I am unclear about the idea of a ‘screenwriter’. And I say this as someone who is a screenwriter.
A novelist, a poet, an essayist, a journalist, even a playwright – those are easy jobs to define. We know what they do, because we experience their work. As a finished whole. sure editors, proof-readers, sub-editors and PR executives are involved, but we do read a version of what those types of writers intended to communicate to us.
This is not the case with a screenwriter – almost ever.
A script goes through more revisions than anyone in the film business would be comfortable acknowledging. Even when they wear the high double digit counts as a badge of honour. It is also highly unlikely that anyone watching a movie thinks about the screenwriter. They may fall in love with the actors (or hate them), they may be blown away by the special effects or the cinematography or the musical score (I’m looking at you Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) or they may agree that a director has ‘done it again’. But they would never think about the screenwriter. Unless he was Quentin Tarantino; which doesn’t count because Mr. Tarantino also directs from his own material. If the day came, in some fantasy football type scenario, in which Tarantino directed someone else’s script, you can bet nobody would give that guy (or gal) any credit at all.
Which is weird.
Because most good movies are born out of a good script. The screenwriter is the person developing the blueprint based upon which the motion picture will be constructed. And yet, and yet, the actual finished product has little (to nothing) to do with those 120 pages that were turned in somewhere, by someone, to someone, who had the contacts, or the power, to transform that idea into a real thing.
Since I have only ever worked professionally in the film business as a screenwriter, I am often violently pressed up against the metaphorical stinky bathroom wall where this message was painted in something brown and smelly, “you are simultaneously everything and nothing in the film-making process”.
I don’t know how ‘pure’ writers cope.
If you’d care to enlighten me, I’d be happy for the insight.