Claudia Johnson & Matt Stevens co-authored Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV. Their latest feature, Ruby, has been optioned by Invitation Entertainment. Follow them on Facebook. Full bio.
Your ideal co-writer might be right under your nose—or right next to you in bed, as several teams revealed during our interviews for Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV.
“It wasn’t our desire to make films that brought us together,” Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau said via email from Paris, “but rather it was our meeting one another that led us to make films together. It was for us, first and foremost, a relationship as lovers.”
When Ducastel read Martineau’s script Jeanne et le Garçon Formidable (Jeanne and the Perfect Guy), he offered to direct the film with him.
“We did it, it worked well, and we’ve worked together ever since.”
It certainly worked well for their film Drôle de Félix (Adventures of Felix), which became a U.S. art-house hit and one of the most successful French imports of 2001. And their farce Côte d’Azur was an international favorite in 2005.
Harry & Renee Longstreet (Fame TV series; Alien Nation: The Udara Legacy) also discovered a career together, one that evolved from their marriage—and the ghosts of marriages past. Shortly after their wedding, Renee was struggling to write a screenplay while working five—yes, five—jobs, they told us.
RENEE: I’d had difficulties with my ex-husband stopping paying. Then he’d pay sporadically, then he’d get behind. It was just a nightmare, and I would never again be dependent upon a man to support me and my kids. Ever.
But Harry thought she should devote herself to her craft, and he offered to pay her to write.
RENEE: I said, “I’m not ever going to let you support me. What do you think, I’m going to let you be my patron?” He goes, “No, just let me be your husband.”
She accepted his proposal and threw herself into her scripts. She also let Harry read pages as she wrote them.
RENEE: He’d start to say, “Well, what about if you do this? Or what about if you do that?”
HARRY: I started to noodle with it.
RENEE: And then he said, “Could I do that scene with the drama teacher?” So he wrote that scene. And then he tried to write another scene. And then another.
Their collaboration was underway.
You and your potential writing partner don’t have to be married, but as you search for the right partner, it’s important to think of collaboration as a marriage of sorts—and not to be taken lightly.
But when we interviewed Larry Gelbart (Caesar’s Hour; M*A*S*H TV series; Tootsie) at his Beverly Hills home, he waved the marriage metaphor away. “I will avoid the marriage analogy because it’s tougher than marriage,” he told us.
We asked why.
“Because there’s no sex! [Laughter] There’s no way to kiss and make up.” But he added, “You really have to love the other guy/girl. You really have to.”
And then there’s brotherly/sisterly love, which we’ll explore in the next post.
Get more tips on writing partnership in Claudia and Matt’s book
Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV