“Annie, will you…”
The words just seemed to glue themselves to the back of my throat.
Annie sat across from me at the Caribou Coffee Shop we used to frequent. Her eyes were not only bright and big, but they were trained on me, their happiness hinging on what I was going to ask next.
I shifted in my chair. Interlaced my fingers with my coffee cup and worked up the nerve.
“Will you write ‘Staycation’ with me?” The corners of Annie’s mouth sprang upwards. Her stitch of a smile quickly morphed into a beaming open tooth-filled gap as she said, “YES!”
And that was how we became writing partners for two years. During that time, we wrote two spec screenplays and produced a music video that aired before The Grammy’s. We were joined at the hip, spending more time together than with our spouses. But that really is the way a solid writing partnership is – a marriage.
You will see ads all the time, from Craig’s List to the International Screenwriters Association, soliciting for writing partners. Given that screenwriting is really a solitary experience for the most part, you really need to understand what goes into making a partnership solid and rewarding before you say, “yes.”
You are no longer writing on your own. You're writing with a partner. You need to discuss every move with each other - from brainstorming and breaking the story to the moment you write “Fade to Black” through every rewrite.
Discuss Your Process
Before you sit down to brainstorm, discuss how you both like to work and come to a mutual agreement. In our case, we both liked to break story and outline together. Then we’d take scenes and write alone. We would then trade and go all kinds of “Danny Manus” or “Lee Jessup,” revising each other.
Trust Your Partner
You have to believe in your partner. You didn’t decide to collaborate in order to have another pair of hands. If they don’t like your suggestion, don’t get defensive. Consider it. Talk it out. Ask them for suggestions. Explore what you consider the goal of the scene to be.
Don’t Keep Score
You are now partners. It’s not about individual contributions. You're working on the same idea. You are now a unit. You only have one script you are showing and it represents the work and thinking of both of you. Keeping your ego in play can erode not only your partnership over time - but possibly your friendship.
The truth? A writing partnership is not for everyone. Right now, I prefer to write alone, but that doesn't mean I won’t ask someone again.
If you do decide on a partnership, just remember it's a “partnership.”
And if you’re not an egotistical asshole, you two could end up being the next Coen Brothers, McFeely and Markus or Halpern & Hoskins.