Partnering Up: An “Excellent” Adventure

By Varun Raman · October 11, 2011

Getting to that first credit is never easy. And if writing that first script is an arduous journey, you may need a friend. Two writers can travel much farther to unseen worlds, and together, bring more of them back to the audience. However, many seem to be terrified of the notion of partnering up, as if it’s unworkable.

Imagine if Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan never worked together on their history report. Ted would have been faced with the unenviable task of traversing over 7000 years of time alone. He would have failed his history class and been sent to Oates Military Academy by his tyrannical father. The Wyld Stallyns would have been forced to disband. And a future utopian society would have never come into fruition.

Of the top 100 rated films on IMDB, only 21 scripts were written single-handedly. All other films in the top 100 are either adaptations or team efforts. Of those 21 films, only one of them was a first-time solo effort. It is no coincidence that the majority of successful films have been written, and rewritten, by more than one person.

A partner is there to constantly challenge and critique your ideas, instead of waiting months for retrospect to kick in. But this doesn’t mean precious ideas are being thrown out by someone who doesn’t understand them.

Never throw ideas away. You should both be holding on to them. Give them time to percolate. Ideas are malleable. Two minds can stretch and test them into something more elaborate and logical.

The stretching and testing of an idea is achieved by constant discourse. Your script is continually developing without writing anything, because you now have someone to incessantly and constructively discuss your ideas with.

You no longer have to worry about annoying friends and acquaintances, bending their ear, telling them about unfinished ideas, when all they will understand is a cinema ticket in their hand. Having a writing partner will ensure that your hobby, which became a pain in the ass for you and other people, will now become a passion again. But it comes at a price.

Working with a partner demands that the story is approached in a professional and organised manner. The foundation to this revolves around determining the constitution of the world you desire to bring back to the audience. This includes theme, tone, pivotal plot points, pacing, character development, the background, setting and politics of that world, and the relevance of each scene.

If there are any disagreements, they can be resolved by referring to the constitution. Potential arguments will be rationalised and their coherency with the rest of that world can be checked. Neither one of you wins. The story does.

Before getting a writing partner, it’s wise to put egos aside, because by the time the script is completed, it won’t be possible to establish who thought of what. The story is no longer a creation, but now a discovery. You will really feel like you have seen another world and not just its mere individual elements. Now that’s an exciting prospect.

Additionally, working your way into the industry becomes a more enjoyable pursuit. If one of you begins to wane, the other always steps up. At least one of you will always be writing. As a pair, you are more productive. To ride through those lulls in productivity, make a playlist of songs and music, which capture the tone of the story, drawing you back to that unseen world and the state of mind that discovered it.

No-one else may believe that you’re a writer, but your partner will. They can generate the confidence in you to demand more of yourself, keeping you informed of screenwriting seminars and courses, books to read, and films to watch.

Working in a pair mobilises you to quit that meaningless job, and dedicate most of your valuable time to the craft. It’s also good for your health and finances. You share that bottle of whiskey instead of drinking it all yourself. And when you realise that welfare isn’t enough to get by, you can split the price of food.

Find your Bill or Ted. And bring back that utopia. Or dystopia. Or whatever the hell you want.