Screenwriting, also known as scriptwriting, is the art of creating scripts for television and film productions. Screenwriters are the professionals who develop the stories behind your favorite movies or television dramas. If you have a gift for storytelling, and you are very creative, this could be the career for you.
1. What Do Screenwriters Do?
Their duties include:
- Crafting ideas for a movie, TV program, advertisements, video games or feature film
- Developing the ideas into an original script for actors and other performers (they can also adapt a book into a screenplay)
- Pitching their scripts to film and TV producers and other potential clients
- Holding meetings with the interested producers to make, edit or tailor a script to meet the specific needs of a production
- Creating announcements for television stations
Experienced and successful screenwriters often specialize their craft. For example, some exclusively create comedy scripts, while others focus on soap operas. Beginning screenwriters generally don’t specialize in order to maximize their employment opportunities.
2. Work Environment
Screenwriting is largely a freelance profession; so many screenwriters have irregular and flexible work schedules. Those who work as resident writers in TV and film production companies have full time, 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday schedules.
The work may involve regular travel, as you have to move around marketing your scripts and networking with other writers.
Like many freelance professions, it is challenging to estimate an accurate average annual salary for screenwriters. However, according to the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) its members earn between $69,499 and $130,477 annually for creating original screenplays.
4. Entry Requirements
Technically, you don’t need any professional training to become a screenwriter. With a natural storytelling ability, a deep interest in the TV and film industry, and good writing skills, you are set to craft your first script.
But without professional training, it can be difficult to break into the industry. The New York University and a few other institutions offer certificate programs in screenwriting, which you should take to perfect your craft. Courses covered include:
- Script marketing
- Adapting novels to the screen
- Advanced screenwriting
- Cinematic Drama
5. Important Qualities
To be a successful screenwriter, you need:
- Superior writing skills
- A high level of creativity
- A passion for watch television
- Extensive knowledge of motion picture productions
- An understanding of the TV and film industry
- Good networking skills
- Good business skills
- Good teamwork skills
- Good critical-thinking and analytical skills
- Social perceptiveness
- Drive, ambition and determination
6. Career Advancement
As a beginning screenwriter, only your scripts can take you places. If you are able to write compelling script that can lead to the creation of a popular film or TV show, there is no doubt your ability to sell your scripts will heighten.
Beyond striving to create quality scripts, join professional associations such as the American Screenwriters Association, WGA and the International Screenwriter Association to find writing gigs, as well as professional development resources such as training seminars.
You can also pursue a master of fine arts in screenwriting to expand your knowledge and subsequently, your ability to deliver great scripts.
7. Job Opportunities
Although many screenwriters are freelancers, you can find fulltime jobs in:
- Film companies
- TV houses
- Screenwriting companies
With vast experience and relevant academic credentials, fulltime writers can advance to become heads of screenwriting in these companies. It is also possible to move into self-employment and start your own screenwriting company.
If you wish to move into production, you can do so by pursuing a degree in TV and film production.
See Also: How to Make a Living as a Writer
Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the demand for movies and television shows will keep growing through the next seven years, as both US and foreign audiences are craving for more US-produced films. This demand definitely translates into more opportunities for screenwriters.
The film and TV industry is lucrative, but it can be unforgiving for new entrants. Once you get started, it is advisable to hire an agent who can get you the best deals from trustworthy clients.
Now you know how you can write your way into this profession!