Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Collaboration and cooperation are a massive part of being a successful working writer. Not only do they highlight to producers and directors that you're willing to work with others, they also help to promote your work.

Over the years I've heard of several instances where writers have ruined opportunities for themselves by either not being prepared to collaborate or not cooperating. Here are a few of those examples.

  1. A writer had his feature optioned and was asked to rewrite it and change a few bits. He went away and wrote a completely new screenplay loosely based on his original. He changed most of the story and the majority of the characters, so much so that the screenplay was hardly recognisable compared to the original. Because of this, he sunk the project and the producer lost money.
  2. Two writers wrote a sitcom together and a major broadcaster commissioned them to write the entire series. One of the writers got cold feet and walked away killing the project for both of them as he wouldn't sign over the rights to the other writer.
  3. A new writing duo had their screenplay optioned and the finance was raised. As they were about to sign the contract they decided to renegotiate so they could also direct the film. The producer tried to tell them if they insisted on this the financiers would pull out, but they wouldn't listen and this is exactly what happened. The project crashed, was never resurrected and the writers were never heard of again.
  4. A new writer went to an experienced writer with a great project and asked him if he would be interested in a collaboration if he would show it to his contacts when it was done. The experienced writer agreed as he loved the project. Six months later the new writer took back ownership of his idea as he thought things weren't progressing quickly enough, just as the experienced writer had managed to get significant interest in the project from one of his producer contacts. The project and the new writer went nowhere and the experienced writer was so embarrassed in front of his contact that he vowed never to work with amateurs again.
All of these examples are true stories and illustrate how easy it is to not only get a bad name for being unreliable in the busineess but how quickly you can end your career before it's even begun. How could the above have avoided this?
  1. The writer should have listened closer to what the producer wanted and rewritten his screenplay accordingly, rather than going off and writing what he wanted to.
  2. The writer who had cold feet should have worked on the first series to completion before walking away and then let the other writer carry on alone with the second, either that or sign over the rights so the writer could continue without him.
  3. The writing duo shouldn't have got greedy or precious about their work and instead should have trusted in the process to ensure their debut film was made, which would have put them in a much stronger position if they wanted to direct in the future.
  4. The new writer should have had more patience as it takes time for a project to be picked up, greenlit and broadcast. If he had trusted the more experienced writer the series might now have been commissioned and broadcast.
So how can you help yourself? There are two great examples that have happened to me recently and they are...
  1. I sat down with two producers to discuss a long-gestating project. Times have moved on and one of the producers felt the idea and the screenplay should also. We discussed it, debated and suggested new ways we could look at the story. In the end, we have a new, fresher vision we all agree is way better than the original. We will now work together to make that new version a reality.
  2. I was contacted by a friend I was at university with who now teaches. She asked if I had any short screenplays her students could film as part of her course. I had eight which had been lying around gathering dust for years. The students picked the ones they liked and asked if they could make changes. Some changes were minor, some for practical reasons and others a little more drastic. I could have been precious about my work and insist they film them as I wrote them, but I was intrigued to see what they could come up with and gave them permission to change whatever they wanted. I even made a few suggestions for changes myself. I can't wait to see what they deliver.
Collaborating and cooperating shows everyone how well you can work with others, that you're reliable and that you understand how the media business works. If you have a reputation for being easy to work with you're more likely to be approached with work. That doesn't mean you have to bend over backwards and do everything you've been asked no matter how ridiculous. You can always decide not to change something you've been asked to, as long as you've talked it over with them and explained your reasons why in a polite and respectful manner. It's a collaborative business after all.

Happy writing!

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