Screenwriters : Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

There are hundreds of famous actors, and dozens of famous directors, but even I, who always remembers the names that roll through the credits and plan to go into screenwriting, can only name a handful of screenwriters. Aaron Sorkin is really the only high profile screenwriter who doesn't also direct his films (Tarantino, Coen Bros., etc.). Why is that? They're the foundation of the film, and are arguably the most important piece.

"I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd."

Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

You're on these boards - do *you* pay attention to who writes films?

It starts with us.

Here's an old quiz I came up with about 10 years ago after I got tired of screenwriters asking why screenwriters aren't famous...

- Bill
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Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

i took your quiz, bill. no cheating.

i got #2, one of the #3, #5, #6 and #8

what's sad to me is that all of the answers i got involved directors or actors with exception of #3. even writers don't know screenwriters who aren't also directors or actors.

#9 really pissed me off. 3 films i really like and i couldn't name the writer. i couldn't name all three writers of "Casablanca"

Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

I often wonder that to. And it is only the film world that doesn't recognize its writers. With TV, theater, and literature the writer(s) usually receive a lot of recognition. So I don't know why with movies they don't. It is a shame because film writers should be recognized. Without a good script you have nothing.

Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

It seems to be the way of the world that script and speech writers are not to be lauded like the people who speak their words.
Presidents, chat show hosts and the like gets all the applause- good actors however will allways mention a good writer - especially if they´re a succes.

Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

I would say there have been.

Robert Bolt was well-known as a screenwriter as well as as a playwright. Tom Stoppard was well-known as a playwright, but screenwriting made new audiences aware of him. Oliver Stone was known as a screenwriter before he became known as a director. Nora Ephron is still widely known.

There's been a long slow shift over time from when movies would be advertised as having a Billy Wilder script. The actors becoming more and more prominent is part of that, and the same goes for directors. Look at music for an analogy — in the 70s, the guitarist got the lion's share of praise in a band; in the 80s, keyboard players suddenly started getting more play; after that, producers/engineers/mixers got attention; back to the jazz era, horn players were front and centre; before that, the focus was on the songwriters. Today, you can ask people what their favourite song is and stump most of them by asking who wrote it — and I'd say most of those who know would be naming singer-songwriters.

Cultural shifts happen and in dynamics like film and music, the writer is invisible. When songs were recorded by multiple artists and people would buy sheet music, songwriters were known. These days, the average listener credits the pop sensation of the week with writing their own songs because they simply don't think about the songwriter. Plays still have a focus on the writer as different directors and actors stage them. In mainstream film, the audience sees actors and they see a prominent director's credit. More art house efforts will have audiences talking about the writing overtly rather than discussing the story as if it were real, however in the mainstream, it's not likely.

I'd say it ties into CGI and such, with suspension of disbelief less a contract between filmmakers and audience, and with that contract less in play, the writer falls out of sight for many. It's also that the screenwriter became a job rather than a position, owing in large part to the specificity and technical demands of writing for the industry. Still, if someone people know from other media writes a script and it's produced, their audience will follow. I'd say screenwriters could become better-known by working in other media.

§« All roads lead to truth if you're willing to travel honestly. »§

Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

I assume because most great writers are also directors. These days it probably comes down to script writing being almost an after thought to making a film. Why go the distance and write a great script if it's just going to get canned or butchered by the suits? Maybe that's why they also often choose to direct, at least that gives them some bargaining power to get the product they want on screen.

Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

The writers are the stars of Hollywood. Without a decent idea, story and script a project is doomed to fail. Just because writing is one of the less glamorous career paths in Hollywood doesn't make it any less important. Writers just don't get the same exposure as everyone else on the project.

Re: Why Aren't There Famous Screenwriters?

People are more interested on who they are seeing on the screen. Directors get their own fan base, and a good number of screenwriters have fan bases as well. Screenwriting is just a very behind the scenes aspect. Once the script is sold, that is typically the end of that writer's involvement in the project. Writers are big names within the industry in its-self. There is a top 12 screenwriters like list of whom are called upon by the big name Producers and Directors for re-writes, polishes, etc of big name movies.