Role and Potential Writing Oppertunites:
“A screenplay writer, screenwriter for short, or scriptwriter or scenarist is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays”(1) for Media productions such as Films, TV programs and even video games.
It is also the job of the screen writer to “provide the blueprint for the creative input of the Producer, Director, Production Designer, Composer and Editor, cast and crew.” (2)
There are opportunities for writers to get their script developed into a full length film by a big time studio, e.g. Universal Studios, can be challenging. However there are methods that’ll help a scriptwriter get their idea considered by a Film Production company, and then made into a full-length film, which are more effective than others.
One way, and is considered the most effective, is to “write some original short and feature screenplays ‘on spec’ (self-financed) to try to attract the attention of Producers and Agents” (2) mainly through competitions – allowing a new writer to get recognised.
Another way to sends scripts, and perhaps the most common, is to websites like the ‘BBC Writer’s Room’ who can help a writer to find “ways to inspire and inform you, to keep you across changes, giving you access to commissioners and production departments but most importantly to the skills and experience of established writers.” (3)
And they offer the opportunity to “find out how you can send your script to us (them) when our Script Room windows are open.” (3)
Or by entering screenwriting competitions like on the ‘Channel 4’ website – writers can be given the opportunity to be creative. The process for this competition is that writer must enter “a CV, together with one writing sample (saved as a PDF). This can be a screenplay (film or TV), stage play or radio play, minimum length 25 pages (novels, treatments, short stories, unfinished screenplays and “shorts” are not acceptable), maximum length 130 pages.”(4)
Although some websites like ‘Film4’ may not accept an idea unless the writer “submit(s) a proposal through either a registered production company (i.e. companies with a history of films that have been produced and officially distributed either theatrically or at a festival) or an agent”(5)
Though it would be every film writer’s dream to have his, or her, film released by a big time studio.
It doesn’t always happen, but a beginner film maker can still get their idea into a film via Independent film Producers – such as Kickstarter, Film Independent(6)- where a film “is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system.”(7)
Although “usually, but not always, independent films are made with considerably lower film budgets than major studio films.” (7) and “the marketing of independent films is characterised by limited release” (7) – it can “have major marketing campaigns and a wide release.”(7)
A prime example of a ‘Independent film’ is the creating process for the film ‘Blue Ruin‘ – directed, and written, by Jeremy Saulnier. The story of how his film was made – told in the article ‘How They Did It: The Incredible-but-True Story of Blue Ruin‘(8) – gives a new writer an insight just how hard it can be to get your film made by a big company. Though the process – where Jeremy had to resort to “lying, begging, and impoverishing“(8) before finally reaching “Cannes glory with his sleek bullet of a revenge thriller“(8) – was tough, risky (literally) and involved a lot of hard work, it’s expected from a passionate film maker. Another thing about independent films is that it can be cheaper – if for example the film maker can get friends and family to help, and if some crew members take on more than one role; e.g. director and scriptwriter.
Sometimes if films are made into short films and sent into competitions – and the film is a sensation – sometimes a scriptwriter can be asked by a film company about making it into a full length film. This is all down to the fact that companies do want to make films in order to make money, but they are not prepared to gamble with every new film director.
There is a system to submitting a script – not just via rules of a company or competition – but the presentation of a script is important too. If the script has been written in a certain format, it shows a film company that the film director is being professional. The layout to a script is:
– All writing is to be written in Courier New and in size 12 (this is because a. the type, as well as size, of writing is easy to read, and b. in the early years of cinema all scripts were written on a typewriter).
– All scenes open up with an introduction to where the setting and time is (e.g INT. CITY PARK, DAY)
– All characters lines are placed in the centre of the script, and their names are written in Capitals.
– The dialogue is written in paragraphs with a space in-between a character’s line.
– A new scene takes place on another page.
These tips make a script clear to understand and professional looking.
Once a scriptwriter’s idea has been given the go ahead to be made into a film, there are certain deal that need to be made. One of them is how much a scriptwriter is meant to be paid. This can vary depending on budget, mainly, examples:
Budget Minimum Screenplay Fee*
Under £750k £18,900
£750k – £2m £25,650
(according to ‘Industrial Scripts’9.)
Payment is usually settled via a contract and other formal deals, for example:
–Components of a Deal
–Option – payment to hold the rights on a screenplay, akin to a rental
–Guarantee/Front End – upfront MONEY paid regardless of whether the film is made
–Back-End – money contingent on production & release, such as a payment triggered by the first day of shooting
–Bonuses – often performance markers; box office returns, sequels into production, a sole-writer credit BONUS if no other writers need to be hired, a budget bonus if the film attracts additional financing
–‘Against’ – unproduced fee against produced fee; e.g Déjà Vu was $3m against $5m
–Step Deal – the upfront will usually be split into payments for steps along the road to a final draft; 1st draft, polish, 2nd draft etc.
(according to ‘Industrial Script’9.)
Scriptwriter’s have the rights to the script due to them writing the script, and therefore can be paid for the rights to it – same way as an author can be paid for the rights to their novel.
When a script writer has an idea, the writer needs to see what marketing is available for their script. This way a writer will see what movie makers are looking for in an idea. Sometimes before handing a script a movie company may ask for a written treatment, this is the plot of a script, instead of an actual script – due to ‘written treatments’ being shorter than a script. As discussed in the Commissioning process script writer can go onto websites of TV channels (channel 4, BBC, etc) to see if there is any adverts there for certain script types.
Another piece of research a scriptwriter will need to do is see what age range watches a certain TV channel, if the script is for TV, or a film type in order to gain an understanding of what can happen in a script. However usually companies have rules in place to help the reader find out what they can, or can’t, put in that will make the reader distressed or uncomfortable.
Sometimes a scriptwriter may not be able to sell their script to a company of their national country – they may have to look at other companies in other countries. Such an example is Guillermo del Toro; due to ‘Pan’s labyrinth’ containing the scene of the death of a child – Guillermo took his script to a Spanish company who agreed to make the film, since another company rejected Guillermo’s idea.
The process of getting a script made into an actual film footage can be daunting.
But by simply looking at film companies, TV companies and film competitions a writer can find a place that will accept their idea – and perhaps consider making it an idea. As Lewis Howes, a an American author, entrepreneur, and former professional Arena League football player, once said ‘the most important thing to remember is to know your audience’ – in this case your TV company.
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screenwriter, 13th Nov 2014
2. http://creativeskillset.org/job_roles_and_stories/job_roles/3078_screenwriter, 13th Nov 2014
3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/about/, 13th Nov 2014
4. http://4talent.channel4.com/4talent/4screenwriting, 13th Nov 2014
5. http://www.film4.com/film4-productions/how-to-submit-a-project, 13th Nov 2014
6. https://www.kickstarter.com/pages/filmindependent, 13th Nov 2014
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_film, 13th Nov 2014