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A screenplay writer (also called screenwriter for short), scriptwriter or scenarist, is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays on which mass media, such as films, television programs and video games, are based.
Screenwriting is a freelance profession. No education is required to a professional screenwriter, just good storytelling abilities and imagination. Screenwriters are not hired employees but contracted freelancers. Most, if not all, screenwriters start their careers writing on speculation (spec) and so write without being hired or paid for it. If such a script is sold, it is called a spec script. What separates a professional screenwriter from an amateur screenwriter is that professional screenwriters are usually represented by a talent agency. Also, professional screenwriters do not often work for free, but amateur screenwriters will often work for free and are considered "writers in training." Spec scripts are usually penned by unknown professional screenwriters and amateur screenwriters.
There are a legion of would-be screenwriters who attempt to enter the film industry, but it often takes years of trial-and-error, failure, and gritty persistence to achieve success. In Writing Screenplays that Sell, Michael Hague writes, "Screenplays have become, for the last half of [the twentieth] century, what the Great American Novel was for the first half. Closet writers who used to dream of the glory of getting into print now dream of seeing their story on the big or small screen."
Every screenplay and teleplay begins with a thought or idea, and screenwriters use their ideas to write scripts, with the intention of selling them and having them produced.In some cases, the script is based on an existing property, such as a book or person's life story, which is adapted by the screenwriter. The majority of the time, a film project gets initiated by a screenwriter. The initiator of the project gets the exclusive writing assignment. They are referred to as "exclusive" assignments or "pitched" assignments. Screenwriters who often pitch new projects, whether original or an adaptation, often do not have to worry about competing for assignments and are often more successful. When word is put out about a project a film studio, production company, or producer wants done, they are referred to as "open" assignments. Open assignments are more competitive. If screenwriters are competing for an open assignment, more-established writers usually win the assignments. A screenwriter can also be approached and personally offered a writing assignment.
Many screenwriters also work as full or part-time script doctors, attempting to better a script to suit the desires of a director or studio. For instance, studio management may have a complaint that the motivations of the characters are unclear or that the dialogue is weak.
Script-doctoring can be quite lucrative, especially for the better-known writers. David Mamet and John Sayles, for instance, fund the movies that they direct themselves, usually from their own screenplays, by writing and doctoring scripts for others. In fact, some writers make very profitable careers out of being the ninth or tenth writer to work on a piece, and they often work on projects that never see exposure to an audience of any size. Many up-and-coming screenwriters also ghostwrite projects and allow more-established screenwriters to take public credit for the project to increase the chances of it getting picked up.
Hollywood has shifted writers onto and off projects since its earliest days, and the assignment of credits is not always straightforward or complete, which poses a problem for film study. In his book Talking Pictures, Richard Corliss discussed the historian's dilemma: "A writer may be given screen credit for work he didn't do (as with Sidney Buchman on Holiday ), or be denied credit for work he did do (as with Sidney Buchman on The Awful Truth )."
After a screenwriter finishes a project, he or she pairs with an industry-based representative, such as a producer, director, literary agent, entertainment lawyer, or entertainment executive. The partnerships often pitch their project to investors or others in a position to further a project. Once the script is sold, the writer has only the rights that were agreed with the purchaser.
A screenwriter becomes credible by having work that is recognized, which gives the writer the opportunity to earn a higher income.As more films are produced independently (outside the studio system), many up-and-coming screenwriters are turning to pitch fests, screenplay contests, and independent development services to gain access to established and credible independent producers. Many development executives are now working independently to incubate their own pet projects.
Screenwriters are rarely involved in the development of a film. Sometimes they come on as advisors, or if they are established, as a producer. Some screenwriters also direct. Although many scripts are sold each year, many do not make it into production because the number of scripts that are purchased every year exceeds the number of professional directors that are working in the film and TV industry. When a screenwriter finishes a project and sells it to a film studio, production company, TV network, or producer, he or she often has to continue networking, mainly with directors or executives, and push to have their projects "chosen" and turned into films or TV shows. If interest in a script begins to fade, a project can go dead.
Most professional screenwriters in the U.S. are unionized and are represented by the Writers Guild of America. Although membership in the WGA is recommended, it is not required of a screenwriter to join. The WGA is the final arbiter on awarding writing credit for projects under its jurisdiction. The WGA also looks upon and verifies film copyright materials.
A screenplay, or script, is a written work by screenwriters for a film, television program, or video game. These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression and dialogues of the characters are also narrated. A screenplay written for television is also known as a teleplay.
Screenwriting, also called scriptwriting, is the art and craft of writing scripts for mass media such as feature films, television productions or video games. It is often a freelance profession.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) writing credit system for motion pictures and television programs covers all works under the jurisdiction of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). Since 1941, the Screen Writers Guild and then the WGA has been the final arbiter of who receives credit for writing a theatrical, television or new media motion picture written under their jurisdiction. Though the system has been a standard since before the WGA's inception, it has seen criticism.
William J. Monahan is an American screenwriter and novelist. His second produced screenplay was The Departed, a film that earned him a Writers Guild of America Award and Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Sidney Robert Buchman was an American screenwriter and producer who worked on about 40 films from the late 1920s to the early 1970s. He received four Oscar nominations and won once for Best Screenplay for fantasy romantic comedy film Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) along with Seton I. Miller.
Carl Foreman, CBE was an American screenwriter and film producer who wrote the award-winning films The Bridge on the River Kwai and High Noon, among others. He was one of the screenwriters who were blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s because of their suspected communist sympathy or membership in the Communist Party.
Walter Bernstein is an American screenwriter and film producer who was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios in the 1950s.
Philip Ives Dunne was a Hollywood screenwriter, film director and producer, who worked prolifically from 1932 until 1965. He spent the majority of his career at 20th Century Fox crafting well regarded romantic and historical dramas, usually adapted from another medium. Dunne was a leading Screen Writers Guild organizer and was politically active during the "Hollywood Blacklist" episode of the 1940s-1950s. He is best known for the films How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), The Robe (1953) and The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965).
Stephen Keith Kloves is an American screenwriter, film director and producer. He wrote and directed the 1989 film The Fabulous Baker Boys and is mainly known for his adaptations of novels, especially for all but one of the Harry Potter films and for Wonder Boys.
Television crew positions are derived from those of film crew, but with several differences.
Robert McKee is an author, lecturer and story consultant who is widely known for his popular "Story Seminar", which he developed when he was a professor at the University of Southern California. McKee is the author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, Dialogue: the Art of Verbal Action for Stage, Page and Screen and Storynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in the Post-Advertising World. McKee also has the blog and online writers' resource "Storylogue".
A spec script, also known as a speculative screenplay, is a non-commissioned and unsolicited screenplay. It is usually written by a screenwriter who hopes to have the script optioned and eventually purchased by a producer, production company, or studio.
A scriptment is a written work by a movie or television screenwriter that combines elements of a script and treatment, especially the dialogue elements, which are formatted the same as in a screenplay. It is a more elaborate document than a standard draft treatment. Some films have been shot using only a scriptment.
Robin Stender Swicord is an American screenwriter and film director. She is best known for literary adaptations. In 2009 the screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, credited to Swicord (story) and Eric Roth and based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay. Swicord also wrote the screenplay for the film Memoirs of a Geisha, based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Golden, for which she won a 2005 Satellite Award. Her other screenplay credits include Little Women, Practical Magic, Matilda, The Perez Family, and Shag.
Daniel Taradash was an American screenwriter.
A script market is the system in which a screenwriter and producer engage in the buying and selling of a script for the film and television industries. The process of selling a script may begin with the pitch, however since the end of the 1980s the ability to pitch a film to producers has greatly depended on the notoriety of the screenwriter. One reason attributed to this effect is that studios are looking for the next big hit, but scared to take a chance on a script that doesn’t meet a pre-established formula guaranteed to make money since no one knows what will work. The majority of scripts are read by studio interns and others, who give the scripts a “consider”, “pass”, or “recommend” status, with most scripts receiving a “pass” rating. However, an agent who's signed the Artists-Managers Agreement drawn up by the Writers Guild of America can submit scripts to producers directly. Agents try to create buzz in the script market using spec script. With everyone in the entertainment industry trying to pursue the million-dollar dream, and Hollywood so desperate for new material ideas, the script market functions and business practices have been pursued in the spec script manner.
Diane Drake is an American screenwriter and teacher, and former Vice President of Creative Affairs for Sydney Pollack's production company, Mirage Enterprises. She lives in Los Angeles and is best known for the films Only You and What Women Want.
Michael H. Weber is an American screenwriter and producer from Great Neck, New York. He and his writing partner Scott Neustadter have written the original screenplays for the films 500 Days of Summer (2009) and The Pink Panther 2 (2009). They also wrote the screenplays for The Spectacular Now (2013), based on the novel by Tim Tharp, The Fault in Our Stars (2014), based on the best-selling novel by John Green and Paper Towns (2015), based on another novel by Green.
Erik Bork is a screenwriter, producer, script consultant and blogger best known for his work on the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team.
Ken Nolan is an American screenwriter and novelist best known for adapting the 2001 biographical war film Black Hawk Down from the non-fiction book of the same name.