Writers have power.
I know you don’t believe me. Amidst all the rejection we face, not to mention the grueling work of creating something from a blank page every day – nope, sorry, doesn’t usually feel powerful. But if you think about it, without us, the publishing industry, the film business, theater actors, legions of readers – they’re all left hanging. Writers form the backbone of multiple industries. Without us, everything falls apart.
If you look at the contracts you’re asked to sign, what are they, really? They are agreements that you will give up your power for money. Which is fine. Money, gooooood. But I recently heard a producer say that writers should be grateful that they’re getting produced at all, they shouldn’t expect to be paid for it. No, really, she said that. Her argument was that she’s doing all the work getting the film produced, and she doesn’t make any real money until the movie’s a hit. Okay… But what she’s not saying is that she gets to make all sorts of decisions along the way, including bringing in other writers to muck with, sorry, improve, the script. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling, the writer has no power at all in rewrites, casting, choice of director – heck, we may not even get invited to the set. So pardon me if I want a little cash up front in exchange for the power over my story that I’m ceding to you.
All of this of course sounds a little rah-rah-writers, but that doesn’t make it less true. Granted, to get published, to get produced – for those things, you need collaborators. I’m all for self-publishing, but not without an excellent copy editor. Digital flimmaking means you can shoot your own movie, but not without actors and crew. Collaboration brings stories to life. But don’t let anyone convince you that just because you’re the foundation of the process, they can walk all over you.