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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

F4 - The Few, The Proud, The Uncredited

Yes, I'm one of the uncredited writers on FANTASTIC FOUR. There are quite a bunch of us, actually, almost enough to form our own political party. I threw my hat into the ring when it was still a relatively new project at 1492, (that's not year I wrote my draft in, by the way, though it feels like it, that's Chris Columbus' production company at Fox), and I was only the third writer. There have been ELEVEN of us all told since then. Yes, count them. And I did my part back in 1998. So, do the math. It demonstrates just how long it takes Hollywood to ruin a really good idea. Sadly they didn't keep much of what I came up with, which is a shame. Though I'm assuming there must be about ten of us who feel that way. Thus, you won't be seeing my name on the film.

From the advance word I can't say I feel terrible that my name's not on it. On the other hand, any writer with two kids will tell you he'd be happy to have his name on any franchise-potential that has not one, but four super heros. Even a failure at this level must generate some family-car-trip money, don't you think? But if it's a stinker, maybe I lucked out and have kept my monicker more pure.

I include the list of writers here, in the order they wrote, for your appreciation at just how Hollywood can deconstruct the auteur theory:

Fantastic Four written by (at one time or another):

Michael France
Chris Columbus
Philip Morton
Sam Hamm
Douglas Petrie
Tristan Patterso
Mark Frost
Zak Penn
Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
Simon Kinberg


I believe the first and the last are getting credit, and I assume that's fair. Even though Writers' Guild credit arbitration may feel like a gypsy seance to some, I've had friends who've done it (on The Sum of All Fears) and were handed a stack of scripts, some phone book sized, by a group of authors, and these guys read them all and voted with fairness and best intent on content. It made me realize how seriously we would all take the job if called up to do so, or might decide to get a PhD instead because it would be less work. Even so, so I trust the process).


Blogger The Moviequill said...

Phillip, your name IS on that movie now to us, so thanks for letting us know. Are you finding this to be the norm nowadays, multiple writers such as F4, where a lot of good writers are not able to get credit? Or just on the tentpole big multi layered cross dimensional behemoths like these comic book fantasy films? I am just curious if the Producers are too anxious to make a huge splash, so they are trying many versions now and instead of working with a writer, they are dismissing them.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Howzcum you didn't do a similar posting for Jack Frost?


Wednesday, July 06, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

That's my even more exciting next uncredited story posting, as the director attached before he was fired on that project was Sam Raimi.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Moviequill, interestingly enough, the question is answered in the la times article from today (July 6) linked two posts up. In the end it comes from the producer/directors not knowing exactly knowing what you want, but when they see it, they know they don't want THAT. Also, as directors change, or production companies change, it is normal for them to have associations with writers they love, and carry the feeling that the project feels stale and needs to be reworked and brought back to life. As there's so much riding on it, such expense, and potential profit, they continue to throw it against the wall until someone finally says STOP, ENOUGH - or the studio gets convinced they have the successful draft. Unless a piece is fast tracked, and the writer nails it, which is unusual in only a few drafts with long form work (Bruce Joel Rubin wrote 14 drafts of ghost after he sold his pitch, but he was passionate and committed to the project as his director was to him), it is more normal to have a long history, a collection of directors, producers and a gaggle of writers.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005  

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