Friday, 18 December 2015

Commissioning Process and Working as a Writer

Commissioning Process and Working as a Writer.

The job role of a writer is one that involves strict time management, copyright awareness and a passion for what you do. Most writers are freelance, they work on their own accord. As the income may be low or unpredictable they have to supplement their income to other activities that they can be paid for. However when asked to write a script for a job, would have to make themselves fully available to meet deadlines and certain points in the production. There are writers that write for specific genres, as there are film studios and producers that work with specific film genres and specialise in that area. Therefore a writer must keep up to date with what is selling in the market and use that to their advantage, also networking with writers and other people working within the industry to get your work recognised. Within time management there is deadlines to be recognised if you are working for a studio, a writer will need to organise events and social activities outside the times that the studio needs you to produce work. If you are working for yourself then time is whenever you have it, deadlines have to be met for the film to go ahead with production and meet the deadline for the finished film.

Flashdance (1983)
Show Girls (1995)
Below is a video where Joe Eszterhas who was the writer of large grossing feature films like Flashdance (1983) and Show Girls (1995). He talks of how he came to screen writing and how the process has worked for him, his best advice comes to writing something you are passionate about then it is much easier for you to create something with a complete beginning, middle and end, that will be a finished piece then producers and film studios can have something concrete and be able to edit parts they want. To not be attached or too possessive over the script you have wrote because there is a large chance a majority of it will endure re-writes.

Further more I was present when a writer was being interviewed at a Channel 4 event. The writer that was being interviewed was Michaela Cole who wrote and starred as an actress in the 2015 TV series Chewing Gum. Michaela spoke of difficulties she came about with the TV series, stating that it was originally a play that she had wrote when she was a lot younger, and to turn something that has been on stage into a TV digital programme is a difficult process. She endured hours of rewrites right up until the filming began, not only did she write it and star in it, she also composed it, the re-writes included changes to how the characters interacted and she said she thought back to how she would see her character acting towards different scenarios and therefore get a broader picture of her characters personality. Michaela also said how a writer should not be too possessive over their scripts if it does become commissioned because there are people who can give other opinions and they are not wrong but it's good to have an outsider or expert opinion to make your script be the best it can be.
Here is a picture of the interview that I attended.

Working as a Writer: Part 1

Script Angels
Agent representation is key to a writers career, they are the machine that exposes the writers work, get the press involved and publicizes what they are currently working on. They also take part in the negotiation of the script sale, suggesting what price is should go for when in the possibility of being commissioned. They advise the writer on what upcoming opportunities and windows their are to promote their work, writers can subscribe to an agent by looking online on websites where agents present themselves and cover how they work and what they are willing to deliver and work with. They also get a small percentage of what the writer makes if their involvement helped get the writers work commissioned. An example of this is a website called Script Angles  they provide various names and website information about literary agents, providing contact details and what they have previously worked on, also who they have worked with.

Jingle All The Way (1996)
Royalty payments are what the writer will receive from the use of their scripts, for example if their script has been sold to a production company that has made a film, every time that film makes money from either being brought or shown in a cinema or aired on television, the writer will receive a royalty payment which is a percentage for their work, this is split between the directors, producers and agents. This leads me onto optioning, optioning is where the producer has not actually purchased the right to use the screenplay, however purchased the 'exclusive right' which means they own the right for no-one else to take that screenplay idea and make it, if another company does, they have the right to enforce copy right laws. This gives the producer the right at some time in the future to purchase the full right of the screenplay and create the production from it. The option payment is what the writer will receive for allowing the producer to withhold the their screenplay for 'development purposes' if the writer wants to extend the development process the writer will receive another option payment, this is where the payment for writers are erratic. The professional presentation of a writer is also important, if they do not present themselves well or prepare themselves for a pitch, even if the idea is good, the producer or production company could be put off the idea because of how the writer withholds himself. Also how punctual the writer is, if he/she cannot meet a deadline then it is very unlikely a producer would want to work with them, they need to manage their time and be efficient when it comes to finishing a script for a deadline so that it can be moved to the production period. Following onto my next point about time management, if a writer does not meet a deadline then it puts behind the production, which results in more money being extended to rent out places for filming to occur, that also means possibly missing out prime time of the box office. This is why a writer needs to be punctual and focused of keeping their time managed and responding to the deadlines.

When working as a writer there are legal and ethical considerations that have to be understood, this includes copyright, legal action/ law suits can take place if screenplay materials breach copyright terms and conditions. An example of this is the film Jingle All The Way (1996)

New Girl (2011 -)
This shows that Brian Webster a high school teacher submitted a script to the production company 2 years prior and received no option payment for the company to even withhold the script and reserve the rights. The film produced used from his script grossed $183 million and he didn't receive any. Brian Webster enforced the copy right laws and the Studio was ordered to pay in the end $1.5 million for their entrench on the copy right law. This links to plagiarism, which is where a production company actually takes the whole of someone else's script and copies it exactly. This occurred with Fox's reality show New Girl two screen writers claimed to be the true writers and creates of the screenplay for new girl that was originally called 'chapter one'.

 is also a part of the legal action that can be taken up when it comes to documenting a film, the film What's Love Got to Do With It (1993)  which is about Tina Turner and her abusive relationship with Ike Turner, a few of the scenes that occurred were not legitimate.
In factual representations opinions and views need to be balanced, it is prejudiced to present one point of view and not another. A false representation of a true story based character can be misleading to the audience and further hurt that persons career if they are in the spotlight. Libel is similar if one programme mocks another or starts a rumor or false information about another programme, that programme can take legal action and deem that content offensive.

BBFC ratings -
Censorship comes into this when having to restrict certain content to make it appropriate for younger audience, for example sex and violence. If a writer has been commissioned to write a children film, they have to be aware of that when it comes to keeping it at a PG rating which is suitable, including language and tone of voice. If they break this, there can be legal law suits that are enforced to exposing adult themes to those underage. The watershed is after 9pm in the UK and materials unsuitable for children should not be shown before 9pm or after 5:30pm. Since 2003 Ofcom has taken action on more than 300 occasions, most known was Rhianna's S&M that were shown in the early afternoon. The BBFC is the British Board of Film Classification they decide what age limit is to go on what films and certificate what level the content should be for what audience. An example from a BBFC case study where censorship becomes vital is in the film A Clockwork Orange (1971) . The BBFC was originally shown a screenplay based on Anthony Burgess's novel in 1967 and advised the distributors that a film showing 'an unrelieved diet of vicious violence and hooliganism' would be unlikely to be accepted. However when the film was finished and submitted to the BBFC in 1971 by which time the age for an X rated film had rose to 18 instead of 16, this film was rated 18. There was nonetheless a strong body of press and public opinion that the criminal and anti-social actions of the films main character would be copied by young people. This was the justification of it being rated the highest X of 18.

Job Roles within the Commissioning Process: Part 2 

Commissioning Editor:

Commissioning Editors recognize media products or books to publish in order to build a publishers list. They commission work by finding writers, screenwriters for which they can work with it and eventually publish it. They are involved at every stage of the project, commission editors are they key link between the initial proposal of the screenplay and the published work. As a commissioning editor it would require you to have good time management skills, as some of your time will be taken up by meeting with independent producers. Working with them to create and develop ideas to meet the audiences needs and desires, furthermore taking on the leadership role when it comes to the development process, making sure you provide expertise in your department to identify opportunities to produce successful content.

Work Activities:
- Meeting with senior editors to discuss new proposals. 
- Providing data and contributing to marketing.
- Liaising with writers and reviewers throughout the production.
- Negotiating contract terms with agents and writers.

Script Editors:

Script Editors work with the scriptwriter's creative ideas and what demands the marketplace provides. They evaluate screenplays and give a different perspective, helping the screenwriters and produces realise the potential of their screenplay. They also help screenwriters plan out their story making sure it fits to the narrative, while holding development meetings with screenwriters and the producers giving regular feedback and changes that could be made. Script editors also keep record of everything that is happening in each stage of the project, keeping a close relationship between the screenwriters and the producers. This requires high level networking skills, being comfortable in speaking out when you have an idea, also providing critiques during the evaluation period of the script. This can also be a step into future career prospects like producing, by gaining skills of planning and networking. 

Producer Image 

Tim Burton
Producers play a vital role within film and television, they oversee each project from the planning to the final product. They work particularly closely with the directors and other production staff to keep up to date with the running of the production, some who have the job of the producer tend to have directing skills, a variety of films have the same producer and director, for example Tim Burton who directed, produced and even wrote the film Corpse Bride (2005)  and Edward Scissorhands (1990). They create an environment which the talent and crew can work and bond ideas to make the production reach it's full potential, they are often seen as the machine that creates the idea for the production to be put into action. They will deal with the financial side and distributive process
, having a hand in marketing once the film has been completed.


An agent which acts on the behalf of a screenwriter dealing with publishing and getting the screenwriters work out into the industry, these are called literary agents. It works two ways in the sense of the approach to how the script comes about, the screenwriter can approach the agent, pay them and ask them to promote the work and help them find work, or, an executive film studio can approach a known literary agent and ask if they have any clients that either specialist in writing in a specific genre or would just be willing to write a script for them. An example I found of an literary agent was Curtis Brown they have agencies working all over the world, covering a range of departments, actors, presenters, theatre and television, they also have a film production branch where they run creative writing courses that are available to help train young aspiring writers.

Commissioning Bodies: Part 3

Corporations :

A corporation commissioning body is a company that will buy the script or idea off of a writer and put it into production. The commissioning body is the part of the company that chooses what TV shows and films should be made from scripts that have been sent in from writers and screenwriters. Scripts are sent to the company from many applicants, however only a small few that the company deem as interesting will have money invested into them to be placed into production. They gain their income from box offices revenue which is based on how well the film does which is why they are mainly interested in large budgeted films. An example of a corporate commissioning body for television is the BBC who offers opportunity for up coming writers, writers can send their scripts at a specific genre of what the BBC are asking for.

Print screen from the BBC commissioning website, Link in references at the end of the post.
This specific categories different genres which gives writers the option to chose what they would like to write for and write about and what exactly the BBC are looking for, there is also a chance to pitch these ideas to the BBC themselves. This give the applicant a range of creative freedom as they provide the genre's they are looking to commission and the writer provides the story line to go with that and if it is what the company is looking for to air, the commissioning body will fund it.

Independent Production Companies

Big Eyes (2014)
The Imitation Game
An independent production company is where productions for films take place outside of the major film corporations, they usually commission low budget films and ideas that bigger companies would not make enough profit off. They tend to commission external and established writers. It is also a good starting point for beginner directors to build their portfolio and writers to have a hand in opportunity starting at the bottom and working themselves up. An example of this is the Weinstien Company. They are a multimedia and distribution company, it begun in 2005, two brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstien who founded Mira-max films in 1979. They have commissioned various films like Southpaw (2015) , Big Eyes (2014)  and The Imitation Game (2014) . Another example is Synthetic Cinema  they sell their films to home video distributors, they also posses an in-house screenwriter called  John Doolan , they help support low budget films and coming up writers they have created productions like Deep in the Darkness (2014) and Remains (2011).


There is many ways in which commissioning can occur, one way is through the use of competitions, usually corporations, or independent production companies will open a public accessible competition in which writers have the chance and creative freedom to respond to the brief. It could be for example a new 10 minute short film documentary about issue of poverty in the UK, the writer would then have to respond to the brief by writing a screenplay for this and entering it into the competition, the winner will then have his/her screenplay made into a project ready for production and be given the credit for it. It is a good opportunity for aspiring writers to gain a reputation and experience in the industry, also by broadening their skills, the competition could ask the writer to write something for a genre they are not familiar with. An example of this is BlueCat a screenplay competition below is an example of one of their competitions: BlueCat takes in Digital versions of a script/screenplay that you send to their email address, they must be between 65 and 125 pages long and written in English, and there are some entry fee's that have to be paid in order to submit the script. Prizes for the script include 3 finalists that win $2000 and a the overall winner receive $10,000, they also have exposure of their script which gives them a foot in the door, also gives them the money to potentially make their screenplay into a short or feature film.

The Role of the Writer Throughout the Production: Part 4 

After the pre-production has began there are various stages of where the writer has to take on other roles and responsibilities than just writing, script editing is one of those roles. Script editing is the phase in which the writer will have to visit the script again to make sure that it complys with the market audience that it is targeting. Also making sure that it fits to the narrative that the original idea spawns from, developing a relationship between the directors/ producers to make certain everyone is being updated and on the same page. Linked with this stage comes the director and producer involvement, this is for them to share their advice and opinions on the first few drafts of the script, how they think it would look most realistic, they provide an on-set experienced opinion. It is also what they are wanting to produce if they are the ones that have commissioned the idea, they would be more likely to have a larger role when it comes to reviewing the script. When it comes to developing a relationship there have been difficulties involving creative differences, for example on the film production of Quantum of Solace (2008) there was a writers strike which left the production in the lurch as nothing else could be done to fine tune the script before it was time to begin filming. They could not employ a writer to finish it as there were rules that applied according to Daniel Craig, the actor himself and the director had to sit and re-write scenes which they saw needed, Daniel Craig said in an interview that the sequel was not supposed to be as long as it was, it started where the last one finished, which it wasn't supposed to.

World War Z (2013)
 The writer has to meet deadlines and manage their time efficiently because the script must be a specific place ready for when the director and producer want to review it. Following onto script shooting this is where the angles of the camera and the scene set up meets the script, this is what brings a scene to become realistic because that is what the makes the writers work come off the page and into action. Page lock-down is the final part of establishing what will and what will not be produced, there is no more re-writes or edits, the script is published and handed to the production department. The original screenplay may extensively differ from the resulted one, for example during the production of World War Z (2013) the original screenplay by J.Michael Straczynski was different from the film, it was going to be a mockumentary, based on a zombie outbreak. However Marc Foster though that his screenplay story was too intellectual, therefore publicly replaced Straczynski with David Carnahan. There is adjustments that can be made during production, some re-writes or changes may still need to be made, once the locking of the page has occurred it is easier to track as the revised pages and un-revised pages as they are kept separate, allowing the differences to be shown from the original script to the changes. The writer needs to be present when this is occurring, to work with the director and combined ideas of how the scene will be structured, this is when the relationship between the directors, producers and writers are crucial.

Reference List:
Introduction: 14/12/2015

Part 1: 14/12/2015

Part 2: 14/12/2015

Part 3:15/12/2015

Part: 4 16/12/2015 - 22/12/2015

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