[IN THE TRENCHES] Invisible Credits

"The Invisible Man" (1933)
There but also not there

As writers, we don’t need some list of titles beneath our names on IMDb for validation.

We do the work for the satisfaction of creation, of sharing ideas with the world, of opening hearts and minds.

Just kidding, we definitely want the credit.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scenarios where you might find yourself without any public attribution for your hard work. And I’m talking about more than just the specs clogging up your hard drive.

If you’re in this business long enough, sooner or later you’re going to have an Invisible Credit.

What’s an Invisible Credit? Well, I just made up the phrase, but the thing I’m defining is a common one for many writers. You do the work, but your name is nowhere an audience can find it.

I’ve personally been in almost every scenario where this happens, and to be frank… I don’t love it.


I’ve had a few feature options and shopping agreements from producers and production companies. Two for actual money. Alas, none of them were subsequently bought and obviously not produced.

No movie, no credit.


A friend sold not one, but two spec screenplays. That’s quite an accomplishment in and of itself. Unfortunately, neither of them were produced, so their only credit is on the cover pages.

In a related scenario, some writers get open assignments and are hired to write a script for a company or studio. But if that film never gets a green light, the writer’s name never goes up in lights, either.

Harry and the Cloak of Invisibility - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001)
Like vertical stripes, some cloaks can be quite slimming


You may get hired to develop an executive or producer’s show idea. That usually involves writing pitch documents, series bibles, and maybe even a pilot script. It’s an excellent gig to land, but ever getting the chance to shoot that show is a longshot indeed.

Rhonda Smiley and I were recently in a Bake Off for an animated reimagining of a classic television show. In this context, a Bake Off is when several different writers or writing teams are hired to craft individual pitches with their own takes on an idea. The production company’s favorite moves forward.

In the end, we took silver. And as nice as that sort of feels, only gold has a chance to get to production. It’s something that possibly goes on your resume, but not on IMDb.


A couple of friends got a script assignment on a sitcom back in the nineties. But before their episode was filmed, the show was cancelled.

Similarly, I got a gig to write an episode of the animated series, Horseland, with Rhonda Smiley. We did all our drafts and polish and delivered a final script. Then the production company got bought and they cut the series order before our episode went into production.

In both cases, there was a finished script and we were paid in full. But no one would possibly know.


You can be so accomplished that you sell a show idea to a network, have a pilot produced with household names… and then that’s the end of it. If it isn’t picked up to series, it’s generally shelved and never seen by the public.

No credit for you!

Wonder Woman in her Invisible Plane - "Challenge of The Super Friends" (1978)
Every seat is a window seat


Oddly enough, you can be a successful, working writer and never see your name on screen.

If you’re a sought-after script doctor, being uncredited is usually part of the job description. With the skill set to come in – often at the last minute – and “fix” a troubled script in or on the verge of production, these writers are given some well-compensated anonymity.


Well, you actually get credit when you write for foreign shows. But if no one you know ever sees them, do they really even exist?

They do, yes. It just doesn’t feel that way sometimes.


The ultimate Invisible Credit is the invisible credit by choice. Although officially discontinued in 2000, the DGA sanctioned pseudonym, Alan Smithee, was used by directors who felt a film no longer reflected their creative vision and wanted to be disassociated from it.

While I’m not aware of an official WGA replacement name, many screenwriters have similarly disowned their projects and replaced their names with pseudonyms.


Clearly, the writer’s life is complicated. I guess the common bottom line here – more or less – is production. If something gets produced, you obviously have your best chance to land that sweet, sweet, IMDb credit.

But even if your credit is invisible, that doesn’t mean your work shouldn’t still see the light of day. Keep telling your stories, regardless.

You know… for the satisfaction of creation, of sharing ideas with the world, of opening hearts and minds.

Cloaked Predator - "Predator" (1987)
Uncredited, like Jean Claude Van Damme in Predator


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, nominated for Best Original Graphic Novel and winner of Fan Favorite Villain at the Ringo Awards. Available now in digital and paperback editions at Amazon.

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