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A screenplay writer (also called screenwriter for short), scriptwriter or scenarist, is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays on which mass media, such as films, television programs and video games, are based. Screenwriter_sentence_0

Profession Screenwriter_section_0

Screenwriting is a freelance profession. Screenwriter_sentence_1

No education is required to be a professional screenwriter, just good storytelling abilities and imagination. Screenwriter_sentence_2

Screenwriters are not hired employees but contracted freelancers. Screenwriter_sentence_3

Most, if not all, screenwriters start their careers writing on speculation (spec) and so write without being hired or paid for it. Screenwriter_sentence_4

If such a script is sold, it is called a spec script. Screenwriter_sentence_5

What separates a professional screenwriter from an amateur screenwriter is that professional screenwriters are usually represented by a talent agency. Screenwriter_sentence_6

Also, professional screenwriters do not often work for free, but amateur screenwriters will often work for free and are considered "writers in training." Screenwriter_sentence_7

Spec scripts are usually penned by unknown professional screenwriters and amateur screenwriters. Screenwriter_sentence_8

There are a legion of would-be screenwriters who attempt to enter the film industry, but it often takes years of trial-and-error, failure, and gritty persistence to achieve success. Screenwriter_sentence_9

In Writing Screenplays that Sell, Michael Hague writes, "Screenplays have become, for the last half of [the twentieth] century, what the Great American Novel was for the first half. Screenwriter_sentence_10

Closet writers who used to dream of the glory of getting into print now dream of seeing their story on the big or small screen." Screenwriter_sentence_11

Film industry Screenwriter_section_1

Every screenplay and teleplay begins with a thought or idea, and screenwriters use their ideas to write scripts, with the intention of selling them and having them produced. Screenwriter_sentence_12

In some cases, the script is based on an existing property, such as a book or person's life story, which is adapted by the screenwriter. Screenwriter_sentence_13

The majority of the time, a film project gets initiated by a screenwriter. Screenwriter_sentence_14

The initiator of the project gets the exclusive writing assignment. Screenwriter_sentence_15

They are referred to as "exclusive" assignments or "pitched" assignments. Screenwriter_sentence_16

Screenwriters who often pitch new projects, whether original or an adaptation, often do not have to worry about competing for assignments and are often more successful. Screenwriter_sentence_17

When word is put out about a project a film studio, production company, or producer wants done, they are referred to as "open" assignments. Screenwriter_sentence_18

Open assignments are more competitive. Screenwriter_sentence_19

If screenwriters are competing for an open assignment, more-established writers usually win the assignments. Screenwriter_sentence_20

A screenwriter can also be approached and personally offered a writing assignment. Screenwriter_sentence_21

Script doctoring Screenwriter_section_2

Many screenwriters also work as full or part-time script doctors, attempting to better a script to suit the desires of a director or studio. Screenwriter_sentence_22

For instance, studio management may have a complaint that the motivations of the characters are unclear or that the dialogue is weak. Screenwriter_sentence_23

Script-doctoring can be quite lucrative, especially for the better-known writers. Screenwriter_sentence_24

David Mamet and John Sayles, for instance, fund the movies that they direct themselves, usually from their own screenplays, by writing and doctoring scripts for others. Screenwriter_sentence_25

In fact, some writers make very profitable careers out of being the ninth or tenth writer to work on a piece, and they often work on projects that never see exposure to an audience of any size. Screenwriter_sentence_26

Many up-and-coming screenwriters also ghostwrite projects and allow more-established screenwriters to take public credit for the project to increase the chances of it getting picked up. Screenwriter_sentence_27

Hollywood has shifted writers onto and off projects since its earliest days, and the assignment of credits is not always straightforward or complete, which poses a problem for film study. Screenwriter_sentence_28

In his book Talking Pictures, Richard Corliss discussed the historian's dilemma: "A writer may be given screen credit for work he didn't do (as with Sidney Buchman on Holiday), or be denied credit for work he did do (as with Sidney Buchman on The Awful Truth)." Screenwriter_sentence_29

Development process Screenwriter_section_3

After a screenwriter finishes a project, he or she pairs with an industry-based representative, such as a producer, director, literary agent, entertainment lawyer, or entertainment executive. Screenwriter_sentence_30

The partnerships often pitch their project to investors or others in a position to further a project. Screenwriter_sentence_31

Once the script is sold, the writer has only the rights that were agreed with the purchaser. Screenwriter_sentence_32

A screenwriter becomes credible by having work that is recognized, which gives the writer the opportunity to earn a higher income. Screenwriter_sentence_33

As more films are produced independently (outside the studio system), many up-and-coming screenwriters are turning to pitch fests, screenplay contests, and independent development services to gain access to established and credible independent producers. Screenwriter_sentence_34

Many development executives are now working independently to incubate their own pet projects. Screenwriter_sentence_35

Production involvement Screenwriter_section_4

Screenwriters are rarely involved in the production of a film. Screenwriter_sentence_36

Sometimes they come on as advisors, or if they are established, as a producer. Screenwriter_sentence_37

Some screenwriters also direct. Screenwriter_sentence_38

Although many scripts are sold each year, many do not make it into production because the number of scripts that are purchased every year exceeds the number of professional directors that are working in the film and TV industry. Screenwriter_sentence_39

When a screenwriter finishes a project and sells it to a film studio, production company, TV network, or producer, he or she often has to continue networking, mainly with directors or executives, and push to have their projects "chosen" and turned into films or TV shows. Screenwriter_sentence_40

If interest in a script begins to fade, a project can go dead. Screenwriter_sentence_41

Union Screenwriter_section_5

Most professional screenwriters in the U.S. are unionized and are represented by the Writers Guild of America. Screenwriter_sentence_42

Although membership in the WGA is recommended, it is not required of a screenwriter to join. Screenwriter_sentence_43

The WGA is the final arbiter on awarding writing credit for projects under its jurisdiction. Screenwriter_sentence_44

The WGA also looks upon and verifies film copyright materials. Screenwriter_sentence_45

See also Screenwriter_section_6


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