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We received a survey from a college student looking for more information about what a screenplay writing career looks like (see below). My response is posted below.
I’m interested in what other writers out there have to say. Tell me, what’s been your experience of a screenplay writing career?
Survey starts:
1) Are there any specific training, certification, or licensing requirements for this profession?
2) What does the career ladder look like? Is there a stratification in employment opportunities or is it a very self-motivated profession? What does the salary range look like?
3) What personal skills, attributes, attitudes that individuals in this
occupation find important/useful?
4) What changes to the occupation over the last 10-15 years have occurred? – downsizing, multiple roles, paradigm shifts, etc. What changes are anticipated in the next 5-10 years?
My response:
There are lots of routes to take to be a successful screenplay writer. You could move to LA and cover scripts for a major studio, move to New York City and work on a TV show (fetching coffee for producers is a good way to start) and slowly work your way up the ladder, or go to school to learn the craft. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
No matter how you tackle it, however, you’ve got to be self-motivated and have incredibly thick skin. And, most importantly, you’ve got to write. Constantly. Say goodbye to friends, the sun, your social life … when you’re not working on script treatments for a client you’ll be staring into space waiting for inspiration to strike as you struggle through a script of your own. You can go to school to learn how to do it, or have written dramatic works since you were a kid, or stumble into the field mid-life. Creativity is what this field is all about. If you got it, you’ll thrive. If you don’t, you’ll starve regardless how many diplomas you hang on the wall.
As for career advancement and reward, that all depends on skill, networking and luck. The first two you can manage if you try your hardest. The last is less certain. The monetary reward isn’t always what I’d like, but the satisfaction of digging into characters and psyche is hard to beat.
Based on all my research and experience, this has not changed since the industry was born. But I could be wrong. I also can’t speak for our Indian counterparts.
All my best,
Nick

By Nick Blake

We received a survey from a college student looking for more information about what a screenplay writing career looks like (see below). My response is posted below.

I’m interested in what other writers out there have to say. Tell me, what’s been your experience of a screenplay writing career?

Survey starts:

1) Are there any specific training, certification, or licensing requirements for this profession?

2) What does the career ladder look like? Is there a stratification in employment opportunities or is it a very self-motivated profession? What does the salary range look like?

3) What personal skills, attributes, attitudes that individuals in this

occupation find important/useful?

4) What changes to the occupation over the last 10-15 years have occurred? – downsizing, multiple roles, paradigm shifts, etc. What changes are anticipated in the next 5-10 years?

My response:

There are lots of routes to take to be a successful screenplay writer. You could move to LA and cover scripts for a major studio, move to New York City and work on a TV show (fetching coffee for producers is a good way to start) and slowly work your way up the ladder, or go to school to learn the craft. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

No matter how you tackle it, however, you’ve got to be self-motivated and have incredibly thick skin. And, most importantly, you’ve got to write. Constantly. Say goodbye to friends, the sun, your social life … when you’re not working on script treatments for a client you’ll be staring into space waiting for inspiration to strike as you struggle through a script of your own. You can go to school to learn how to do it, or have written dramatic works since you were a kid, or stumble into the field mid-life. Creativity is what this field is all about. If you got it, you’ll thrive. If you don’t, you’ll starve regardless how many diplomas you hang on the wall.

As for career advancement and reward, that all depends on skill, networking and luck. The first two you can manage if you try your hardest. The last is less certain. The monetary reward isn’t always what I’d like, but the satisfaction of digging into characters and psyche is hard to beat.

Based on all my research and experience, this has not changed since the industry was born. But I could be wrong. I also can’t speak for our Indian counterparts.

All my best,

Nick

Here is Pinaki’s Response:

1) Are there any specific training, certification, or licensing requirements for this profession?

If you are a screenwriter, you are a professional. You need to have the usual trade license required for professionals to practice. It varies from country to country. Besides, in USA there is the WGA (Writers’ Guild of America)… you may or may not be their member. Members get some benefits from the association but must maintain a minimum rate set by the association to prevent unhealthy undercutting of rates. We have a similar association called Film Writers’ Association in India, for Bollywood/Indian screenwriters.

Most film schools offer training of screenwriting, but you can also be a screenwriter without a formal training. There are good books available in the market; you can read those; you can read scripts and you should watch good movies. Ultimately if you are not passionate about screenwriting, a formal training will not help you much. On the other hand if you are very passionate and enthusiastic, a formal training may not be necessary.

2) What does the career ladder look like?  Is there a stratification in employment opportunities or is it a very self-motivated profession?  What does the salary range look like?

A large number of screenwriters try to come to this profession passion driven, but since opportunities are limited, many of them later divert to other mainstream professions, getting no success. For those who stick to it and see success, the earning graph is very unevenly distributed. In the beginning some even write for free to get an opportunity with a big house. Some write for as low as $1,500 a script. The rate shoots up considerably once there is one produced movie in your credit. In India it can be around $15,000 when you have one produced movie. It shoots up many times and becomes a gigantic, enviable figure once you give a hit. It can cross $50.000 for a single movie. American rates are more.

3) What personal skills, attributes, attitudes that individuals in this occupation find important/useful?

Those who are passionate about cinema, watch good movies by the best directors, have participated in creative writing as students, are likely to be good screenwriters.

4) What changes to the occupation over the last 10-15 years have occurred? – downsizing, multiple roles, paradigm shifts, etc. What changes are anticipated in the next 5-10 years?

In the last 15 years the screenplay writers’ playground has become a lot more international. Due to the internet and popularity of mixed cultural movies, the screenwriter does not only serve the local market. We have Indian writers writing American movies (I have done so); American writers writing Indian Bollywood movies (US screenwriter duo Joshua and Briyan wrote the Bollywood movie Blue; US writer David Benullo wrote the Bollywood sci fi movie Ra 1, etc.)

I did not see any downsizing, but I am not writing screenplays for 15 years; so I may not be the right person to answer this.

In the next 15 years, screenplay writers will have to update themselves technically and adapt to rapidly changing new technologies.

One Response

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  1. firdaus

    nice article pinaki it z really helpful

    September 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

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