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The Collaboration Equation

Question: How are writers treated in LA?

Derek Haas: Yes, yes, and I don’t know what the solution is on that. Idealistically writers should be the creative partner of the director in the movie, unfortunately there is a sense in Hollywood that we are a commodity that is easily fired and easily replaced, and it’s true and that happens a lot. If you are going to work in Hollywood you have to get your mind around the fact that you might be the first of many writers or you might be the first and then re-hired writer. So there is a pervasive sense that we are a cog in the machine and can be replaced. It’s a tough one to overcome because you can’t legislate creative input. The Guild has tried and that doesn’t work. I think that probably the main problem is that the final product of a movie is very collaborative and sometimes, I’ll put the burden on us, sometimes we get very precious about our work. Then when it comes time for the collaboration part to start, and a lot of times you’re working on that screen play way before a director comes on, but in Hollywood the director is the boss of the movie which includes being boss of the story and that’s a lot of times when things will go sour. Or you can be replaced just the whim of the fact that an actor who’s commanding a $20 million salary wants their main guy who collaborated with them on their last movie to polish up their dialogue, and then you’re fired and someone else is hired. It happens a lot. I think if you’re going to go into the business of screenwriting, if that’s going to be your creative output, you have to get your mind around the fact that it is a huge collaboration. What I like about having a partner is we are already collaborating which makes it easier, but when you walk into a room on a movie a lot of the times it’s the Producer, the Producer’s Assistant, the Director, the Director’s Assistant, the Studio Executive, his two Assistants and maybe the President of Production and then it’s you. And a lot of times it’s you against them trying to protect the integrity of what you wrote in the movie. So it helps when you have a partner so at least it’s two of you that are going in there.

Question: What's the worst thing about Hollywood?

Derek Haas: Oh, I think the thing I dislike the most about Hollywood is the, I’ll get back to what I was saying earlier, but the way a writers are treated like commodities a lot of times.  Sometimes that’s an unfair criticism because I feel like sometimes you bring it onto yourself a little bit. If I could just wave my magic wand it would be to have writers, let’s say you were the first writer and they hired a second writer, a writer should always be on set of the movie because too many things happen as a movie is being made that it would be beneficial had a writer been there to either police the overall plot or even come up with a better line than somebody’s gonna say improvise on their own. That’s my pie in the sky thinking.

Creative collaboration is not always respected, but it can be essential.

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