A guide to collaborating in film and television.
Tell me if this has happened to you: you have a great idea for a new spec, but you're not sure you completely grasp all the characters or stakes. So, you reach out to a friend to see if they want to collaborate on the project.
Over the course of my career, this has happened in both features and TV. And each time I have to adjust and learn how to work with someone else on the project.
Cowriting a screenplay with a friend can be a rewarding and creative endeavor, merging two sets of skills, perspectives, and imaginations to create something unique and potentially groundbreaking.
However, the process can also be challenging, with creative differences, work style conflicts, and communication issues bound to happen.
In this article, we'll explore key strategies for cowriting a screenplay with a friend effectively.
Let's get started.
How to Cowrite a Screenplay With a Friend
Good Will Hunting
The first step in all of this is to pick the right friend. That means taking enough time to dig into their rituals, habits, and ideas on the ideas.
Have the most frank conversation you can, because it will help you avoid a lot of tension or issues later.
Let's go over what you should talk about, which will also guide you in the writing process.
1. Establish Clear Communication
My Best Friend's Wedding
The cornerstone of any successful cowriting partnership is clear and open communication.
Before you even start brainstorming ideas, sit down with your friend to discuss your vision for the project, your expectations, and your concerns. It's important to be honest about your working style, your strengths and weaknesses, and how you handle feedback and criticism.
Establishing a mutual understanding and respect for each other's perspectives and creative processes will help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts down the line.
2. Define Roles and Responsibilities
New Artist Pictures
While the beauty of collaboration lies in the merging of talents and ideas, it's essential to define roles and responsibilities early on.
Decide who will focus on what aspects of the screenplay based on each writer's strengths.
This will not be easy! It's time to check egos at the door.
However, these roles shouldn't be rigid; allow room for flexibility and crossover. Defining responsibilities helps streamline the process and ensures that both writers feel invested and valued in the project.
3. Set Shared Goals and Deadlines
Next Goal WinsSearchlight
Having a shared vision and common goals is crucial for maintaining direction and momentum in your project.
Together, outline what you want to achieve with your screenplay and set realistic deadlines for each stage of the writing process, from research and outlining to drafting and revising.
These goals and deadlines will serve as a roadmap for your project and help keep both of you accountable and on track.
4. Develop a Joint Creative Process
Every writer has a unique creative process, but when cowriting, it's important to develop a joint process that works for both of you.
This might involve regular brainstorming sessions, writing separately and then merging your work, or sitting down together to write in real-time.
Experiment with different approaches to find what best facilitates your creative synergy and productivity.
Flexibility and compromise are key, as you may need to adjust your usual process for the sake of the partnership.
I've always been a fan of assigning scenes and then trading them for rewrites or polishes. But that doesn't work for lots of people. I have friends who refuse to work on something if they're not together in order to avoid resentment.
5. Embrace Feedback and Critique
Sony Pictures Classic
At some point, you're not going to love what the other person wrote or said. And the same goes with them about what you've been doing.
Feedback is a crucial part of the writing process, especially when cowriting. Learn to give and receive constructive criticism with an open mind and a focus on improving the screenplay.
It's important to create a safe space where both writers feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and suggestions without fear of offending the other. Remember, critiques are not personal attacks but opportunities to strengthen your work.
6. Resolve Conflicts Constructively
20th Century Fox
No matter how well you communicate or how closely your creative visions align, conflicts will inevitably arise. When they do, address them constructively and respectfully.
Discuss disagreements openly, listen to each other's points of view, and seek compromises that serve the best interest of the screenplay.
Sometimes, taking a break from the project to gain perspective can also help resolve conflicts.
You also may need to just accept their POV on something and see it through to the end.
You can't keep going with grudges, so don't harbor ill will.
7. Utilize Professional Tools and Resources
2001 Space Odyssey
These tools can help you keep track of revisions, comments, and suggestions, ensuring that both writers are always on the same page.
Additionally, consider consulting resources on cowriting, attending workshops, or even seeking guidance from a script consultant to navigate any challenges you encounter.
8. Celebrate Milestones Together
New Line Cinema
There's lots of good along with the frustrations as well. Writing is fun!
Cowriting a screenplay is a journey with its highs and lows. Remember to celebrate milestones and achievements together, whether it's completing a difficult scene, finalizing your first draft, or receiving positive feedback from a script competition.
Celebrating these moments can bolster your motivation and reinforce the bond between you and your cowriting partner.
Find a ritual that works for you both.
9. Reflect, Review, and Revise Together
After completing your screenplay, take the time to reflect on and review the entire process together.
This step is crucial for identifying what worked well and what could be improved in future projects.
Set aside time to read through your screenplay multiple times, each with a different focus—once for story structure, another for character development, and so on.
10. Be Prepared for the Business Side
If your screenplay attracts interest from producers or studios, be prepared to navigate the business side of screenwriting together.
This may involve negotiating contracts, discussing credits, and making joint decisions about revisions or adaptations.
Having a clear agreement in place regarding how these situations will be handled can prevent complications and ensure that your partnership remains strong.
Cowriting a screenplay with a friend offers a unique opportunity to blend talents, perspectives, and creativity in a way that can enrich the storytelling process and lead to the creation of a truly compelling screenplay.
By establishing a foundation of clear communication, mutual respect, and shared goals, you can navigate the challenges of collaboration and harness the full potential of your combined creative energies.
Remember, the key to a successful cowriting partnership is not just in the writing itself but in building and maintaining a strong, supportive relationship throughout
Let me know thoughts and experiences in the comments. You can even tag your best friend! Go crazy!