WGA Screenwriting Credit System - Conflict and Resolution Examples

Conflict and Resolution Examples

Frank Pierson, former WGAw president (and former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), says that, "The large majority of credits are still straightforward and uncontested," but "When they go wrong, they go horribly wrong." Writer-director Phil Alden Robinson says, "No one can trust the writing credit. Nobody knows who really wrote the film."

When Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was adapted for the screen, Alex Cox and Tod Davies wrote the initial adaptation. When Terry Gilliam was brought in to direct, he rewrote it with Tony Grisoni. The Guild initially denied Gilliam and Grisoni any credit, even though Gilliam claimed nothing of the original adaptation remained in the final film. "As a director, I was automatically deemed a 'production executive' by the Guild and, by definition, discriminated against. But for Tony to go without any credit would be really unfair." After complaints, the Guild did award Gilliam and Grisoni credit, in addition to Cox and Davies, but Gilliam resigned from the union over the dispute. "It's really a Star Chamber," said Gilliam of the arbitration process, which he claimed took more work than the screenplay itself.

Similar problems arose for the film Ronin. According to director John Frankenheimer, "The credits should read: Story by J. D. Zeik, screenplay by David Mamet. We didn't shoot a line of Zeik's script." Instead, Mamet received credit under a pseudonym. After the controversy over credits for Wag the Dog, Mamet reportedly has decided to attach his name only to movies on which he is the sole writer.

From 1993 to 1997, there were 415 arbitrations, about one-third of all films whose credits were submitted.

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