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Everybody's a Writer Theorizing screenwriting as creative labour

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This paper offers a theoretical agenda for a labourist analysis of screenwriting, and critically evaluates the marginal status of screenwriting within film production systems. On the one hand, screenwriting offers an exemplary case study of creative work in post-modernized film production industries, work characterized by freelancing and multivalent working patterns, insecurity and hierarchization. Investigating screenwriting as creative labour also offers unique insights into an intensely industrial vocation; this requires a highly particular theorization of the contexts and conditions of writers' working lives.

This paper draws on sociological analyses of creative production and utilizes a Foucauldian understanding of technologies of the self as this concept has been applied in the analysis of creative labour. This approach enables a critical examination of particular aspects of screenwriting labour, including the rigidity of the industrial screenplay form and its pedagogical frameworks, the standardized mechanisms of control over screenwriting labour (such as inequitable collaboration and practices of multiple authorship), and the heady mix of both creative fulfilment and punishment which characterizes this form of work.

Keywords: collaboration; creative labour; critical sociology; industrialization; marginalization; screenwriting

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of London.

Publication date: 2010-01-01

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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