Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghost Writers!

Not all screenwriters are credited with writing a feature screenplay or TV teleplay. Why does this travesty exist? The main reason is that the screenwriters have contributed too little to a screenplay (less than two-thirds) to warrant a screen credit.

Enter the GHOST WRITER. What do they actually do? They write in the shadows and scare people on Halloween. Just kidding about the second part.

Ghost writers are uncredited writers who mimic the voice, tone and style of the principal writer. They are not the creators of new material or adaptors of literary material from another format.

It’s a writer for hire gig without credit or residuals. They don’t retain any rights to the material either. Ouch.

Ghost writers are typically hired to write manuscripts for books, papers, reports and speeches, to name a few. They are becoming more prominent in the screenwriting world.

Although the emergence of ghost writers for screenplays isn’t a new practise, it raises some ethical concerns for screenwriters. If you write the majority of a screenplay at least, you are entitled to screenplay credit according to WGA rules. However, not all producers (particularly independent producers) are WGA signatories and are therefore not obliged to hire professional screenwriters.

Why Would Anyone Take A Ghost Writing Gig?

It’s a pay check. Bills need to be paids. Ghost writers also get to work with producers, see their work produced, and get writing experience. Ghost writing gigs keep many screenwriters afloat in between writing assignments and selling their screenplays.

Why Would A Producer Hire A Ghost Writer?

One reason is time. The main screenwriter may have multiple simultaneous projects and they all need to be completed within tight deadlines.

Sometimes it’s a business decision to assign a screenwriting credit to a more prominent writer to boost the revenue potential of a film or TV show.

Many projects receive ongoing notes and revision, even during production. This is often the case with studio films with multiple producers attached.

An independent producer may want a quick rewrite before production. This could include punching up action lines, adding gags, clarifying dialogue, or rewriting a movie script for tonal consistency or logic.

The main writer has all the story elements in place, but needs a ghost writer to assemble them into a rough draft screenplay so the main writer can tackle a rewrite later.

The screenwriter isn’t a native English speaker or has very poor command of screenplay structure and needs to get a film script to industry standard.

Producers sometimes hire ghost writers to research facts (such as historical, scientific or medical), events and other stoty aspects to authenticate a screenplay.

Not All Ghost Writers Are Created Equal

The precise role of ghost writers varies considerably between film and TV projects. Some are hired as little more than proof readers or to correctly format a screenplay, while others have a more substantial role in a particular screenplay draft.

They are often paid by the page or by the project.

For comprehensive Film & TV script analysis visit Script Firm.

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STORYBOARD SCREENPLAY DEVELOPMENT GROUP – If you’re in the Los Angeles area, we meet at Fox Studio in Los Angeles on the second Monday of each month to comprehensively discuss scripts of soon to be released films.



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