The best thing about a writing partner is that he’ll say the “stupid idea” you were thinking but didn’t dare say. Once you hear the stupid idea, you’re inspired to think of the next brilliant fragment of it. One stupid idea plus one next fragment can equal a great collaboration.
A partnership is a very intimate marriage of talents, needs, desires, work habits, and personal hygiene. Ask yourself, are you emotionally compatible as a team? If one is down and one is up, does the down one have the ability to pull the down one up? If you can’t support one another emotionally, don’t count on this support as part of the partnership. Set the time, and the place, and the amount of pages you’ll do, then cultivate emotional support from an outside source.
The prospective writing partner’s – compatibility quiz
Ask yourself these questions. There is no perfect score. It’s up to you to decide the perfect partnership.
Are you both willing to succeed at the same rate?
Is he/she ready for the same success that you’re ready for?
When you brainstorm is it exciting? Do ideas fly about that you both love?
Chances are you’ll be opposites. One takes the notes, sets the time. The other has the ideas, then escapes out of the door to the chiropractor. Do you bring out the best or the worst in each other?
Is there one smoker and one non-smoker?
Is one a day person and the other a night person?
Is one good at structure, the other good at dialogue?
Are you stronger together than separately?
Do you like each other?
Is there “always something” taking your writing time (e.g., his back goes out, then a cold, then a wedding to go to in Kansas)?
Do you have a shared vision of what you want from working together?
Do you agree on the future you plan for your shared career?
Does either partner have a loved one who will be jealous of the time you spend together?
Together do you create personal drama rather than finished pages?
Which one is the writer?
Deep down, you will always wonder how much of the magic is you and how much is the other guy. Here’s the truth: it’s both of you coming together. You have to be willing to appreciate that something happens between the two of you that wouldn’t happen separately. If you are not willing to share that unique magic that happens as a result of being together, then don’t engage in a partnership.
Do you feel that you need to prove yourself? Forming a partnership to do that won’t work. How can you use someone else to prove yourself? You have to do that alone. Partnerships formed under these circumstances generally end bitterly, each person thinking that he contributed the most to the screenplay and the other stole the idea.
When you enter into a professional partnership involving the career decisions of two self-supporting adults, you will probably consider this a very serious commitment. Here is how my friend Ron Fricano and I entered into negotiations to become partners:
RON: Wanta write together?
We toasted our alliance: “For as long as it lasts.” A frequently divorced friend at the table fell off his chair laughing.
FRIEND: I should have used that line at my last wedding.
Take your commitment seriously, but if it doesn’t work don’t take it personally. Ron and I wrote together for a year. We decided we each preferred writing alone. We are still good friends.
When you fall in love with your partner, it will not be at the same time your partner falls in love with you. Ride it out. Falling in love is often a state of concentration. You become so focused on each other that there’s an actual switch in the cortex of the brain, a kind of love brainwash. When the “flutteration” stops, the partnership will deepen. If you fall in love with each other at the same time, stop writing together. Get married.
Partner as saboteur
Many partnerships that arise quickly and experience initial success, only to end just as quickly, are due to one partner acting as the saboteur. Watch out for partnerships that set you up for failure. You might sell a script very fast, so that the issue of the partnership is not how the two of you are going to get work, but how you are going to deal with instant success. If your partner can’t handle it and drinks or gets sick, you will find yourself shoring him up and doing more than your part. This partnership and the job you’ve gotten will end just as abruptly as it began. You will say it was the partner’s fault. Watch that when you choose someone you aren’t choosing someone to fail for both of you. Have the strength of character to fail on your own.
Inner Movie Axiom: Strong alliances occur best between two people who come together whole and through the partnership becomes even stronger.
The coward’s guide to going it alone
Try the Buddy System.
Find another writer. Agree to each write a 21-Day Movie. It’s sort of like going on a diet together. Brainstorm with one another. Use one another’s support and suggestions. But each write his own movie.
©Marshall Dodgsons, 1971.