I'd like to know the difference between the professional titles "writer" and "screenwriter" in the context of movies. Please notice that I'm not a native English speaker and I have little knowledge of cinematographic terminology. 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.


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.

  • 3
    Wow. Didn't know there was a deference between using and and & (if that makes any sense LOL) Oct 31 '12 at 16:37

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