Screenwriter Careers

How to become Screenwriter

What does a Screenwriter do?

Screenwriters create scripts for TV or film. They write feature films, TV comedy, drama series and serials, adaptations, animation, and children's programmes, as well as writing for the games market and corporate production companies.

Screenwriters research, plan, draft and revise scripts before submitting them to a producer, production company or broadcaster. They also typically choose themes for their work; assemble and organise background material; develop theme, plot and characterisation; and ensure a coherence of style before submission.

After it is accepted, a screenwriter's work is likely to go through a variety of transformations from the original outlines and treatments. The screenwriter will spend considerable time negotiating and modifying their work to achieve a working shooting script, and at the request of a script developer, editor, producer or director, they may be asked to rewrite their work several times.

Screenwriters may be the originator of an idea or be approached with a commission, often working to strict deadlines. It is desirable for them to study current and future market sectors and tailor their work to a target audience. It is important for screenwriters to self publicise, make contacts and network with broadcasters and filmmakers.

What's the working environment like working as a Screenwriter?

Hours of work vary, depending on the relationship between the screenwriter and broadcaster/producer, and the writer’s own personal aspirations. If the screenwriter has received a financial advance, they may be required to adhere to an agreed schedule and attend meetings with agents and the production team.

Screenwriters generally work alone and from home; consequently they must be highly self-disciplined and motivated.

What does it take to become a Screenwriter?

To be a screenwriter you should:

  • be able to produce fresh and original ideas
  • be able to visualise ideas and write pictures
  • have storytelling skills and an understanding of dramatic structure
  • be self disciplined and highly motivated
  • have a willingness to accept criticism and implement changes
  • have a methodical and flexible approach to planning and drafting
  • be organised and able to meet deadlines especially for rewrites
  • have excellent written and oral communication skills
  • have good presentation skills, including knowledge of the demands of different formats
  • have an interest in marketing and promoting your work.

Screenwriter Career Opportunities

Screenwriters mostly work freelance on a piece by piece basis: others will be commissioned and may receive a financial advance and royalties. Only a small percentage write full-time; many supplement their incomes by working in other professions. There are opportunities for screenwriters to gain extra revenue and exposure through competitions and prizes; some institutions also offer awards and bursaries.

Grants may be available for the development of feature films and shorts, and training for writers (both new and established), upon written application and submission of a proposal asking for support. The UK Film Council may fund commissions, productions and professional development.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Screenwriter that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0808 100 8094 for Scotland

Prospect House
80-110 New Oxford Street

The Script Factory
Welbeck House
66/67 Wells Street
Tel: 020 7323 1414

The Screenwriters Workshop
The NPA Filmmakers' Centre
Unit 1.07
The Tea Building
56 Shoreditch High Street
E1 6JJ

BBC Writers Room

Ideas Factory

Writers’ Guild of Great Britain
15 Britannia Street
Tel: 020 7833 0777

British Film Institute
21 Stephen Street

UK Film Council
10 Little Portland Street
Tel: 020 7861 7861

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