'Everybody's a writer': Theorizing screenwriting as creative labour

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This paper offers a theoretical agenda for a labourist analysis of screenwriting, and critically evaluates the marginal status of screenwriting within film production systems. On the one hand, screenwriting offers an exemplary case study of creative work in post-modernized film production industries, work characterized by freelancing and multivalent working patterns, insecurity and hierarchization. Investigating screenwriting as creative labour also offers unique insights into an intensely industrial vocation; this requires a highly particular theorization of the contexts and conditions of writers’ working lives. This paper draws on sociological analyses of creative production and utilizes a Foucauldian understanding of ‘technologies of the self’ as this concept has been applied in the analysis of creative labour. This approach enables a critical examination of particular aspects of screenwriting labour, including the rigidity of the industrial screenplay form and its pedagogical frameworks, the standardized mechanisms of control over screenwriting labour (such as inequitable collaboration and practices of multiple authorship), and the heady mix of both creative fulfilment and punishment which characterizes this form of work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-43
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Screenwriting
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Screenwriting
  • Labour


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