What An Ampersand Means In Screenwriting Credits

old typewriterI bet not many of you have noticed this little typographical detail in the film credits (I‘m not even questioning if you actually stay for the credits). I am talking about the writing credits and the fact that some of the names are separated with the word “and” or an ampersand (“&”). What’s the difference?

Put it simply the word “and” means that writers wrote separately and an ampersand (“&”) designates a writing team.

If only it was that easy. Firstly, a producer presents the final screenwriting credits to the guild and the writers. If any of them oppose the proposed credits, the arbitration begins. An automatic arbitration takes place if production executives (director or producer) are being suggested for the screenwriting credit. If they want a writing credit, they need to reach far greater requirements than others to be approved. For instance, in order to receive credit an original writer must contribute at least one-third of the final screenplay and any successive script consultants – more than half. According to WGA Screen Credits Manual, directors or producers who work on a script must contribute no less than half of the final screenplay to receive credit.

If we dig deeper, credit can be granted for screenplay and a story which is a short treatment of the plot and characters (just like a story). That happens when all writers employed on the script are not equally involved in both. An illustration of that would be credits of a film “From Paris with Love” which say “Story by Luc Besson. Screenplay by Adi Hasak”. If, for instance, an original screenplay is written, abandoned and new one is developed, the author of the former one can usually at least share a “story by” credit.

The fun starts when teams of writers join forces to write a screenplay. As mentioned before, when they all work together their names are joined by an ampersand (“&”). When there are two teams, it goes by the formula: A & B… and C & D…. For example, the writing credits of “The Lone Ranger” are “Justin Haythe and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio”. This also indicates that they worked on the script one after the other. It is important to mention that only three writers can be credited for the screenplay if they all worked on it together and a maximum of three teams of up to three writers can get the credit regardless of how many of them there actually were. Nonetheless, the restriction does not include those credited for characters or story.

Regarding films based on previous ones but not remakes a “characters by” or “based on characters created by” credit is granted.

Finally, considering the use of a pseudonym. If a writer requests one well in advance, there is no problem. However, the Guilds may refuse a pseudonym if it diminishes the value of the film or if it is used to make a statement. An example of that could be screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski who wanted to changed his name in the “Crusade” series (“Babylon 5” spin-off) credits into “Eiben Scrood” (“I been screwed”).

Tekle Baroti

About Tekle Baroti

Tekle Baroti is a third year Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management student at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. She was born and raised in a family of artists in the beautiful land of Lithuania. Before coming to the UK she spent 12 years playing classical piano and trying to grasp any strings that could lead her to her biggest dream - film producing. Yes, it is a big dream, but at least it will keep her occupied for the rest of her life. Besides, those who dream big - grow big.

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