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What is the daily life of a screenwriter for a film production company?

I currently write scripts and possibly am looking at being a screenwriter as a career choice but I don't even know what they do beside write scripts. Do they do other things?

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Ben’s Answer

First up, I'm a TV screenwriter based in the UK. So the 'way it works here' is a bit different to the US.

My daily 'work life' involves coming up with new ideas, writing them up to 3-5 pages before sending them around to contacts I have who might be interested in buying the idea. These are people I've come to know over the years via my agent, or people I used to work with (I used to work in drama production as a script editor)

If one of those ideas is picked up/bought- I then work with the prodco to make it better (!) with an eye to what kinda of show we'd love to make. Depending on the commission, I might be being paid to write a longer document, perhaps up to 10 pages which is an overview of the show/concept/characters/how the show has legs to run and run... OR if I'm really lucky, they might have commissioned a script. Which doesn't happen all that often (not for me anyway!)

Christy's advice above is really sound. It matches what I understand about the US market from a few visits to meet folks in LA!

So daily life is freelance/working-for-yourself life! You need to make your own routines to ensure good productivity, and treat 'being creative' a bit like a regular job at times. Lots of sample scripts is the place to start. You can download lots of PDFs online of produced TV shows and movies which is a great resource for learning 'how' to write and how pros do it. I still look at these all the time!

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Christy’s Answer

The harsh truth --- you'll be doing any kind of job you can do to pay the bills, because the odds of selling a screenplay are astronomically high. Your best best is to have a solid, stable source of income from some other kind of job that allows you the time to continue writing scripts that you can hope to sell.

There are very, very few screenwriters who can support themselves only by writing screenplays. It can be years in between making a sale, assuming you manage to make more than one sale.

Now I'm assuming when you say "screenwriter" you specifically mean writing for movies.

Writing for TV is another whole category with its own set of complicated rules and career paths, but it's slightly more feasible to have a consistent career writing teleplays if you're good enough. Like any creative business, it's tough to break in.

Christy recommends the following next steps:

Either way, you begin by having really good, solid sample scripts to show around. More than one.
You use your sample scripts to convince an agent to represent you. The WGA (Writers Guild of America) has a list of agents.
With or without an agent, you try to get anybody you can on the producer, director, or star level to read your script(s) in the hope of making a connection that will pay off.
If you manage to get an agent, the agent will further guide you on what to write and will help submit your scripts to the right people.
Many writers in TV also have managers, who further guide and help their careers...for another cut of the money, of course.