U.K. Screenwriters Are Being ‘Edited Out’ and Not Properly Credited in Film Productions, Says Writers Guild of Great Britain

A distressing new poll from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has revealed that almost three-quarters of U.K. film screenwriters feel they’re not properly credited for their work and are being “edited out” of the filmmaking process.

A snapshot poll by the trade union has shown that more than 70% of writers feel they hadn’t been properly credited in the promotion and distribution of their work.

WGGB research found that producers prefer to credit actors and directors in marketing campaigns – leaving writers largely unrecognized for their craft. In other findings: 70% of produced screenwriters reported that a director has re-written their work, while almost 50% reported to 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.
The WGGB says this treatment sits in stark contrast to the way that playwrights are treated in the U.K. “where textual integrity is written into clauses in their contracts.”

Following the poll, the WGGB is launching a campaign aimed at improving the status of screenwriters in the feature film industry. The drive will cover writer development, the creative process and the promotion of screenwriters’ work.

The campaign will call for:
1. Increased “talent identification and development opportunities” for U.K. screenwriters — a scheme that is similar to Screen Ireland’s Spotlight Scheme.
2. “Urgent action” to end bullying and harassment of screenwriters, including greater accountability for production companies in receipt of public funding and “appropriate sanctions for companies who fail to take action.”
3. Stronger contractual terms for feature film writers, preventing their relegation to “ghostwriter” status.

The 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 95% of respondents said screenwriters did not receive sufficient visibility at film festivals.

Last year, the union collaborated with trade body Directors UK to provide joint guidelines for writers and directors. This followed reports from both organizations’ members that writers and directors were being kept apart by colleagues who were keen “to avoid artistic confrontation,” a separation that led 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,” continued Peers.

Tom Williams, WGGB film chair, added: “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 organizations 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.”