Screenwriting is a lot like other professions that look fun and even easy to an outsider, like playing centerfield or captaining a ship. Once people find out how hard it is, they tend to lose interest. That is why the genuinely interested people tend to earn a screenwriting degree.
Earning a degree shows that a writer has the commitment to complete the training needed to become the best at their chosen field of work. Many chose to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting, giving them the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
Potential Outlets and Salary for Screenwriters
With the many streaming services available today, as well as film, broadcast and cable channels, screenwriters have a variety of ways to sell their work.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines a screenwriter as those who “create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters, and dialogue, or adapt a book into a movie or television script.”
The BLS groups screenwriters with all writers and authors. In terms of salary, the average writer makes $78,680 per year nationwide. While writers can live anywhere, most writers concentrate in the following states (average salaries for those states in parentheses)
- California ($102,230)
- New York ($96,880)
- Texas ($58,640)
- Florida ($68,230)
- Pennsylvania ($66,570)
The cities with the highest number of writers are New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta.
Tips on Becoming a Screenwriter
Many of the important facets of screenwriting are learned in a bachelor’s degree program. They include the following tips.
Writer’s write. Many people talk about writing, but the only way to become a writer is to practice writing every day. Everything else is talk, not writing.
Know the market. Screenwriters need to understand what is expected of screenplays written for their target market and in their chosen genre. For example, understanding the typical “story beats” to include in a romantic comedy or a teen film.
Learn from the greats. The director and writer Billy Wilder, for example, gave tips to screenwriters that include “develop a clean line of action for your lead character” and “know where you’re going.” He also warned screenwriters that audiences are fickle, and they should “grab ‘em by the throat and never let go.”
Practice pitching. Once a script is ready, screenwriters must become talented at pitching potential producers. They’ll need a great summary of their script (the logline) as well as a practiced, smooth and short pitch.
Never give up. Persistence is just as important as talent for becoming a screenwriter. Every screenwriter should continue to hone their craft, write every day and never get discouraged. It takes that kind of attitude to make it in an incredibly competitive business.
By putting these tips into action, screenwriters can improve their chances of success. It’s important to remember that hard work and persistence pay off in screenwriting because many will give up once they see how difficult it is to succeed. Earning a degree in screenwriting can help writers keep their feet on the road to achieving their writing goals.