for the price of one. Why not pay each writer a full script fee?

With a team, a producer gets the work of two writers simultaneously, with faster delivery of a script, story editing, etc.

Bottom line, each writer whether single or in a team should have the right to earn a reasonable fee for a decent living, right?
Nobody has the right to earn a living writing. Earning a living by writing is an enormous privilege that you earn through getting results.

So, working in a writing team is the writer's choice. It's not a right. If you can make it work for you, the results can be excellent, but it's not the producer's or the Guild's responsibility to make sure you get paid as much as you would if you were writing on your own. You have to earn it by being better in a writing team than you are on your own.

Writing teams aren't necessarily faster than single writers. They can be. They can also be much, much slower. I worked with another writer who questioned every creative decision. We had to analyze and discuss everything, endlessly. Hopefully the result was better scripts. But they weren't faster. They were slower.

On the other hand, I would guess that Lisa and I write about three times as fast as we would write on our own, because we have the other partner to break creative logjams. I couldn't put a number on how much better the scripts are, but oh, let's suppose that Alex & Lisa are two to three times better than Alex or Lisa. So we get many more jobs than she and I would get on our own. On a series, we could take on more episodes. We also have more flexibility. If one of us is staffing a show, or shooting, the other can take point on a screenplay that must be delivered by a certain deadline.

Typically comedy writers often work in writing teams (or "writhing teams" as they're almost never known) because writing teams are much, much better at generating jokes and evaluating them.

If your writing team really is better, you will get paid, overall, more. But it's not the individual producer's responsibility to pay you more. He's only getting one script. Why should he care how many of you there are? He's only getting one script to shoot.

Realistically, if producers had to pay a writing team $100,000 to write a script instead of $50,000, they would just never, ever hire a writing team (except if the writing team was as good as a 100% overscale writer).

I'm not really sure why writing teams get only one story editing salary, but that's the way it's always been.

As for multiple writer teams -- I've never heard of those. Two's a writing team. Three's a mess.

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6 Comments:

When producers hire seven subsequent writers to write and rewrite one script, they are paying seven times for one script.

Logically then, if the cowriting is smooth, hiring two team writers and paying them full fees would be like hiring two of the seven writers at one time and getting the final script faster.

Just sayin'. More work for everyone, faster. What benefits do producers get when they request script funding seven times?

By the way, most people believe that freedom of speech a right. Like the right to earn a living, whether as a journalist, novelist, screenwriter or person who writes those stickers in the back of fridges!

I say, if there are no rights, there are no wrongs. Moot points. Food for thought.

By Blogger Lorenzo Orzari, at 3:22 PM  

What the eff is this Lorenzo Orzari guy talking about?

By Blogger DMc, at 4:26 PM  

Different patterns of logic. To spark ideas about how writers can earn a better living.

By Blogger Lorenzo Orzari, at 5:08 PM  

Ah yes. I see. You know what else would be nifty? If we learned to drink salt water and made ham legal tender!

Oh and kittens should always be loved, too.

By Blogger DMc, at 5:14 PM  

Hey, Lorenzo. I'm not sure I understand your point.

Freedom of speech means we can say what we want without the cops bursting down the door; it doesn't mean we have a right to get PAID for that speech. Otherwise every wannabe in Hollywood would have a major civil rights lawsuit, no?

The Guild works to ensure that someone who sells a feature or staffs a TV show can make a living wage. But it's up to the writer to make the sale or get staffed. Are you suggesting that part should be easier?

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 5:52 PM  

One example of a successful trio of writers is Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Mind you, they have generally been working on massive projects where they no doubt split the load. I have gathered from commentaries and interviews that each of them would specialise on different characters - at least in the case if Golum, Fran wrote most of his scenes.

By Blogger bitmeizer, at 6:27 PM  

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