What does a Screenwriter do?
Screenwriters write and develop screenplays for film or TV drama. They do this either by basing it on an original idea, by adapting an existing story into a screenplay or by joining an existing project (TV).
Screenwriters prepare their script in a way that enables readers to envisage the setting, emotion, and the way it will work on screen. They collaborate with Producers, Directors and Actors to draft and redraft their scripts, often working to tight deadlines.
Screenwriters are almost always freelancers. In many cases, a Screenwriter shops their feature-length script around through their Agent, or through competitions until it garners interest from a Producer. The Producer (or production company) then “options” the screenplay for a starter fee which can be as low as $1. This means the Producer has the right to try and produce the screenplay for a certain length of time. If the Producer is successful they then pay the Screenwriter a pre-negotiated sum for the screenplay rights. If they are unsuccessful the screenplay rights return to the Screenwriter. Alternatively, a Screenwriter may be commissioned by a Producer or production company to create a screenplay. Once a screenplay is picked up by a production company, more Screenwriters may be brought in to work with a Story Editor to get it ready for production. In this case, any new Screenwriter may share a credit with the original Screenwriter, or they may be credited for additional dialogue, or as a story consultant. In some cases, the original Screenwriter may be replaced entirely by another Screenwriter.
Television Screenwriters generally work as part of a team of Writers, led by a Story Editor or Supervising Producer. The Screenwriter pitches their ideas for stories/episodes and works through the storylines with the Story Editor (and writing team) to create a polished script that fits the continuity of the episodic television show.
Animation Writers develop story ideas and present them in the form of scripts. Their scripts are used by Storyboard Artists and Directors to work out the visual art style of a project.
What's a Screenwriter good at?
Knowledge of screenwriting
Understand all the features of a great screenplay, know how to improve and amend one
Write well and innovatively, express your ideas effectively in screenplay-form
Have a deep and wide knowledge of all genres of art, so as to be able to source ideas from a range of sources and understand the cultural context
Watching film and TV drama
Have a passion for the genre and a love of the industry
Find work opportunities for yourself and manage your finances, be self-motivated
Who does a Screenwriter work with?
Screenwriters work with Development Executives, Producers, Directors, and their assistants. They are sometimes assisted by Researchers, who provide information to allow for screenplays to be fact-checked. Screenwriters may have their screenplays overseen by Story Editors, who, in turn, may be supported by Assistant Story Editors.
How do I become a Screenwriter?
Write your own screenplays as soon as possible. Practising the form is essential. A degree is not a prerequisite to become a Screenwriter, but having relevant education, whether that be in English or screenwriting subjects, is very useful.
Read and write: Practise writing screenplays in a professional format. Read existing screenplays online to familiarize yourself with the form.
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