Friends Don't Let Friends GhostComplications Ensue
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Q. So when you say, "First of all, ghostwriting is forbidden under the rules of the Writer's Guild of America, the WGC and probably every other screenwriting guild on the planet.. If the WGA finds out that someone put his name on someone else's writing, he's in trouble.” Are you referring to someone who steals a script and puts their name on it? The term “ghostwriting” by its very nature as far as I know means that the ghostwriter agrees not to make any claim on the property, so if him and I have a “write for hire” agreement ahead of time, the WGA won’t care who did most of the writing, would they? The person who hired the writer paid him for doing the writing.
In publishing, it is considered okay for a celebrity, say, to hire someone else to write a book for them, and put his name on the book. (Though, usually, these days, the real writer's name goes somewhere, in an "As Told To" or "With" sort of byline.)

In movies and TV, however, it is NOT okay for someone to put his name on something he did not write, EVEN IF he paid for the privilege. Otherwise every producer would do that all the time. The Writers Guild of America was founded to put a stop to producers and their nephews from getting credit for things that were written by hard-working screenwriters.

If you take credit for someone eles's writing, you'll get an ugly reputation in show business when the word gets out, and it will. If you're in the WGA you might get kicked out permanently, and then you won't be able to work as a writer, or even pretend to work as a writer.

If you ghostwrite for someone else, you are screwing your fellow writers, and screwing yourself. I'm not sure whether the WGA would ever let you in, but if you're a member already, they can fine you the entire amount you got paid. Also, you'll hate yourself. No one should do it, ever.

"Writer for hire" just means that the writer doesn't get copyright, the company does. Thass different. The writer still gets credit.

Credits are the most important thing in a writer's career. They are her reputation. She has them for the whole duration of her career, unlike the money. They are the hard-earned gift that keeps on giving. If you spend a year ghostwriting, you have lost a year of your life.

Of course writers don't always get credit for rewriting a script. Carrie Fisher, for example (yes, that Carrie Fisher) is a big deal script doctor who comes in at the last minute to punch up scripts. However you generally don't get a credit for punching up dialog and characters. But that is a question of awarding the original, legitimate writer more credit than he possibly deserves. The WGA tends to lean in the direction of giving the original writer more credit, so if a highly paid script doctor doesn't demand all the credit she deserves, they're probably not going to fuss about that. But Carrie Fisher's contract gives her right to ask for a credit arbitration if she feels like it. Thass different, too.

The only time ghostwriting was acceptable was during the McCarthy period, when banned screenwriters such as Dalton Trumbo had to write under pseudonyms, or use a "front," in order to stay alive.

Seriously, why would you hire a ghost writer? If you want to produce, produce. No one cares if you hire a writer and then put your name on the script as its producer. But taking credit for someone else's script is -- well, the nicest thing I can say about is, don't ever do it.



But Alex! They created the show! They had a napkin with "cop drama" written on it!

By Blogger DMc, at 10:19 PM  

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