“I will never know the names of the three screenwriters who judged my contribution to Bride Wars [in WGA arbitration], nor do I need to, but I am grateful to them. With their help, I put myself through law school.”
Screenwriter Greg DePaul
My Bride Wars
“Your wedding better watch it…Your wedding should be very scared right now. If I were your wedding, I’d sleep with one eye open.”
Liv (Kate Hudson) in Bride Wars
In a scene that may or may not echo a Bride Wars legal fight over credits.
It’s no secret that drama in moviemaking isn’t just found within the movie. In the case of Bride Wars, there was a battle over screenwriting credits.
Part three of my interview with screenwriter Greg DePaul picks up after his original idea for Bride Wars was sold and developed by Kate Hutson’s production company & Miramax. Unfortunately, after a couple years into the process, Miramax as a studio went into a transition where it become apparent they weren’t making the movie. That was the whiff of death moment for the project that eventually got produced.
Greg DePaul: [The Bride Wars script] sat there for a couple years and at some point I gave up on Hollywood. We had one kid and another kid coming. My son had some fairly serious medical problems, and so did my wife during the pregnancy. We kind of gave up on Hollywood and moved to New Jersey.
And I went to law school because I wanted to have the ability to do something else for a living. And I was in law school when the studio said, “By the way Miramax sold the Bride Wars script to New Regency and they attached Anne Hathaway to be the other woman.” It didn’t change my plan at all. They went ahead and made the movie. They shot it in Manhattan right across the river from where I was going to school in Newark and I said, “Great can I come visit the set?” and they said “no.”
I had been on the set for Saving Silverman for the whole time and it was wonderful. Sony and Village Road Show were wonderful. And the reason New Regency said no was it had been re-written. Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) had taken a pass. At least six or seven writers had taken a pass in the intervening time that I’d been unaware of. Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael are on the poster with me and the studio was pushing them as potential stars and had roles in the film. The last thing they wanted was some man’s name on that movie. They proposed to the Writers Guild that I only get a very small shared story credit. But as you know I didn’t have to accept that. So I protested to the Writer’s Guild and demanded an arbitration which I basically won.
Casey and June opposed me naturally, because they wanted their names all over that movie. And the studios really wanted them to succeed and they saw it as probably hurting them. I’ve never met the other writers by the way, but I’m sure they’re very nice people. But they fought it and lost and appealed it. That worried me because they could go to the appeals hearing in Los Angeles and I was busy in law school and couldn’t fly out to L.A. and be there personally.
So I went to the Writers Guild on the East coast and I said, “Can you allow me to do a Skype video conference?” And they said “yes.” I went to their office in Manhattan office and did a Skype with the appellate board at the Writers Guild which is a bunch of writers, and I pled my case. And I said, “You can’t let them reopen this, here’s why…” I hit them with all kinds of facts and they agreed and denied the appeal. What I ended up with was Written By Greg DePaul first with their names after mine. When there’s two names with an ampersand they’re treated as one person for money purposes.
Scott: In the appeals process were they looking at story, character, plot points…?
Greg: Three independent writers read everything. When you arbitrate they send you every draft of the script. They may have sent me 30 or 40 paper drafts. They came out it big boxes to New Jersey. And I lined them up in two big lines. And I saw all these others names, Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex)—he had changed a lot of the dialogue. He did a really wonderful job. And I was able to track using six different highlighters who did what. There were people who wrote on it, and then were written out again. There were some drafts of that script that made some serious changes and then the studio changed their mind, went back three drafts, and started over with another writing team.
When you’re playing with that many millions of dollars, and it’s a hundred grand here, and three hundred grand there, you do whatever you have to do. But what I really saw over time was that the other writers never really changed the fundamental story, they never changed the fundamental characters, or the setting. What they changed were the little details. And so that’s what I was able to show in my arbitration. I had to spend weeks on it. I had to fight it like it was a law case. I wrote the mother of all arbitration statements. And that’s how I got my credit back.
To go deeper into the legal process on Bride Wars check out Greg’s article My Bride Wars in the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal. That article is also helpful to entertainment lawyers as it concludes with “advice to attorneys who counsel screenwriters who are going through the WGA’s screen credits arbitration process.”
To support this blog, and further interviews, please become a patron at Patreon.