There’s an old story in Hollywood that goes like this: Director Frank Capra (It Happened One Night) collaborated with screenwriter Robert Riskin (It’s a Wonderful Life) eight times. Working together, all their movies were hits. But the media (and Capra) said it was Capra who was responsible for all the success, suggesting that any movie with “the Capra touch” would be a hit. Naturally, this irked Riskin to no end. At a meeting, Riskin is said to have brandished 120 blank pages in Capra’s face, saying, “Add the Capra touch to this!” The two had a falling out and never worked together again.
Whether or not the story is folklore doesn’t matter. The point is that the screenplay is the heart and soul of any movie.
To honor great writers like Robert Riskin, Friday, January 5 has been deemed National Screenwriters Day and screenwriters all over the country are coming together to celebrate. ScreenwritingU President, Hal Croasnum, spearheaded the creation of the holiday in 2017 and so far, it’s been a huge success.
Last year, ScreenwritingU and its partners not only held a party at Tin Horn Flats in Hollywood, they also had a virtual party on Twitter and managed to get the hashtag #NationalScreenwriterDay to trend three times.
But according to Croasmun, there’s more behind this holiday than simply creating awareness of those of us who write movies and TV.
“We want to elevate the image of writers,” says Croasmun, “we also want to elevate the credit writers get, elevate the status of writers within the industry and ultimately increase the income writers receive. Very few people out there know who writes things other than big names like Aaron Sorkin.”
So many times in Hollywood, it’s the director who gets all the credit. But as writers, we know there would be no movie without a screenplay. So why do directors get all the glory? There are a few reasons. One is the “auteur theory” popularized by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut in the 1950s that Hollywood soon adopted. But Croasmun has another idea.
“When making a movie, the writer comes in so early in the process. Once the screenplay is written, everybody else gets involved – the director, the producers, the actors. The writer has been dismissed two years before the movie gets made. The whole machine doesn’t look back and go ‘this whole thing came from the screenplay.’”
Though some people think Hollywood discriminates against writers, Croasmun doesn’t agree. “I just think the structure of how the whole movie-making process happens making it easy to forget about the screenwriter. We don’t want to forget!”
This year, ScreenwritingU is partnering with Stage 32, the world’s largest social network for film and television, Final Draft, the amazing software that helps us write, Virtual Pitchfest, the platform that allows any writer to pitch to industry professionals, the PAGE Awards, one of the leading screenwriting competitions and The Script Lab . Together, they will be honoring screenwriters in a variety of ways.
- 11 a.m. PST — ScreenwritingU will be live on Twitter celebrating #NationalScreenwritersDay.
- 12 p.m. — Announcing the winners of the National Screenwriters Day writing competition.
- 7 p.m. — Join the National Screenwriters Day party at RUSH Street (upstairs) located at 9546 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232.
Croasmun hopes National Screenwriters Day will create a public awareness around the importance of screenwriters and inspire the industry to recognize writers the same way it does directors.
“You can have the best directing in the world, but if the writing doesn’t work, the audience walks out unsatisfied.”
For updates, go to NationalScreenwritersDay.com.
How will you celebrate National Screenwriters Day? Let us know in the comment section below.