Urban Legend for Screenwriters


DD: “This was happening in the 30s or the 40s. Jack Warner of Warner Brothers got annoyed that the writers on contract came in at 10,11, hanging around. He decided there would be a new rule: all the writers on contract would act like everyone else, clock in at 9 am and clock out at the end of the day. And this policy was enforced for a while. Time passes and Jack and an old pro screenwriter -I can’t remember his name, let’s call him Saul- with hits under his belt, go to a preview in Pasadena. After the preview the audience would fill out cards about what they thought. Warner and screenwriter are looking at cards. And the cards are terrible. Warner says “Saul, what happened?? Where did we go wrong??” And Saul with dead pan sincerity of the natural comic replied “I don’t know Jack. I clocked in every morning at 9 am.”

The policy was dropped.


The informant was told this story in college by a screenwriting professor. It was told in the context of talking about how writers work. The informant said the story resonated with him as he could never write on a dictated schedule.


As a Screenwriting major, this story makes me laugh and confirms part of my identity as a writer. The idea of clocking in and out seems very secondary to the much larger task of writing and creating worlds from nothing. It is a point of pride with many employed writers that they do not have a “typical” job and the old pro screenwriter’s response to it proves a point. Of course, a screenwriter who wasn’t a pro might not be able to give such a witty response to a superior, but having the legend of this screenwriter provides a source of comfort and humor for screenwriters who perhaps have not ‘made it’ yet. To me, this story is an urban legend for screenwriters and artists.