Screenwriters create ideas and bring stories to life in scripts for feature films, TV comedy and drama, animation, children's programmes and computer games.
As a screenwriter, you might develop your own original ideas and sell them to producers. Alternatively, producers may commission you to create a screenplay from an idea or true story, or to adapt an existing piece such as a novel, play or comic book.
Your work would typically involve:
You might also spend time networking with agents and producers, and handling your own tax and accounts. You would often combine writing with other work such as teaching, lecturing or editing.
As a home-based freelance writer you would arrange your own working hours. If you were part of a studio-based writing team, you would be more likely to work standard office hours. In either case you would often have strict deadlines to meet.
As well as working from your home or office base, you would also need to attend occasional meetings with agents, script editors and producers.
As a freelance writer, you or your agent would negotiate a fee for each piece of work. You might be partly paid in advance.
Depending on your contract, you might also receive a percentage of the profits from a feature film.
See the Writers' Guild of Great Britain website for recommended minimum pay rates for writers in film, TV and theatre.
You will need imagination, writing talent and creativity rather than formal qualifications. However, when starting out you may find it useful to take a course that helps you develop your skills and understand dramatic structure.
You may also need to do other types of work to support yourself, as relatively few screenwriters earn a full-time living from writing.
Courses in creative writing and scriptwriting for all levels from beginner to advanced are widely available at colleges, adult education centres and universities.
Some screenwriters have degrees or postgraduate qualifications in creative writing, English or journalism, but this is not essential. You may have an advantage if you have writing and storytelling experience from another field such as journalism, advertising copywriting or acting.
You would normally start by coming up with your own screenplays and ideas, and trying to sell them to agents and producers. Once you have had some work accepted and started to build a professional reputation, producers might then commission you to produce scripts for them.
As a new writer, you could get yourself noticed by entering screenwriting competitions, which broadcasters and regional screen agencies sometimes hold to discover new talent.
You can also find advice about submitting your work to the BBC at the BBC Writers' Room website.
Although there is no formal training path for screenwriters, your skills will grow with experience.
Joining a writers' organisation could help you develop, as they can offer services such as script feedback, competitions, training and networking opportunities.
As an experienced screenwriter, you could choose to take an MA in Screenwriting. MAs are available full-time, part-time and by distance learning from several universities around the country.
You can search Skillset's website for screenwriting and script development training at all levels. Skillset can also advise you about funding your training as a freelance writer.
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A screenwriter needs:
Some opportunities may be advertised in the trade press and websites, but it is most common to find work by approaching producers yourself, by signing up with a writers' agent, and through word of mouth.
Skillset, Focus Point,
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London N1 9GB
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Writers Guild of Great Britain,
15 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JN
Tel: 020 7833 0777
BBC Writers Room
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.