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FINDING THE RIGHT WRITING PARTNER: O Brother or Sister, Where Art Thou? Part 4

Claudia Johnson & Matt Stevens explore the best ways to find the right writing partner—sometimes the best partner is one who shares your DNA.

Claudia Johnson & Matt Stevens co-authored Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV. Their latest feature, Ruby, has been optioned by Invitation Entertainment. Follow them on Facebook.Full bio.

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FINDING THE RIGHT WRITING PARTNER: O Brother or Sister, Where Art Thou? Part 4

Obviously, you can’t go shopping for a sibling, but if you are biologically blessed, perhaps you will join the growing number of Hollywood heavy-hitters who have kept it all in the family, like The Conjuring franchise writers Chad & Carey Hayes:

Joel & Ethan Coen (Fargo; Hail, Caesar!), Matt & Ross Duffer (Stranger Things), Nora & Delia Ephron (Michael; You’ve Got Mail), Peter & Bobby Farrelly (Dumband Dumber; Dumb and Dumber To), Peter & David Griffiths (CollateralDamage; The Hunted), Albert & Allen Hughes (MenaceII Society; Dead Presidents), Christopher & Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight; Interstellar), Jill & Karen Sprecher (Thirteen Conversations About One Thing; Big Love HBO series), Lilly & Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy; Sense8), Shawn & Marlon Wayans (ScaryMovie; White Chicks), Chris & Paul Weitz (Antz; About a Boy), and Jerry & David Zucker (Airplane; Naked Gun).

Chad & Carey Hayes are not only brothers but also identical twins and have loved movies since they first watched The Wizard of Oz at five years old, they told us at a Malibu restaurant overlooking Zuma Beach. They became involved in drama and theater and wrote their first screenplay—about twins, natch—while high school students in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Not sure what to do with the script, the brothers hit up a famous neighbor, country singer and actor Hoyt Axton.

Script EXTRA: Finding the Right Writing Partner - Collaboration

CAREY: We went and knocked on his door one day. His girlfriend opened the door, and we said, “You don’t know us, but we’ve written a movie, and we want to talk to Hoyt Axton about it.” And we heard this deep, bellowing voice, “Hey, guys, come on back.” We got to know him very personally. He was an inciting factor in our career because he was very encouraging. He read our script, and he called us up and said, “I’m going to L.A. to pick up my band. Do you guys want to come with me?”

CHAD: “And I’ll introduce you to anyone I run into.”

CAREY: “My agent and other people.” And we’re like, “Yeah!” Then we just got that taste of Hollywood.

They also got a taste of success. Their spec screenplay The Amulet, which they described as “sort of like Harry Potter before Harry Potter,” garnered great attention. It never sold but landed them a three-picture deal at Fox.

We asked how being siblings has helped their co-writing career.

CHAD: I think it has enhanced it because when you’re siblings, you know everything about the person you’re with. We knew early on what we wanted to do, and the process just started. I think the majority—99% of writers in collaborative writing teams—have to navigate personality, have to navigate ego, have to navigate lifestyle. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff involved in that. We’re very fortunate in that way. Not to say we haven’t had big disagreements over things—we certainly have. But as brothers, you figure that out.

So as you search for the right writing partner, it may be that there’s no place like home. Lovers or spouses or siblings.

Or the next generation, as we’ll explore in post #5.

More articles by Claudia Johnson and Matt Stevens

Get more tips on writing partnership in Claudia and Matt's book
Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV