Too many screenwriters dream about a six figure sale when they’re starting their career. Novice screenwriters have their head in the cloud and expect big bucks right away. When they search internet and look at some of the statistics, their hopes and aspirations rise.
According to most of the stats available online, at entry-level (years) screenwriter salary is $40K which leads up $70 to $80 in the late career with above 20 years of experience. But, these figures do not depict the whole picture and reality is much graver as compared to this.
Screenwriter Salary for the Big Brands
First let’s look at some of the big names who have made record sale as a screenwriter. However, be sure to remember that they represent less than 1% of the screenwriters out there. This takes a lifetime of writing and lots of luck.
The Real Deal for Screenwriter Salary
Every screenwriter has a different journey. A lot depends on your interpersonal skills, your ability to present your script, and the number and profile of your contacts just to get your script noticed.
At entry level, even if you have one full-length script for sale, and you do get to sell it, your earning might just pay your bills. In the first years, your earning may range from $0 – $20,000 depending upon your marketing skills as well. The genre of your choice also affects your earnings.
The Myth of earning in six figures
Earnings in six figures for screenwriters was a 90’s thing. With inflation and financial crisis, studios and production companies have become prudent in their expenditures. It takes a lot of commitment, self motivation and faring with bad weather to survive the early years of your career as a screenwriter. Next stage is a critical one and you have to make the most of these years.
If your name is known around the production units and you have your written work produced, then you are pretty much in this zone. You must at this point be writing or rewriting for a couple of episode of soaps. If you’re lucky enough, you might have bagged writing for an original TV show. Your earning at this level might range anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000. But, this is not the pay that you take home.
Probably now you’d have an agent. He will take 10% of your sales. Furthermore, production companies have extensive contracts and you need an entertainment lawyer to facilitate this contract. You pay 5% or more to him too.
Now to come to those six figure sales, the writing contracts dictate pay in installments with each milestone. The amount released at each stage is around $50,000. After deductions, you take home about $20,000 or less. Also, bear in mind, at any stage, the writer can be replaced, so you may not get that next check at all.
Hence, as a screenwriter who is beginning his career or as a student who is deciding his career path, I would suggest you to take this report with a pinch of salt. It’s not to scare you away but to inform you about what you should expect from your career as a screenwriter. Moreover, it’s an effort to throw light on the intricate details of what career of a screenwriter entails. This way you will be able to make the most of the work that you love to do.