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A screenplay writer (also called screenwriter, scriptwriter, scribe 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.
In the silent era, writers now considered screenwriters were denoted by terms such as photoplaywright, photoplay writer, photoplay dramatist and screen playwright.Screenwriting historian Steven Maras notes that these early writers were often understood as being the authors of the films as shown and argues that they cannot be precisely equated with present-day screenwriters because they were responsible for a technical product, a brief "scenario", "treatment", or "synopsis" that is a written synopsis of what is to be filmed.
Screenwriting is a freelance profession. No education is required to be 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.
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, they pair 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 production 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, they often have 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.
Minimum salaries for union screenwriters are set by the Writers Guild of America. Non-union screenwriters may write for free; an established screenwriter may write for millions of dollars.
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Some of the highest amounts paid to writers for spec screenplays:
A screenplay, or script, is a written work by screenwriters for a film, television show, or video game. A screenplay written for television is also known as a teleplay. Screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. A screenplay is a form of narration in which the movements, actions, expressions and dialogue of the characters are described in a certain format. Visual or cinematographic cues may be given, as well as scene descriptions and scene changes.
Filmmaking is the process by which a motion picture is produced. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages, starting with an initial story, idea, or commission. It then continues through screenwriting, casting, pre-production, shooting, sound recording, post-production, and screening the finished product before an audience that may result in a film release and an exhibition. Filmmaking occurs in a variety of economic, social, and political contexts around the world. It uses a variety of technologies and cinematic techniques.
Screenwriting or 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) 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). The WGA, originally the Screen Writers Guild, has since 1941 been the final arbiter of who receives credit for writing a theatrical, television or new media motion picture written under its jurisdiction. Though the system has been a standard since before the WGA's inception, it has seen criticism.
Terry Rossio is an American screenwriter. He co-wrote the films Aladdin, Shrek, and all five of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Shrek, and won the Annie Award for Writing in a Feature Production, as well as the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Shrek. He often collaborates with fellow screenwriter Ted Elliott.
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.
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. He crafted 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).
Robert McKee is an author, lecturer and story consultant who is known for his "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, Storynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in the Post-Advertising World and Character: The Art of Role and Cast Design for Page, Stage, and Screen. McKee also has the blog and online writers' resource "Storylogue".
Kevin Noel Jarre was an American screenwriter, actor, and film producer. He adopted the last name of his adoptive father, Maurice Jarre.
The Writers Guild of Canada is an organization representing more than 2,500 professional writers working in film, television, radio, and digital media production in Canada. Members of the Guild write dramatic TV series, feature films, Movies of the Week, documentaries, animation, comedy and variety series, children's and educational programming, radio drama, as well as corporate videos and digital media productions. The organization administers the annual WGC Screenwriting Awards.
Doug Richardson is an American screenwriter and novelist who writes action movies and thrillers. He is best known for writing movies like Die Hard 2, Bad Boys, and Hostage and was the first Hollywood writer to sell a spec script for a million dollars.
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.
Dreams on Spec is a 2007 American documentary film that profiles the struggles and triumphs of emerging Hollywood screenwriters. It was written and directed by Daniel J. Snyder, who learned first-hand about the screenwriter's travails in the late 1980s when he was a teenager working alongside aspiring writer/directors Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary in the famed Video Archives video store in Manhattan Beach, California.
Blake Snyder was an American screenwriter, consultant, author and educator based in Los Angeles who, through his Save the Cat trilogy of books on screenwriting and story structures, became one of the most popular writing mentors in the film industry. Snyder led international seminars and workshops for writers in various disciplines, as well as consultation sessions for some of Hollywood's largest studios.
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.
David Elias Callaham is an American screenwriter and producer.
Bill Marsilii is an American screenwriter.
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. He and his writing partner, Scott Neustadter, are best known for writing the screenplay for the romantic comedy film 500 Days of Summer. The film is based on two real relationships Neustadter had. They also wrote the screenplays for the films The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars, and Paper Towns.
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.