Sometimes--it's just more fun with a partner!
Screenwriting by oneself can be an awesome, introspective and hugely rewarding process. When I’m writing a thriller or a drama, I love to get lost in my own thoughts, hammer out those emotional twists and turns and rely on my own instincts to guide the storyline through an intricate roller-coaster of my own choosing. It’s also invigorating to type out the words THE END and to know that the only back that needs slapping is your own. You did it. By yourself. It was person against page, and that one-hundred-and-ten paper stack is physical proof of your victory!
But it can also be... Lonely.
Even if you wedged yourself between any number of strangers at a local coffee shop for every word you typed--or asked every friend on Facebook to review your script through a marathon of shared lunches--the biggest drawback to writing alone is that at the end of the day, you’re alone. No one to suffer through the rewrites with. No one to celebrate the minor and major breakthroughs. It’s just you--sitting in front of your printer, slapping your own back. Ouch.
Personally, I’ve never minded the quiet clink of my fingers against the keys, or my own awkward laugh-out-loud at a pun that I just created and no one but myself has ever read. But there is one genre of screenwriting for which I have found it incredibly rewarding (and FUN) to partner-up--and that is COMEDY.
Comedies are all about 'the reaction.' What makes something funny is rarely the way one actor delivers a line or pulls off his or her physical prank--but rather the way that OTHER actors respond. Writing comedies with a partner parallels this back and forth. You may think your script is the funniest thing to hit this planet since David Hasselhoff's "Limbo Dance," but if you can’t get that guy or gall sitting across from you to crack a smile--it ain’t working. Writing with a partner provides a sounding board to double-check your lines and characters, and encourages constant redirection toward the funniest-possible version of your script.
Plus, you’ve got each other’s back! If you write yourself into a corner your partner will be there to pull you out. If the creative juices aren't flowing, there’s someone else to pick up the slack. Writing with a competent partner can be an awesome experience, and one that I have found incredibly helpful in developing my own skills and temperament as a screenwriter.
There may also be some practical advantages. Breaking into the movie business is tough, and if you don’t have a manager or agent, getting your scripts onto a producer’s desk can feel daunting. So why not partner up with someone who is FURTHER ALONG WITH HIS OR HER CAREER THAN YOU?
That's right--it's not all about the parallel back-slapping! (Metaphor--killed.) Most writers, even successful ones, are surprisingly open-minded about co-authoring a script if it is with someone they know and like. And if you’ve got a great idea, they may say YES before you’ve finished your pitch… Developing working relationships with industry-folk is the single-best-way of earning your spot in Hollywood, and partnering up with someone who may already have representation and/or relationships with production companies opens up THEIR world to you. Now--if you can’t write, or simply don’t click with a would-be partner, no amount of time locked in a room together is gonna help out your career. But a symbiotic relationship with a writer WHO HAPPENS TO BE MORE SUCCESSFUL can get your foot in that door right beside THEIR foot. And eventually a leg, arm, torso…
Before you know it, the next generation of would-be writers will be asking to co-author their next projects with YOU!