Too soon to write them off

By Liu Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-27 09:25

Following a lengthy strike, Hollywood writers have just scored a historic victory, yet their counterparts in China are just embarking on the quest to protect some of their most basic rights.

At the recent Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), writer Wang Xingdong raised a proposal regarding the protection of his fellows' rights of authorship, revision and payment.

Wang also initiated a writers' meeting on Feb 24 in Beijing, which more than 80 writers attended, discussing their livelihoods and how to improve their lot.

Compared to Hollywood writers, who insisted on residual payments for the distribution of their works on new media, Chinese writers are seeking more basic changes.

Li Shuxing was one of the scriptwriters of A Battle of Wits (Mo Gong), a film starring Andy Lau, but the script was attributed to director Jacob Cheung. According to writer Wang Hailing, this is a regular occurrence.

"It is quite common that the acknowledgement of authorship is ignored," he tells China Daily.

Having been a scriptwriter for about 10 years, Wang attributed this disrespect of writers' labors to the marginalization of literature after the late 80s, and some directors' attempts to hog the spotlight.

According to Wang Xingdong, producers also fail to acknowledge writers' contributions because of the media's excessive attention to stars and directors.

"Critics seldom talk about the scripts but focus on directorial work and actors' performances," he says.

Hot writer Shi Kang, who quickly rose to fame through Striving (Fen Dou), a TV series about the lives of young people, says that producers know they can treat writers unfairly because of an oversupply.

"China never lacks writers," he says. "So many are waiting for work. One quits and many will happily step up."

This glut of writers also results in the violation of revision rights.

Most contracts between writers and producers in China now stipulate that producers or directors can revise the script until they are satisfied. Only a few top writers retain full control of their works.

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