Posted on Sunday, April 26th, 2009 by Peter Sciretta
I was looking at the official website for Terminator Salvation, and found myself looking at the credit list on the bottom of the site. Yeah, the PG-13 MPAA logo is there, but we already confirmed the rating to be true. What I noticed was that the official “written by” credits for the film have been awarded to John Brancato and Michael Ferris.
This is interesting because McG has been touting substantial rewrites by The Dark Knight screenwriter Jonathan Nolan and Crash scribe Paul Haggis in interviews and convention appearances. We know that Haggis did a rewrite and that Jonah was brought on to do an overhaul of the script in an effort to convince Christian Bale to come on board the project. Nolan was also supposedly on set for most of the production, doing rewrites scene by scene. At a press conference at Comic Con 2008, McG even referred to Jonathan as “the lead writer of the film.” When asked if Nolan would receive screenwriting credit for his work, McG responded “I don’t know how the WGA rules work but honest to goodness, we did the heaviest lifting with Jonah.”
Being a credited writer on a studio film project means you can make more money through residuals. John Rogers has called Residuals “the only candy [screenwriters] get in the studio system.” Bottom line is that if Jonathan Nolan substantially changed the story, he deserves credit and residuals (which in a film like this could be a pretty large sum). I have no idea if the credits have even been brought to WGA arbitration (one would have to assume so), but the new credits with “John Brancato and Michael Ferris” are featured on the official film website.
Some commenters have pointed out that early theatrical posters have incorrectly attributed “written by” credits because the issue was still in WGA arbitration. So it is still possible that the credits could change before the film is released on May 24th. Also, a book could be written about the Writer’s Guild of America’s arbitration process and how many believe it to be flawed. They value overall story changes over dialogue, tone, and character, while others insist that it is a political game.
Also, I want to be clear that I’m not calling WB or the WGA out for not crediting Nolan. That is not the point of this posting. We really have no idea how much Nolan has contributed to the script, and chances are he didn’t provide the neccessary 51% to get a credit. It’s more than likely that McG was overselling Nolan’s contributions as a selling point in a Dark Knight crazy world. And if that’s true, can you blame him?