Film shoot with green screen

70% of UK film screenwriters not properly credited for their work

Screenwriters are being “edited out” of the movie-making process claims the WGGB after a snapshot poll revealed that more than 70% of writers had not been properly credited in the promotion and distribution of their work.

Producers repeatedly prefer to credit actors and directors in marketing campaigns – leaving the writers unrecognised for their craft.

This is just one aspect of the increasingly poor treatment of writers on feature films WGGB research has found. In other findings:

  • 70% of produced screenwriters reported that a director has re-written their work;
  • Almost half reported that they have been belittled and excluded from the creative decision-making process;
  • Almost a third reported being sworn at or otherwise abused during the course of their work.

This is in stark contrast to the way that playwrights are treated in the UK, where textual integrity is written into clauses in their contracts.

To counter this increasingly toxic treatment of screenwriters, WGGB will be launching a campaign of action aimed at improving the status of screenwriters in the feature film industry.

The campaign will cover writer development, the creative process, and the media and promotion of screenwriters’ work, and will call for:

  • Increased talent identification and development opportunities for screenwriters across the UK (similar to Screen Ireland’s Spotlight Scheme).
  • Urgent action to end bullying and harassment in the course of a screenwriter’s work, including greater accountability for production companies in receipt of public funding and appropriate sanctions for companies who fail to take action.
  • A strengthening of contractual terms for feature film writers, preventing their relegation to ‘ghostwriter’ status.

WGGB’s calls for urgent action come against a backdrop of endemic bullying and harassment in the UK creative industries. The 2021 Looking Glass survey from the Film and TV charity found that more than half of respondents had been the target of unacceptable behaviours in the past year. 57% had experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination; while two-thirds (67%) had witnessed these behaviours.

The new WGGB findings mark the 10th anniversary of the Written Into the Picture report, which investigated the lack of visibility of screenwriters at film festivals on the international stage. This report found that 87% of respondents who had written films that were being shown at film festivals did not receive an invitation, despite the director of the film being invited. The report also found that only 7% of screenwriters were “always” credited in festival marketing, while an overwhelming 95% of respondents said screenwriters did not receive sufficient visibility at film festivals.

Last year the union collaborated with Directors UK to provide joint guidelines for writers and directors. This followed reports from both organisations’ members that writers and directors were being kept apart by colleagues keen to avoid artistic confrontation, a separation which in fact was leading to miscommunication, a loss of trust and a stifling of the artistic process.

WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers said:

“You cannot have a film without a script and screenwriters are an integral part of the creative film-making triumvirate of writer, director and producer. Yet writers are being edited out of the process, pushed into the background and experiencing unacceptable levels of abuse, as our new findings show. Each part of the creative team needs each other – from the very early stage of script development to post-production and promotion – so it is time to shine the spotlight on screenwriters and give them the credits and respect that they deserve.”

Tom Williams, WGGB Film Chair, said: “With screenwriting talent increasingly diverted away from film into high end television, it is time for the film industry to address the long-standing status imbalance of screenwriters versus other members of the creative team. We are calling on organisations who work with writers in film to show that they appreciate the special skills and sacrifices that go into building a screenwriting career, to reassure them that they will be protected in their work, and to pledge that they will be recognised for their contribution to the finished product.”