What does a Screenwriter do?

Screenwriters are responsible for writing screenplays, often based on an idea or adapting other mediums such as novels.

Their script is written to allow actors, directors and producers to envision the whole show or film. Screenwriters will often rewrite the script based on feedback and script notes from the development teams. They will work with the development team to often build the script into a strong pitch for a broadcaster or studio.

What skills does a Screenwriter need?

Creativity – A screenwriter is imagining the whole story and putting together the plotlines for a show, so creativity is crucial. Their creativity needs to shine in their writing skills and screenplays.

Resilience – Screenplays are never perfect on the first draft. It can take several years before a screenplay is ready for production. They need to take constructive criticism to rewrite screenplays to ensure the final screenplay is the best it can be.

Who does a Screenwriter work with?

Screenwriters will work closely with the development team to bring an idea to life. They’ll also work with Script Editors who will manage the script development process, working with the Screenwriter to generate new ideas and ensure screenplays are delivered on time.

In television, the screenwriter may also work with Story Producers, who work on plotlines across the series to link episodes. Screenwriters can take these ideas and put them into their screenplays for individual episodes.

How to become a Screenwriter?

As they say, practice makes perfect. Start by researching the screenplay format by looking at examples online. Watch the corresponding film or episode and refer to the screenplay to understand how its inspired the production. Then start writing your own screenplays and you’ll build your portfolio quickly.

With your portfolio, you can seek out opportunities to work on projects, so look to network with production companies’ development team. Another option offering guaranteed writing credits are training courses with the major broadcasters, which are often run in conjunction with local screen organisations. Examples of these include BBC Writersroom and 4Screenwriting. The latter allows you to submit a draft which Channel 4 has the option of commissioning within six months.

How much does a Screenwriter earn?

It’s notoriously difficult to indicate the earning potential of a Screenwriter in the UK, purely because they don’t earn a fixed salary. Screenwriters are all freelance, earning money on an ad-hoc basis. The rates will vary depending on the format and genre (film, TV Drama etc.), however we’ll highlight the BBC minimum rates as a base:

FormatPer MinutePer Hour
Educational Drama£126£7,560

Typically rates will be agreed with the production company and commissioning broadcaster and paid in installments – 50% when signed, 25% on delivery and the remaining 25% on acceptance.