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Writers without rights

The movie business's disdain for writers is an ancient part of the Hollywood story. But former agent for Pat Barker, there are good reasons why writers have no rights

By Charles Elton   December 1997

First I was an agent representing writers, then I was a producer. First I sold film rights in novels, then I bought them. I represented screenwriters, then I employed them. While not in itself a noticeably baroque career move-in Los Angeles all producers were once agents or lawyers-it was a trajectory which, to the British branch of “the business we call show,” seemed to be the act of a sleazeball: the contempt of produ-cers for writers being one of the most consistent elements in the Hollywood story.

The received wisdom, particularly about the 1930s and 1940s when writers such as…

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