Why do you see so many different screenwriting credits on screen? Sometimes you see “Screenplay by screenwriter & screenwriter,” and other times, it’s “screenwriter and screenwriter.” What does “Story By” mean? Is there any difference between “Screenplay By,” “Written By,” and “Screen Story By?” The Writers Guild of America has rules for all-things credits, which are meant to protect creatives. Stick with me as I delve into the sometimes-confusing methods of determining screenwriting credits.
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& vs. And
The ampersand (&) is reserved for use when referring to a writing team. The writing team is credited as one entity with the ampersand separating the team members’ names.
“And” is reserved for addressing separate writers or writing teams that have worked on the project. Often these various writers worked on different drafts of the project.
You may see the credit look something like this:
Or, it could look like this:
The “Story By” credit is often used when a studio or production company has purchased the story from another writer. The writer likely wrote an idea for a story, such as a treatment. Or, a production company sold their rights to a script to another production company, and that new production company brings on a different writer to rewrite the script. The original writer can be entitled to a “Story by” credit, even if other writers later replace them. The credit may also be used when a script is a sequel based on the story of the original work.
This is the most commonly used screenwriting credit in today’s age. This credit is given to writers who have written drafts, scenes, or dialogue that is included in the final version of the film. This credit can’t be shared by more than two writers (writing teams are considered one credited entity). To qualify for this credit, you must have contributed 33 percent or more to the finished screenplay.
“Written By” applies when the writer is entitled to both a “Story By” and “Screenplay By” credit. It implies that the writer is both the originator of the film’s story and has written the screenplay.
Screen Story By
Not as often used today, “Screen Story By” is attributed when a writer has used previous source material as a launching pad to craft a new story from it. This credit is only applied after arbitration. Arbitration occurs when writers challenge the credits being given, and a neutral arbitrator is selected to hear and decide on the dispute.
How is the order of names decided?
Usually, the order of names is based on who contributed the most, unless a prearranged order was dictated in a screenwriter’s contract. If the percentage is determined to be equal between parties, then alphabetical order is applied.
How are contributions to a script determined?
The WGA says that arbiters consider four elements when determining whether a writer is entitled to a credit.
Original and different scenes
Characterization or character relationships
Arbiters must assess differences between drafts, determine who did what, and what changes were made where. It’s a very specific kind of job to determine if someone is entitled to a credit and requires a very skilled professional.
Often times, dozens of writers contribute to a film, but their names never make it to the screen. While the rules are meant to protect writers, some writers go uncredited because of these rules. Screenwriters should always keep accurate records of their work, in case a credit case arises.
I hope this blog was able to shed some light on the interesting and sometimes mystifying practice of the way screenplay credits are determined in the U.S. Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules. The WGA has a complete manual on the topic, which you can download here!
Before you can claim credit, though, you must first write a final draft of your screenplay 😊. Need help getting started? SoCreate Screenwriting Software will be an amazing tool for beginners to experts alike. If you want the earliest possible access to the software, make sure you’re on SoCreate’s private beta access list by clicking here.