Attempting to find out the average salary of a screenplay writer can be challenging. The fact is that when it comes to screenwriting, there are so many variables that need to be factored in. For example, a member of the Writers Guild of America is contractually bound to receive a higher salary than a non-guild writer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of a screenplay writer is £55,250. Keep in mind that this figure is extremely variable. Some writers can make millions of dollars, and other writers will work on projects in which they will not receive any payment. For the most part, writers who are members of the Writers Guild of America receive higher pay than non-guild members.
Members who are part of the Writers Guild of America have protection under contracts that non-guild members don't have. This protection usually comes in the form of a set salary that is non-negotiable. In addition, there are certain motion pictures and television shows that can use only guild members because of contractual obligations. Because of these protection, guild members have better salaries than non-guild members. Only screenwriters who have sold screenplays professionally are eligible to join the Writers Guild of America as full members.
Teleplay writers (screenplay writers for television and cable) also face varying salaries. For example, a guild member is obligated to earn a minimum payment between £16,250 and £16,900 for a story idea, and between £27,950 and £28,600 if he writes the teleplay for a network prime-time program. However, if that same project is written for a non-network prime-time show, the story idea goes down to around £5,850 and the teleplay brings in between £9,750 and £10,400. Non-guild writers earn even less.
According to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (as reported by The New York Times), the average working writer in Hollywood brings in about £130,000. Writers who are not working in Hollywood, however, are probably not making that much money because most of the screenplays that are purchased are purchased in the Los Angeles area. However, because of online access, some studios (such as Amazon Studios) are open to accepting material from anywhere in the world.
While the top screenwriters can earn a great deal of money, screenwriting is a business that requires persistence and patience. The flip side of that coin is that there are no actual educational requirements for being a screenwriter. When a producer reads a script, he does not care about anything other than the material in his hand, so in that sense, screenwriting is an extremely democratic occupation.
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- State University: Scriptwriter Job Description
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2009 National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: NAICS 512100 - Motion Picture and Video Industries
- Writers Guild of America East: Rate Cards: Schedule of Minimums
- The New York Times: Writers Guild of America