Screenwriters are being ‘edited out' of filmmaking process

The new Writers’ Guild of Great Britain findings mark the 10th anniversary of its Written Into the Picture report

By Tim Dams 11 Oct 2022

Screenwriters are being ‘edited out' of filmmaking process
Ellie Peers.

Screenwriters are being “edited out” of the filmmaking process according to a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) poll, which found that more than 70% of writers have not been properly credited in the promotion and distribution of their work.

The WGGB says producers repeatedly prefer to credit actors and directors in marketing campaigns - leaving the writers unrecognised for their craft.

The WGGB research also found that 70% of produced screenwriters reported that a director has re-written their work.

Almost half reported that they have been belittled and excluded from the creative decision-making process, and almost a third reported being sworn at or otherwise abused during the course of their work.

The WGGB says this is in stark contrast to the way that playwrights are treated in the UK, where textual integrity is written into clauses in their contracts.

To counter what it describes as the “increasingly toxic treatment of screenwriters,” WGGB is launching a campaign aimed at improving the status of screenwriters in the feature film industry.

The campaign will cover writer development, the creative process, and the media and promotion of screenwriters’ work, and will call for:

- Increased talent identification and development opportunities for screenwriters across the UK, similar to Screen Ireland’s Spotlight Scheme.

- Action to end bullying and harassment in the course of a screenwriter’s work, including greater accountability for production companies in receipt of public funding and appropriate sanctions for companies who fail to take action.

- A strengthening of contractual terms for feature film writers, preventing their relegation to ‘ghostwriter’ status.

The new WGGB findings mark the 10th anniversary of its Written Into the Picture report, which investigated the lack of visibility of screenwriters at film festivals on the international stage. The report found that 87% of respondents who had written films that were being shown at film festivals did not receive an invitation, despite the director of the film being invited.

WGGB general secretary Ellie Peers said: “You cannot have a film without a script and screenwriters are an integral part of the creative film-making triumvirate of writer, director and producer. Yet writers are being edited out of the process, pushed into the background and experiencing unacceptable levels of abuse, as our new findings show. Each part of the creative team needs each other - from the very early stage of script development to post-production and promotion - so it is time to shine the spotlight on screenwriters and give them the credits and respect that they deserve.”

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