Scriptwriter
Literary & Communicators

Scriptwriters write scripts for plays, shows and other dramatic performances which are performed on the stage, radio, TV or on film. They usually research a topic first and then word process, dictate or write the script by hand. The finished work is sent to editors, producers or agents to be considered for publication or production. Many scriptwriters find it difficult to make a living from writing alone so they often take on other types of work to make a living.

Work Activities

Scriptwriters are involved with producing original pieces of work using their creativity and imagination. They are often employed on a project by project basis so the work provides very little job security.

Typical job responsibilities include:

  • Researching subjects in preparation for writing a new script
  • Using creativity to produce imaginative and original work
  • Writing, drafting and editing scripts with a view to submitting them to publishers
  • Networking with agents, fellow scriptwriters and publishers
  • Keeping up to date with developments in publishing and technology

The majority of scriptwriters are self-employed and write alone or occasionally with a partner. Making a living in this way can be challenging, particularly when your work is rejected. Most of the time scriptwriters are searching for new ideas, carrying out research or writing whilst sitting at a computer for long periods. The flow of work can be inconsistent as you will be working on a freelance basis. As the work is mainly project based it is important to adhere rigidly to deadlines.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for scriptwriters

  • Excellent command of English
  • A good imagination and a creative approach
  • Strong communication skills
  • Be an effective networker to promote your work
  • Be able to cope with lone working
  • Business and commercial skills as you are likely to be self-employed
  • Able to handle criticism and rejection from publishers
  • IT skills

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of Scriptwriters

The majority of scriptwriters are self-employed and work from home.

Most scriptwriters submit their work for consideration to agents, publishers or commissioning editors who may or may not accept it. Work could be commissioned for radio and television by the BBC, independent production companies, ITV companies or Channel 4.

Some scriptwriters share their work with amateur dramatic groups or writers' circles to achieve greater exposure.

There may be opportunities for scriptwriters to self-publish their work on the Internet which is becoming more popular. This enables scriptwriters to reach a wider audience and demonstrate their initiative and motivation to potential publishers and commissioning editors.

Qualifications

Qualifications and training required

You are not required to have any specific qualifications but a degree in a creative or arts-based subject such as English Literature may be helpful.

It is difficult to become an established scriptwriter and successful examples come from a range of diverse backgrounds such as theatre, broadcasting and media work. Most new scriptwriters start by submitting their work to publishers and commissioning editors, often through agents.

Part-time degree and postgraduate qualifications are available in scriptwriting. Some providers including the Open University offer short courses in creative writing and advanced creative writing to improve your skills.

Entering competitions for new scriptwriters or becoming a member of a group such as the Writers' Guild of Great Britain will help you to network and to break into the profession. Talent and luck are as important as academic ability.

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