How To Make Money Scriptwriting – You’ve heard stories about studios paying millions of dollars for scripts. It probably prompts the well-deserved question, “How much do screenwriters make?” Today, we’re going to look at the events that got the particular market to where it is today. But we have the insider’s perspective, and we’ve done the research. You will leave this article confident, ready to give yourself the best possible chance before you submit a script to Netflix, Paramount, or HBO.
The Last Boy Scout in 1990, setting a high dollar record in the process. He had previously sold his script for Lethal Weapon for $250,000 in 1984.
How To Make Money Scriptwriting
, Joe Eszterhas laughed all the way to the bank by selling Basic Instinct for $4 million, $1 million of which went to producer Irwin Winkler.
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In 1994, Black was back, this time selling his script for The Long Kiss Goodnight for an unprecedented $4 million. Then, 20 years later, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell split a $4 million check for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Those are notable examples and the vast majority of scripts don’t really sell that much, even in today’s dollars. So, when you break it all down, how much do screenplays sell for?
Look, there’s a clear history of a screenwriter’s salary reaching that seven-figure mark. Then we get to TV and syndication, and the question “How much do screenwriters make?” snowballs. This is writer Corey Mandell on the current state of the screenwriting market.
But, the unfortunate twist for screenwriters is that screenplays that sell for millions are unfamiliar in this century. Especially if it’s an original script idea.
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Selling a script, and how to sell a script, are different animals these days than they were 30, 20, even 10 years ago.
In reality, there is no clear, fixed answer to a screenwriter’s salary. Most screenwriters don’t take home a paycheck twice a week for the same amount of money every pay period. Instead, they work on the freelance ad hoc model found in many creative industries.
So how much screenwriters make isn’t what it seems, or nearly what it used to be. But people figure out how to sell scripts all the time. How do you do it? And when you do, how much dough can you expect?
Learning how to sell your script is complicated. Before we get into more methods on how to sell a script, we have to look at how the market got to where it is. That will help us understand the best practices and techniques you need to sell a screenplay.
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After the 1988 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, there was a flood of spec scripts (scripts written on speculation) because professional screenwriters had 155 days off work.
There was also so much demand for content, script agents (and writers) found themselves in positions of little power. Selling a screenplay has never been easier. That’s why screenwriters’ salaries have increased. Week by week, the answer to “How much do screenwriters make” kept increasing.
Therefore, a new policy came into force when selling a screenplay. Studios had from Monday to Friday to make a decision. Every Monday, certain scripts hit the market and by Friday they were either bought, or left in the dust.
This tighter deadline created its own form of drama, as bidding wars began for great scripts. That back and forth between the studios drove up prices and inflated screenwriters’ salaries. And that provides a bit of
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We will look at what happened. First, you’ll want to make sure you study screenplay to increase your chances of selling your own screenplay. This video gets into the nitty gritty of exposure.
Eventually, studios moved toward safer, less risky properties like comic book movies, sequels, and remakes. They played it safe, and made a profit on the backend at places like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video (R.I.P. to both).
By the time Y2K hit, the spec business was lagging. It would decrease sharply with the advancement of technology in the 21st century.
In 2007, WGA went on strike again, this time to demand more residuals for their work. The writers wanted, and deserved, their piece of the pie.
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While the writers more or less won, the strike turned out to be a breath of fresh air for executives. The once power writers were long gone. Selling a screenplay, and finding a seven-figure answer to the question “How much do screenwriters make,” became rarer.
This is especially true because immediately after the strike ended, the financial crisis of 2008 reared its head. This significantly changed the way screenwriting agents tried to sell a script.
It also killed what used to be a seven-figure screenwriter’s salary and made it incredibly difficult to answer the question, “How to sell a screenplay?”
And Hunger Games. Hedging bets became a priority, because that’s what Hollywood is, after all — a gamble.
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Selling a script became more difficult than ever, and specific scripts have become more of a profile piece than something to produce.
But although the economy has, more or less, righted itself, the spec script market is long gone. The priority of studios depends entirely on limiting losses.
Once you figure out how to sell a screenplay, the money comes in, right? Well, the salary of a modern screenwriter depends on the type of screenplay being written.
There are different minimum Whole Government Accounts for everything from a 15 minute episode of television, to selling a screenplay, to a big budget feature film. Even then, those are split into different prices. A television script can be divided into “story by” and “teleplay by” credits. Those are worth two different things, financially speaking.
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Selling a screenplay to a company that has signed a Whole of Government Accounts agreement will net you a minimum of $72,662. But you don’t get all that at once. Payments for screenplay sales are made in instalments:
That means the original treatment will run you $32,922. But, whether or not you write the script or another draft after that is completely up to the studio. They don’t have to hire you yet.
Even if it’s the story of your life and your baby that you’ve been working on for years, once you sell a screenplay it’s no longer yours. It is the studio’s intellectual property (IP) and they can do with it what they want. If they want to burn it, they can burn it. If they feel it is not worth continuing after the first thirty, they will put it aside forever.
But let’s say you have a good relationship with this studio and they like your treatment. So they hire you to write it into a script. That takes you $28, 612. At this point, you’ve netted $68, 534. That’s not bad.
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Your next draft? They only have a few changes. You make them fast and they get you that final $11,127. But as your checks come in the mail you start seeing some deductions you didn’t know about.
Your scripting agent takes 10%. There is $7,200. Your manager takes 10%. Another $7, 200 goes. Your lawyer wants 5%. There is $3,600. So you have 75% of your fee left.
All in all, you might walk away with anywhere from sixty to forty percent of your check, depending on how many people you have to pay.
Joe Eszterhas, once again, is laughing all the way to the bank. Selling a movie script is not a mathematically great get-rich-quick way.
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Is it possible to make a higher screenwriter salary? Yes, absolutely. But it is difficult. That example was made for a low budget feature film. That’s if it costs less than $5 million total.
But if you check the box office numbers for most movies these days, they are way over that. That said, the more expensive a script is predicted to cost, the harder it will be to sell.
Work, the number of writers who want to work, and the chances of selling a screenplay – much like the check you’ll take home – are greatly reduced.
It’s not easy to learn how to sell a screenplay – in any way shape or form – and part of that is because no Hollywood HR department places ads for writers.
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You can’t set up a brick and mortar store on Ventura Boulevard to sell a script. But again, scripts are sold every day.
The best – and most proven – way to sell a script is to use your own network. Who do you know working in Hollywood? How can you help them and how can they help you? Who does
Much like there are six degrees of separation between anyone in the world and Kevin Bacon, there is likely to be two degrees of separation, at most, between you and someone responsible for buying scripts.
How do you sell a screenplay? Start with who you know, and go from there. Another way is to become an expert on the subject through other means. Is your script about a mother? Become a successful mommy blogger.
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Is your script about the crazy stuff your dad says? Start a Twitter handle documenting every word and get
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