The high school ecosystem of "Bratz" -- in the tradition of "Heathers" and "Mean Girls" before it -- can be pretty cutthroat for its striving, self-conscious young female characters. But it's got nothing on the disappointment and scars often waiting for screenwriters who enter a Writers Guild credit arbitration hearing.
Susie Singer Carter ("Cake," "Dance Revolution") is the latest in a long line of writers who feels betrayed by the system: "I just experienced the worst month of my career, which by all rights should have been my best," says Carter, an actor and TV writer whose first shot at a produced film credit on "Bratz" was recently denied by the guild's arbitration panel.
Carter was the last writer to work on the project. Hired in early December during auditions, she stayed on as a writer and consultant when production started in February. She even waived her associate producer credit to improve her chances on the writing credit -- and ended up with neither.
To add insult to injury, the film's producers were apparently confident enough in Carter's contributions to the script that they had Lionsgate print the one-sheet posters for the film with Carter's name in first position (followed by ultimately credited screenwriter Susan Estelle Jansen, and Adam de la Peņa & David Eilenberg, who ended up with story credit).
This is not as rare as it seems, since studios can begin marketing a film long before the WGA decides credit. John Sayles ("Lone Star") had his name on the Universal one-sheets for "Apollo 13" before losing credit during arbitration (William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert were the only credited writers). And it happens the other way too: Jay Wolpert's story credit on "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" was left off the Disney one-sheets.
(Arbitration can also result in credit when little was earned, or even desired -- just ask some of the A-list writers whose highly paid rewrite gigs on studio pap led to a credited legacy they would have preferred to keep quiet.)
It's a process that periodically goes through shifts in policy, but like Western democracy, ultimately looks better on paper than it sometimes does in practice.
As a final consolation, producer Avi Arad wrote a short encomium thanking Singer Carter for "her indispensable contribution" to run at the start of the film's end-credits crawl. But the guild forced its removal from prints (also not the first time that's happened).
"With virtually no grievance process, I feel impotent and vulnerable against a union that I pay dues to protect me," Carter says. "It's mind-boggling."
Scriptland is a weekly feature on the work and professional lives of screenwriters. Please e-mail any tips or comments firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREEN SHEEN ON EMA NOMS
By Gretta Parkinson
Oct 2, 2007
The EMA nominees for TV episodic comedy are NBC's "My Name Is Earl," CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and Fox's "The Simpsons," while ABC's "Boston Legal," NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" and CBS' "Numbers" are nominated in the episodic drama category.
Other nominees include "Arctic Tale," "Big Ideas for a Small Planet: WEAR," "Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life" and "King Corn" for best documentary; "Living With Ed," "Pimp My Ride," "Project Runway" and "This Old House" for reality program; and "Bindi the Jungle Girl," "Cake" and "It's a Big, Big World" for children's live action.
The EMA awards, set for Oct. 24 at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles, will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Nov. 7 on E!