The writer continues to be the worst-paid and most-exploited creative person in this film industry of ours- Jaideep Verma

The Indian film industry is always ripe for controversies about credit because of the illiterate and uncouth manner people in decision-making capacities on films handle these things here.

Here are some simple (rhetorical) questions.
When an actor gets significant inputs from the director or the writer or anyone else for a role, does he/ she ever think of sharing the acting credit with that person?
When a director gets film-altering inputs from a cinematographer or editor (which happens a lot in this town), does he/ she consider sharing the direction credit with that person?

How can an actor claim a writer’s credit then just because she/ he has given inputs when the physical work has still entirely been done by the writer? Similarly, how can an editor or a director claim co-writer’s (or even additional writer’s) credit when the film rushes are entirely based on the writer’s script? Is it not intrinsically an editor’s job to recreate the narrative with the director?

By fostering a climate where one can browbeat the writer into sharing credit (and consequently, fees too, often) by merely giving inputs, is it not creating an environment of insecurity and bitterness where writers will not want to keep an open mind as it affects their bottom line directly if they do? How pathetic is it that only the writer is in danger of this imposition on his rightful credit?

It happened to me too many years ago, when a director who wanted to film my script, after working with me for a few months, said he wanted co-writer’s credit because the shot divisions he was going to do was deciding the narrative too. My initial reaction was amusement, but when I realised he wasn’t joking, I withdrew the script and decided never to put myself in that position ever again (which also led to my becoming a director, for better or worse).

The internationally-accepted formula for co-writing is this – a new writer on a project can only get a co-writer’s credit if he or she contributes MORE THAN 50% to an existing script (if there is one writer previously; if there are two writers already, then more than 34%, and so on). Adjudication happens only where people dispute this percentage. It is not hard to see the logic in this surely?

The director is supposed to play a big role in deciding this. But if he or she chooses to remain silent, and not exercise the rightful leadership role, then he or she is perpetuating the sort of injustice that tends to bite that same person in the arse someday. Which is also why it is hard to sympathise with anybody in the current controversy because all are equally guilty of perpetuating injustice, whatever clarifications or justifications they may give.

Isn’t it curious though, and perversely funny, that so many directors and actors (and editors too, it would seem) want to be seen as a co-writer – it is an undeniable status symbol for them, and yet, the writer continues to be the worst-paid and most-exploited creative person in this pitifully mediocre film industry of ours?

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