Screenwriter

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Screenwriters or scenarists or scriptwriters are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which films and television programs are based.

Many screenwriters start their careers writing on speculation (spec), meaning they write without being hired or paid for it. When such a script is sold, it is called a spec script.

Many of them also work as "script doctors", attempting to better a script to suit the desires of a director or studio. For instance, studio management may have a complaint that the motivations of the characters are unclear or that the dialogue is weak.

Script-doctoring can be quite lucrative, especially for the better known writers. David Mamet and John Sayles, for instance, fund the movies they direct themselves, usually from their own screenplays, by writing and doctoring scripts for others. In fact, some writers make very profitable careers out of the script doctoring food chain, being the ninth or tenth writer to work on a piece; in many cases, working on projects that never see exposure to an audience of any size. Script doctoring companies, also known as script consultancies, are also often used by directors, production companies and individual screenwriters. These usually do not offer full re-writes, but are used when a production company or an individual requires feedback on whether or not a script is marketable, how it can be improved, and whether or not it holds any potential for development.

Some screenwriters have also found work by selling a treatment (approximately 10-30 pages) or synopsis (usually 1-2 pages), of their screenplay even if it isn't completed yet. This is, however, rare among all screenwriters but success is far more likely for writers with more established careers and contacts in the film and television industry. For some screenwriters, pairing with an industry-based representative, such as a producer, director, talent or literary agent or studio executive, will yield successful movement of their material. These partnerships will often pitch their project to investors or others in a position to further a potential project.

One of the most important elements in bringing an idea to fruition for a studio to produce is attaching the right screenwriter to the project. Often projects are sold to studios who then assign their own preferred screenwriters to complete the script or write the final draft.

Most professional screenwriters in the U.S. are unionized and are represented by organizations such as the Writers Guild of America. The WGA is the final arbiter on awarding writing credit for projects under its jurisdiction.

See also

Production designer

Cinematographer/Director of photography

Director of audiography/Sound designer/Supervising Sound Editor

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