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I'd like to know the difference between the "writer" and "screenwriter" professions in the context of movies. Please notice that I'm not English mothertongue and I have little knowledge of cinematographic glossary. As far as I understand:

  • The "writer" creates the "story" of a movie, the plot.
  • The "screenwriter" works on the "screenplay", the dialogues.

But I'd like to be sure one does not mistake "writer" for those who write books instead of films.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 16 down vote accepted

From What's the Difference?: How to Tell Things Apart that Are Confusingly Close

  • A “story by” credit is given to the person or team who came up with the essence of a film (such as the plot or main characters) and who may have written a treatment, but who didn’t write the screenplay.

  • Similarly, a “screen story by” credit goes to a person or team who adapted other material such as a novel, a TV show, or a news article for film and made it substantially different from the source.

  • A “screenplay by” credit is given to the person or team who wrote the scenes and dialogue of a screenplay but didn’t generate the idea for the story.

  • A “written by” credit is given to the person or team who both conceived of the story and wrote the screenplay. It usually merges “story by” and “screenplay by”.

  • “And” indicates multiple writers or writing teams who contributed but did not collaborate directly—they may never have even met.

  • An ampersand (&) indicates multiple people or teams who wrote together.


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Perl

  • Screen Story by: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert

  • Screenplay by: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio

In this case Jay Wolpert was hired by Disney to write a script based on the theme park ride. Later Stuart Beattie was brought in to rewrite the script. After that Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio worked as a team on another rewrite.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has a page with more details on Screen Credits.

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Wow. Didn't know there was a deference between using and and & (if that makes any sense LOL) –  System Down Oct 31 '12 at 16:37

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