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Screenwriter

Screenwriters write the stories for feature films, TV programmes and computer games.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements, but you may find it useful to take a course to develop your skills and understand dramatic structure. 

Relevant courses include creative writing and scriptwriting.

Experience in journalism, advertising copywriting or acting can also help.

You’ll usually start by coming up with your own screenplays and ideas, and trying to sell them to agents and producers. As you build a professional reputation producers might ask you to write scripts for them.

Screenwriting competitions are a good way to get noticed by broadcasters and regional screen agencies. You could also submit your work to the BBC Writers Room.

Creative Skillset Careers has more information about a career as a screenwriter.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent writing ability
  • creativity and imagination
  • storytelling skills and an understanding of dramatic structure
  • a willingness to accept criticism and rejection of your work
  • good presentation and networking skills

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day activities may include:

  • coming up with themes and ideas
  • researching background material
  • developing believable plots and characters
  • laying out the screenplay to an agreed format
  • preparing short summaries of your ideas 
  • selling your ideas or ‘pitching' to producers
  • getting feedback on your work from producers or script editors
  • rewriting the script before arriving at an agreed version
  • networking with agents and producers
  • handling your own tax and accounts, if freelance

4. Salary

If you’re freelance, you or your agent will negotiate a fee for each piece of work.

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain has recommended minimum pay rates for writers in film, TV, radio and theatre.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Most screenwriters are freelance and self-employed. You’ll set your own working hours.

You’ll usually work from home or an office, but will also attend meetings with agents, script editors and producers.

If you’re part of a studio-based writing team you’ll usually work standard office hours. 

6. Career path and progression

Your career will depend on how successful you are, and how popular your work is.

You could combine writing with other work like teaching, lecturing or editing.

Last updated: 30 September 2016