Apparently, things are looking up for us screenwriters in Hollywoodland according to Variety Magazine. Firstly, we are now called “authors” rather than merely “hired guns”. We are rightly referred to as creators of literary works, and much like architects, the blueprints must be drawn before any building commences. Even if adapt work, we are still creators of literary work in a screenplay format.
Writers are increasingly allowed on set and included throughout the production process as vital storytellers, rather than just emergency rewriters.
Simon Kinberg, uber-geek, who happens to have written opuses including Mr and Mrs Smith, X-Men, did a writing pass on Sherlock Holmes and Date Night, and the list goes on. Given that his films have grossed more than $1 billion globally, his geekdom can be forgiven. Just do something funky with your hair. You look like you belong in a “Just For Men” commercial.
Style faux pas aside, he has recently snagged a 2 year non-exclusive deal with Fox studios through his production shingle, Genre Films. What does this mean? Screenwriters are handed studio deals that were previously the domain of actors and directors, where they are bona fide producers. The television equivalent of these super writers is the showrunner. Even in the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, writers were paid a salary as studio staff.
Fox has a first look deal with Kinberg, which means they can access his original ideas before anyone else. That’s an astonishing precedent and kudos bump for screenwriters. A similar “first look deal” exists between Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (of Star Trek and Transformers fame) and DreamWorks. In view of the moribund spec script market, original ideas are currently at a premium. And rightly so. Remakes, sequels and pre-quels have a limited life span. We can’t keep making them ad libitum. Who would have thought that Death At A Funeral would be remade after only 3 years? And I thought reliving 80s films don’t allow enough time to pass for them to become nostalgic.
If Mr Kinberg doesn’t have the time or the inclination to write a script, he can set them up as open writing assignments before presenting them to Fox.
Kinberg has long argued that writers are instinctively better storytellers than executives. After all, writers are now being hired as story producers on reality tv, because they can better hone the emotional spine of a story post shooting.
Just remember, that without us writers, actors, directors and production folk couldn’t function. Doesn’t that make you feel special?