Claudia Johnson & Matt Stevens co-authored Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV. Their feature Ruby has been optioned by Invitation Entertainment, and they recently finished Scrooge In Love, the screen adaptation of their published novella, A Christmas Belle. Matt also works as a Senior Copywriter and Digital Content Specialist in L.A. Author of the widely adopted Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect, Claudia taught at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. They’re available for workshops about collaboration. Follow them on Facebook.
As we said in our previous post, most of the outstanding writing teams we interviewed for Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV evolved out of close personal relationships.
Good friends, for example.
Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio (Despicable Me franchise; The Secret Life of Pets) met in the late ’90s during a production of a church musical and became best buds. They sold their first screenplay the following year, and their second screenplay became the 2001 cult favorite Bubble Boy with Jake Gyllenhaal.
“We were friends first, and becoming writing partners naturally evolved from that,” they told us via email. “We highly recommend that method of finding a writing partner.”
“We were friends and started writing together,” Andrew Reich said of his collaboration with Ted Cohen on the iconic TV series Friends. “We knew each other so well. And that’s crucial.”
They became close friends and roommates at Yale but didn’t start writing collaboratively until they were living on opposite sides of the country. After graduation, Reich became a book agent in L.A., while Cohen became a law student at Harvard. Neither was happy with what he was doing.
ANDREW: Ted said, “Hey, I’m gonna come out there for a vacation. Why don’t we write a script?”
Reich suggested they try a spec for The Simpsons.
TED: It was just like, “Sure, what the hell.” Not really expecting anything to come of it, but, “Yeah, why not?” We just wanted something to show to our friends that would make them laugh and make us laugh, and it was really for fun.
Reich & Cohen never considered a career as co-writers until the first draft was finished.
ANDREW: We thought, “This is actually pretty good. Wow, this is pretty funny. This could maybe get us an agent, and we could maybe try doing this for a living.”
And what a living! They went on to become the head writers and executive producers of Friends.
When we interviewed bestselling author Charles Gaines at his “writing shack” in Nova Scotia, he told us how his screenwriting partnership with Ethan Hawke began.
“We met years ago and got to be friends. And then— I had just read a book by David Roberts about Geronimo and the last days of the Apaches, and I had been struck with what a tragedy and fascinating many-layered story that was. And how it had never been told. So I sent this book to Ethan and I said, ‘Read this.’ And I didn’t suggest that we do anything with it. I just said, ‘Read it and just tell me what you think.’ And he called me up like two days later and he said, ‘Chuck! We gotta do this! We gotta make this into a movie.’”
Gaines & Hawke had already clicked as friends, and when they clicked again over the right project, they’d found the right writing partner.
So you might find the ideal co-writer among your close friends. Or perhaps even closer to home, as we’ll explore in subsequent posts.
Get more tips on writing partnership in Claudia and Matt's book
Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV