Whose Name Should Go First In the Credits?

A reader writes:

Dear Larry:

I don’t know what do.  My writing partner and I keep arguing about whose name should go first in the credits.  I think my name should go first because I’m older and have more experience as a writer.  He thinks that his name should be first because he came up with the initial concept for the screenplay.  We’re getting a lot of interest in the script but I’m afraid that this fight may end a great collaboration.  Do you have any suggestions?

Sincerely,

First Things First

_________________________________________________________________

Dear First Things First:

Here is my advice for you and your partner.  GET OVER YOURSELVES!  Nobody and I mean nobody, other than you, your writing partner and your respective mothers gives the slightest concern about whose name is first.  Do you really believe that if the credits list you first you will have everlasting glory and if it’s second you will be ridiculed and die a pauper?  Nobody cares.  How do I know this?  Because in the history ofHollywood, no one has ever been stupid enough to try to hire one-half of a writing team, solely because they were the first name listed on the credits.

Let’s think about some great writing teams over the years, from Kaufman & Hart (The Man Who Came to Dinner, You Can’t Take it With You) to Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel (Splash, City Slickers, Parenthood) to Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio (Aladdin, Shrek, all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies).  Does anyone inHollywood think that Hart, Mandel, or Rossio were merely hacks carried along on the backs of their writing partner, because they were listed second?

Or in music, do people think less of Paul McCartney and Keith Richards because Lennon and Jagger had their names listed first?  Or course not.  If you really think that it is important that your name goes first, the problem is not with your partner, it is with you.  So stop the fighting and get back to work.

Larry

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Whose Name Should Go First In the Credits?

  1. Jon Mullich

    You offer good advice, Larry. When Kaufman and Hart wrote together, they had an agreement that first billing would go to whoever came up with the idea in the first place, even though Kaufman was a vastly more successful playwright when he started working with Hart. That’s why “The Man Who came to Dinner” is credited with being written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Pride cometh before the fall.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly.

    I’m currently in a script collaboration and we’ve agreed that if at all possible, we’ll be listed on the same line (single card) with an “&” (with my name on the right, his on the left). Failing that, I offered to take the second slot because I’m not too worried about it and alphabetically speaking, it’s justified.

    Something this small would be a shame to ruin a great collaboration over.

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  3. The Girl

    They should’ve decided this before writing it. Toss a coin. I hope they are not counting the number of words each person contributed in the script to make the decision because that’s a lot of words for a script. Haha.

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