Thursday, February 22, 2018

Uncredited work

Liz had a question that became an entire post.

I do know that many writers do help in re-writes but never get the credit. Have you done re-writes for any TV shows or movies, without getting any credit?

I have read that Carrie Fisher was a script doctor, have you done any such work?

David Isaacs and I did were script doctors as well. Uncredited, we did big rewrites on MANNEQUIN and JEWEL OF THE NILE as well as a number of movies that ultimately never got made.

But it’s a trade off you know going in. The kinds of rewrites we used to like were just before the film was about to go into production. Usually two weeks and the trade off was real good money for no credit.

We almost did a rewrite on THE MIGHTY DUCKS. We spoke to the director and said our issue was that it was the EXACT same movie as BAD NEWS BEARS. He did not want to hear that.

In television David and I often helped out on pilots and never received credit. Among the pilots that actually became series (even though you won't remember half of them or more) we contributed to – FRASIER, WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, PIG STY, GEORGE & LEO. LOVE & MONEY, GOOD COMPANY, THANKS, IT’S ALL RELATIVE, BECKER, THE GEORGE CARLIN SHOW, SIBS, THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES, OUT OF PRACTICE, BRAM & ALICE, PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, LATELINE, KRISTIN, and probably thirty others that never got on the air. I don’t remember the titles but among the stars of the ill-fated pilots were Cheech Marin, Carol Burnett, Jordana Brewster, Jason Biggs, Jasmine Guy, Michael Chiklis, Georgia Engel, Katey Sagal, Jane Leeves, Tate Donovan, Lewis Black, Cameron Manheim, Lisa Kudrow, Mark Addy, Patrick Warburton, and I’m sure a bunch of actors that went on to become huge stars but I didn’t know it at the time and forgot they were even in one of these projects.

I also did rewrite night uncredited for a number of shows including WINGS, SIBS, JUST IN TIME, and MAMA’S BOY.

The point is when you see someone’s IMDB page and they have a lot of credits, in all likelihood they really have a lot more.

21 comments :

Liz said...


Thanks for the post Ken :)

Andrew said...

Friday question (or suggestion): Could you post more often on specific TV sitcoms? You did that recently with Friends, and you've done that before with Seinfeld and The Golden Girls. I'd love for you to post more often on various sitcoms throughout the years (whether classic or less known), and just give your honest opinion about what worked and what did not.

Rashad Khan said...

I probably shouldn't ask, but is any of your work on "Mannequin" in the finished film?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I remember - and liked - SIBS. Quite a cast, too - Alex Rocco, Marsha Mason, Lily Gertz, Margaret Colin, and Dan Castellanata.

wg

E. Yarber said...

My entire career has been uncredited work, which has really come back to bite me in the end titles as of late. Pinch-hitting on other people's scripts was fun and paid well, but I lost my former contacts when I tried to go solo and now potential employers look at me like I'm saying I'm Napoleon if I say I had a toe in this film or that.

Phil said...


Great Post Ken!!!

Also, I love reading E. Yarber's comments.

Would be really interesting to read about his work. He once mentioned he can't give his name. Ok. But an in-depth comment about his work would give a real view of the unnamed, unsung heroes of Hollywood. Wish he or some other script doctors like him write a tell-all book.

Unknown said...

I would guess that the producers of Manniquin were pleased enough with Levine & Issacs work to use a lot of it, if only because they ended up being credited writers on Manniquin 2.

Steven said...

The original Bad News Bears is refreshingly irreverent in today's PC culture

VP81955 said...

Ken, I'm sure it was a slip-up (and certain you're not the first to do so), but the actress in question is Georgia Engel, not Georgette. That was, of course, the name of the character she played on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." (She occasionally guested on "Hot in Cleveland.")

Mike Bloodworth said...

I completely agree. Maybe E. YARBER is an anagram.
M.B.

E. Yarber said...

Actually, I AM E. Yarber. The only person I know who'd make up a name like that is my parents. Since I have no public profile to worry about, there's no point hiding myself. I try not to mention people I've worked for because I don't want to overstate my participation in their work. For example, even though I was there, I still find it hard to imagine that there were times I was assigned story notes for James Brooks. I'm sure he learned a lot from me.

The closest thing I can think of to a tell-all account of the script process is a three-volume set of interviews with Screenwriters called "Backstory," though I fondly refer to it as "Backbiting." There are very few happy campers in that collection.

There are no big secrets to reveal, though. Rewriting is built into the system. Casablanca is a classic case of a studio tossing scripters into a film like cannon fodder. One guy worked on the romantic scenes, another on the comic bits, and no one could figure out the ending.

The closest I can come to a case like that was when I received a period-set horror film by a writer who must have dozed off during history class. I was griping to a friend about all the anachronisms I was having to fix, and she suddenly recognized SHE was working on the same film, making the occult stuff sound authentic. I wonder how many other drones were hovering around that one, none of them aware of the rest. One of these days I should see if the thing was ever made.





mdv59 said...

Back in the 80/90's I worked at a lit agency who had a couple of well known screenwriters that did a lot of 'script doctor' jobs. From what I saw the trade off was that, although they didn't get screen credit, they were very well paid for the jobs-- probably at a higher rate than what they would have gotten for their own scripts.

E. Yarber said...

"The only person I know who'd make up a name like that is my parents."

Sigh. Obviously I come from a very singular family.

Actually, I came back with a more recent example of screenplay Twister in these post-studio days. Ron Bass was very public at one point about having a team of nine writers put together the scripts under his name.

Question Mark said...

Are there sometimes confidentiality clauses in place for rewriting assignments? Ken is open to discuss instances where he did uncredited work, though I'd imagine some writers aren't due to the nature of their contracts. Maybe some big-name writers or directors want to keep their 'auteur' reputation and don't want it known that they had some script doctoring done?

Carol Winter said...

This makes me wonder...

Do you include any of these script doctoring jobs or uncredited rewrites on your resume in order to get new jobs?

Does "uncredited" mean "no credit at all", not just after the movie and in IMDB?

If you do is it hard for them to believe you without the proof of the credit?

Andrew said...

MANNEQUIN was an unheralded masterpiece. Kudos.

Robert said...

You've mentioned the rewriting on MANNEQUIN before. I know the film was successful, but reviews for it really weren't good. I've been looking at some of them online. Do bad reviews bother you? Even in a case like this, where your name wasn't actually on the finished product and you were just brought in for rewrites?

Phil said...


Thanks for the reply Mr. E. Yarber :)

Unique name indeed.

Still I would love to read your book which details your work an to how the directors, the original writers look at your work. The little incidents, meetings etc....

E. Yarber said...

My career is not that interesting. After interning a few months, I was offered the choice of accepting a staff position at a studio or working freelance at home. As I don't have a car and prefer working to gossiping, I opted for freelancing. As such, I generally had very little interaction with my clients. I'd have manuscripts messengered to me and would send my notes and revisions online. Most of the time, I was the one giving feedback, not getting any back. In a way, that immunized me from playing any "Hollywood" games or having to present any sort of front. For a while I would meet with beginning writers as a tutor, but that dried up because they wanted "Hollywood" when I could only try to help them learn to compose.

Once in a while there are exceptions. A filmmaker from New York bought me dinner a couple months ago, but he was mainly interested in picking my brain about Harry Langdon.

I do have a book out with an agent right now, but it's definitely not about me. My movie life is best summed up by the time a friend came to visit and was shocked to see a circle worn in the carpet of my office after years of pacing back and forth beside my desk.

Patrick said...

Do bad reviews bother you?

That's a good question for a writer, though I can't imagine that Ken would have much experience with bad reviews, given how much of his resume is made up of shows like MASH, CHEERS and FRASIER.

Phil said...


Thanks Mr. E. Yarber.

Wish I too had a mentor/tutor like you. And no, I am not into wanting "Hollywood" :D

Thanks again for the reply :)