Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where were you when the page was blank?

Severance news! Yes! 3 years later, and I'm still getting mileage out of it! It will be shown on actual proper TV here in the UK, this Friday 24th, at 11.45pm, on BBC1. That's prime time... for horror movies. If you pick up the current issue of the Radio Times (18-24 April, with Ashes to Ashes on the cover), it's Film of the Day for Friday, with a lovely review, and a very nice article all about it and the resurgence of British horror.

Just a shame there wasn't any space to mention who wrote the movie.

Yes, yes, I know that's how it is in "the business", writers are always left out, you should get used to it, blah blah blah. But that doesn't mean I have to bend over and take it, every single time. I constantly have to put myself out there, and so should all writers, so that people know that it isn't cool. Hence this post.

And I'm not blaming the writer of the article - maybe he did actually mention me, but had it trimmed out after he submitted it (which is also why I'm not naming him, this isn't an attack on him). But this is the Radio Times. They always list the writers of TV shows. But not, apparently, movies. Even the Film of the Day, which gets a big article all about it. Plenty of room to mention the directors, they always get a listing at the bottom. But never the writers.

Sure, it's a collaborative medium. But as the saying goes, "where were you when the page was blank?" You'd think that the person who made up the story out of their head FROM NOTHING might warrant a brief name check. I spent over 3 years of my life working on the movie. A full year writing over 20 drafts, by myself, figuring it all out and sweating blood onto the page, while also working a dayjob in an office full time, 5 days a week. You can look back over the blog, and see how long I was writing it, back before I knew anybody would ever buy it. Then when it sold, I did 2 drafts for the film company, addressing their notes. Then 2 more drafts once the director and producer came on board. Then finally, me and the director worked on it together for several months (which is why there's a shared credit). I wrote alternate versions of some scenes, did a full draft of the corporate video all by itself so there would be plenty of audio to play in the background of the bus scene, even wrote several extras for the DVD. I pimp it mercilessly at the drop of a hat, I've been to festivals to promote it, was part of the DVD commentary, and in the other special features. But apparently, I don't exist, because I didn't direct it.

Of course, I don't sit around desperately hoping my name is mentioned in TV listings magazines. I realise that in the great scheme of things, it's not exactly genocide. And yes, I'm very fortunate to be doing what I do, and blimey wouldn't it be great if that was all we had to worry about, ooh I wasn't mentioned in the Radio Times, I wish I had your problems, etc etc. I'm very aware of all that. And I'm not fishing for sympathy or compliments. It's a very nice, positive, complimentary review, which is lovely.

But I worked my arse off on that script, for YEARS. Would it fucking KILL you, if you're mentioning people involved, to mention the person without whom it would never have existed in the first place?


clarrisani said...

They definitely should have mentioned you. After all, if you hadn't written the movie, it would not exist. That was poor judgment and writing on behalf of the Radio Times. I'd be pissed too if I were in your shoes.

Darren Goldsmith said...

Hardly life or death, as you say... but odd they don't list the writer(s) for movies. Have you written to the RT, about this? If so, let us know what they come back with...

Chris Regan said...

I agree, I think in an ideal world the producer and the writer should be mentioned alongside the director, especially when yhey alway list the writer for TV shows.

spikewriter said...

They should mention the writer -- but somehow they're the one who is always either ignored or edited out first. At least RT mentions them for television programs; here in the states, the writer is never mentioned in guide listings for movies or television.

But then, the WGA had to have it written into their contract (not the latest one, but the contract prior to the most recent strike) that studios would invite the writer of a film to the premiere. It had to be written in because the writer was routinely not included on the list. They could find seats for reality show personalities, but not the person responsible for putting pen to paper.

When he accepted his lifetime Oscar, Ernest Lehman began his speech, "In the beginning was the word." It's a concept a lot of people still haven't seemed to grasp.

rubywoo22 said...

Since you said it all so eloquently I can only comment that I fully support your viewpoint. It is absolutely ridiculous that the writer is not credited.

James Moran said...

Darren: I have emailed them a shorter and non-sweary version of this. Will update if they respond.

Spikewriter: Yeah, we have it better here in some ways, and not others. At least I'm always contracted to have premiere seats.

Chris Page said...

I actually think Andrew Collins was wrong - Severance IS better than Shaun Of The Dead.

Nicola Morgan said...

As a writer of books and not film/TV, I'm totally with you on this one. Also, I know authors have to sign away moral rights when their book is made into (or adapted / destroyed for, more like) a film, but I've never understood why that has to include losing the right for your name always to be attached to it. And I agree, we have to shout about this so that as many people as possible understand what it means to us.

Trevor said...

I make a point of listing the writer(s) *before* the director whenever I review a film on my site. And yes, that does include Severance

booyaa said...

praps you could write the film equivalent of a reading guide for the movie? and the final factoid could be..


*the woot is optional

David Lemon said...

Hi James
can I just add that I'm more than with you on this one. I was already two years into development on my feature before certain egos and agendas meant a shared writing credit - and any press we had stated that the film was 'written by myspace' anyway. Like you, I've no desire to dimminish the director's contribution but it does seem that in TV the role of the writer (especially ones who COME UP WITH THE WHOLE STORY IN THE FIRST PLACE)is just that bit more respected.

Kevin said...

The only part of filmmaking that isn't interpretive but truly 100% creative is writing. Everyone else comes after the script and they all interpret it. The writer is the one who creates from nothing. And only writing and music can live independently of the film itself. Yet, the true creator of the piece, is usually left unacknowledged unless of course the film is a misfire then the writer takes all the blame. Critics, and through them audiences, associate all the greatness of a film to the actors and director, yet all the blame gets pinned on the writer. It's unfair for many reasons, and I'm glad you sent them a disgruntled email. Fair play to you.

Peter Breuls said...

I agree. You should be mentioned. I don't understand why a film is always "by" the director, while that's mainly the person conducting the shooting of the film. Without a script, no film. And it all starts with the script, so movies should be "by", if anyone, the writer.

spikewriter said...

Peter: There are a few directors who are truly worthy of the "Film By" tag. Alfred Hitchcock was one; Lehman may have written the script for North by Northwest, but he said on more than one occasion that Hitchcock was intimately involved with every detail, including the creation of the script even if he didn't write the final words on the page.

Few directors, though, have that level of involvement where all departments are primarily tools to carry out his vision.

Andrew Collins said...

I wrote the piece in the Radio Times and no, I didn't mention the name of the writer in the copy I submitted and it wasn't cut out. The ironic thing is, I am a TV scriptwriter and am thus used to being ignored in the same way. Sorry, anyway. I feel your pain, and I'm afraid mention of the writer would have slowed down the piece! ("Severance, directed by ... and written by ...")

Dim said...

Credit to Mr Collins for sticking his head over the parapet here on the blog...
It wasn't till I read "The Devil's guide to Hollywood" (As recommended by TV's James Moran) that I twigged the whole Auteur sham that goes on in the movie business: You shouldn't qualify for "A Film by..." unless you wrote and directed. Everyone else is taking credit they don't deserve. And they probably use wobbly camera shots, the bastards.

Phill Barron said...

If it's of any interest to you, I plan on popping into Smiths in Eastbourne tomorrow and scribbling 'written by James Moran' on every copy.

I'll do it in red biro too. I might even draw a big dribbly cock in the margin for no reason other than it makes me giggle.

jim said...

The missus and I quit attending films in theaters nearly a decade ago, to avoid the frustration of dealing with audience members who came to talk to each other, or to answer cell phone calls.

That's why we didn't see "Severance" until two weeks ago, streaming from Netflix through my X-Box (greatest reason ever to have an X-Box).

James, we had the best goddamn time watching your story on the screen. Original, smart, funny, terrifying - we had to debrief afterward to determine the last time we'd seen a contemporary horror film that left us talking about it in positive terms.

In view of the cerebral stretch marks you sustained while giving mental birth to Baby Severance, your role as creator definitely deserves greater acknowledgment.

I have to quote Tom "Amadeus" Hulce here. The actor once downplayed an interviewer's fawning assessment of Hulce's talent by stating that good roles begin as good scripts created by good writers: he said something like, "What a talent - to be able to take words from the air."

Sure, it takes brains & skill to direct, but very few directors have what it takes to rearrange the alphabet's 26 letters, tens of thousands of times over, to create a living, breathing story.


P.S. - the bear trap fiasco scene = effing gold.

Le Mc said...

Funnily enough, as I picked up the Radio Times I did notice that article and was scanning it for mentions of THE WRITER and was disappointed not to read anything about you!

I will be watching the film on Friday, though.

Dozeymagz said...


Not fair at all.

drettworlb said...

Congrats on having Severance screen on Film 4 - I saw it several years ago at the Melbourne Film Festival and laughed my guts out - it's one of the best horror/comedies I've seen in recent years.

I'm sure your army of followers will be pounding the Radio Times inbox as we speak in protest!

Antonia said...

Agree with you 100%, James.

Sofluid said...

Ah I wondered about the shared credit thing...

I woudn't worry, James, anyone who's anyone in the writing business knows who wrote it :)

Granted though, writers should be given fair credit. It's high time writers' names appeared alongside directors in reviews!!!

charlotte3006 said...

I saw in the tv guide that it was on on friday, and I let out a yelp of delight!
That's totaly unfair about the article though :/ If my career plans go to pot and I become a TV/Film critic instead, I'll be sure to mention all the writers. I might even mention you "this is a greta film, but not as good as Severence, by JAMES MORAN. MORAN. GOT THAT?"
Don't worry, we're all proud of you :D

Chris Page said...

I reckon the only way to save your tooth enamel is to actually start directing, James.

Ivor said...

I find Andrew Collins' rationale for leaving James's's's name off the review a bit odd considering he goes on to name-check the writers of Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later and, implicitly, The Descent and Dog Soldiers.

Nice of him to apologise though.

Love and peace.

And biscuits.

the daily screenwriter said...

OK, Andrew Collins, good of you to front up. I don't read the Radio Times as I'm in New Zealand but...

"I'm afraid mention of the writer would have slowed down the piece"???

Come on!

(Not sure if the Radio Times listing I'm quoting below was your piece but the example stands nevertheless.)

Here's a suggestion:
"Smith effectively switches..." from your piece

Switch to
"James Moran's script effectively switches between crowd-pleasing comedy and agonising suspense"...

That's just two extra words.

And, it's now more accurate.

If you genuinely recognise that ignoring the writer's contribution is a problem, how about undertaking to namecheck the screenwriter in every film piece you write from now on?

I'm sure every writer on this site (and many more) would applaud you.

James Moran said...

Trevor: You are a prince among men, and I salute you.

Peter: True, but I don't think a movie should be "by" anyone, as it is a huge team effort, and wrong for any one person to take credit for the entire finished product.

Andrew: Thank you for your comment sir, much appreciated - although I have to respectfully disagree about slowing down the piece, as you did mention Alex Garland writing 28 Days Later with a simple "...and writer Alex Garland". Bit galling to have him mentioned, and not me, when the article is mainly about Severance!

Dim: Nobody should qualify for "a film by" at all, it's a hugely inappropriate credit. Director's already get a credit, it's "directed by", they shouldn't get another one, and they definitely shouldn't get one that implies they created the entire movie themselves.

Phill: If only we all had your courage, sir! I'll chip in a fiver for your bail costs.

Jim: Thank you! Very glad it's so easily available to many people, and even more chuffed that you liked it so much.

Drettworlb: Cheers!

Chris: I know, and there may be plans afoot for something in the future. But I really shouldn't *have* to - and it's annoying because I know I wouldn't be getting respect as a writer, it'd purely be because I directed it.

Oli said...

Ah, but Alex Garland wrote a novel first. And is hence a proper writer.

Andrew Collins said...

James: I stand exposed as an inconsistent editor of my own copy and a poor advocate for the ignored script writer!

Does the fact that I wrote the piece in about half an hour flat get me off the hook? (Come on - you're a writer, you must have made pathetic excuses before!)

That's the way it works when you're the Film Editor of Radio Times - the TV schedules close at 3.30 on a Wednesday, at which point I have to turn the copy round on the spot so that the page can be laid out and sent off. I wish I had days to write my piece but films can drop out at any point up to 3.30 on Weds.

Mind you, in reponse to the Daily Screenwriter's comment that I "implicitly" mentioned the writers of Dog Soldiers and The Descent - because the same man wrote and directed - you can't pin that one on me! (And I think you are looking at the review of the film in Radio Times, which is online. My piece, which was a piece about the resurgence of British horror, not a review of Severance, isn't online - I've checked.)

For the record, this is it.Pull it apart like a hapless employee on a team-building exercise.

I didn't mention Garland because he's proper, I mentioned him because RT readers - whom we characterise as film lovers, not film buffs - might have heard of him. You have to bear all this stuff in mind.

Which is not to say you don't all have a point. I was co-writer on most of the first two series of BBC1's Not Going Out, which was described then, and is still described now, as "a Lee Mack sitcom" because my co-writer was in it. Learn humility, be grateful or get another job.

radiomovies said...

If it's any comfort it's the same for composers... Think a mate of mine did a great job on your film!
At least there's IMDB (PRO) if someone in the business is checking you out.
I watched an episode of Imagine recently all about guitar construction, where the editing made the film a thing of beauty. Couldn't see the name on screen, not in RT, not on BBC website (shocking). Eventually wrote randomly to BBC c/o Yentob and tracked the chap down... I just wanted to let him know he was cool at his job!
Full credits should be on websites really...
Andrew's one of the good guys though!
Look forward to seeing your film

James Moran said...

Andrew: Thank you for saying all this, you're a gent, and I think it's time we had a big manly cuddle (if I ever meet you, it's cuddle time, I warn you now). Besides, my main beef is really with the RT not listing movie writers - do you know why that's their policy, if it even is a policy?

Radiomovies: Oh yes, Christian Henson did a fantastic job on the music, I love it. And I heartily agree, Andrew is indeed one of the good guys.

Andrew Collins said...

Radio Times is already the only listings mag that credits all those actors, and the director, and the producer, for TV dramas and comedies. For films, it's different, but it's only ever to do with space, which is always shrinking as the vast range of TV expands, and - due to diminishing advertising - editorial pages are squeezed. It's not perfect, but outside of the lovely internet, it's the most credit-friendly printed listings guide. It really is. (I don't really get involved with "policy".)

Ivor said...

Oi! Collins!

It was me that said 'implicitly'! ME!!!!!

Now you're mis-attributing comments?!

Will this calumny never end?

And so forth.

Actually I hadn't read the Radio Times review of any of the Neil Marshall films. I just knew he'd written them. Which helped my thesis.


Love and peace.

And Twixes