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What Are the Duties & Responsibilities of Being a Scriptwriter?

by Brian Hill

Screenwriters -- also called scriptwriters -- can enjoy rewarding careers from a financial and personal satisfaction standpoint, including the excitement of seeing their names on the credits of a movie or popular television show. Although compensation screenwriters receive for their scripts varies widely, studios have paid up to several million dollars for a script executives believe they can turn into a blockbuster film. Most scripts sell for far less than that -- under $100,000. Aspiring screenwriters must keep in mind that competition is fierce in the screenwriting business. The Writers Guild of America registers more than 50,000 scripts each year.

Types of Jobs

Screenwriters may create a spec script, a complete screenplay they attempt to market to Hollywood either by contacting producers directly or securing the services of an agent or manager who will contact the producers on their behalf. Or a producer may.select a screenwriter with experience such as prior film writing credits for paid writing assignments. The writer's task is to create a script that fits the producer's needs for a certain type of material -- such as an action/adventure film -- and specifications regarding style and tone. Screenwriters also handle rewrite jobs, taking a script the producer has already optioned or purchased and making revisions to improve it.

Being a Team Player

A writer has to learn to work with individuals of different personalities or temperaments, including very demanding ones. The film's producers, director and even the actors chosen for major roles contribute their ideas about what to include -- and cut -- from the final script. The writer must be able to deal with suggestions and criticism in a mature fashion. Listening skills are important, as is the sensitivity to understand others' points of view regarding how to improve a script.

Completing Assignments on Time

A stressful aspect of the screenwriting profession is time pressure. A writer may face unreasonable deadlines to complete or make requested revisions to an assignment. An old Hollywood saying depicts the screenwriter's plight regarding deadlines when he asks the producer: "Do you want it good or do you want it Tuesday?" Even if they work from home rather than at an office or studio, screenwriters must maintain a dedicated schedule to meet deadlines.

Understanding Financial Realities

Many beginning screenwriters craft stories that are similar in scope to the big-budget movies they've seen. Scenes with large crowds of extras, scripts with many different locations and of course special effects add to the cost of filming a motion picture. Part of the screenwriter's responsibility is to create stories that can be filmed for a reasonable cost but still capture the audience's interest. For independent films, having a budget that's too high can prevent the project from obtaining financing.

Studying the Marketplace

To be successful marketing spec scripts, screenwriters must understand what type of material's popular with the development executives of production companies responsible for acquiring new material. They must also study trends in the entertainment industry so when they're granted a meeting with an executive, they can explain why their script would have broad audience appeal. They have to be enthusiastic salespersons as well as outstanding writers.

About the Author

Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."

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