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FINDING THE RIGHT WRITING PARTNER: The Next - or Previous - Generation, Part 5

Claudia Johnson & Matt Stevens explore more ways to find writing partners. Familiarity between family members can breed strong, successful writing teams.

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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As we said in post #4 and in our book Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV, many sibling teams have achieved great success in the biz.

Alfonso Cuarón wrote Sólo Con Tu Pareja and Y Tu Mamá También with his brother Carlos. But for the Hollywood blockbuster Gravity, he turned to his son Jonás.

Because—as you may also discover—the script partner doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Alfonso was inspired by his son’s ideas for the innovative space-set thriller. “I was very intrigued by his sense of pace in a life-or-death situation that dealt primarily with a single character’s point of view,” he says in the press notes for Gravity. “But, at the same time, placing the story in space immediately made it more expansive and offered immense metaphorical possibilities.”

“The concept of space was interesting to us both,” Jonás adds. “It is a setting where there is no easy way to survive, thousands of miles from what we call home, so it was perfect for a movie about surmounting adversities and having to find your way back.”

Script EXTRA: Why No Two Writing Voices Will Ever Be Alike

Gravity marked the father and son’s first official collaboration, and they discovered that this familial bond kept their writing odyssey on course and helped them create the screenplay at warp speed.

“We have a language in common, and the story just developed overnight,” Jonás tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Alfonso agrees. “The plus side of [being family] is we have so many experiences in common that you just can go through shortcuts to understand each other. It’s great.”

It was also great for the mother-daughter team of Winnie Holzman & Savannah Dooley, who co-developed and co-wrote for the ABC Family series Huge, based on the YA novel by Sasha Paley.

Holzman already had major credits of her own, including Thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, Once and Again, and the musical book for Wicked. Dooley only had one TV writing credit, What Goes On. But the mother-daughter duo discovered they shared a common voice on the page. As Dooley tells The New York Times, “Our voices as writers are very, very similar.”

Their styles are too. “You only have to look at ‘So-Called Life’ to see what the style is that Winnie really writes in, and it’s extremely similar to the style that I write in.”

Script EXTRA: 11 Ways to Avoid Disaster When Choosing a Writing Partner

They also share common sensibilities as writers. As Dooley adds, “There’s subtlety, it’s dramatic and the humor is just character-based.”

So familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Familiarity between family members can breed strong, successful writing teams.

But what if you don’t have a partner-worthy parent, child, sibling, spouse, or lover? Or a partner-worthy friend, for that matter? We’ll explore other options in our next post.

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