What Does a Scriptwriter Do? With a Guide on How To Become One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You may consider pursuing a career in scriptwriting if you like cinema movies, television shows and other kinds of entertainment and want to write for them. Scriptwriters create one-of-a-kind and captivating screenplays with amusing language, characters and stories for audience members to watch and buy. Learning more about this career could help you determine if it's right for you. In this article, we discuss what a scriptwriter is, detail what does a scriptwriter do, list what skills you may use in this role and show how to become one.

What is a scriptwriter?

Often known as a screenwriter, a scriptwriter creates storylines and narrative lines for films, television shows, music videos, advertisements and video games. Many studios employ scriptwriters to develop scripts or treatments that adhere to certain themes, include dynamic characters and utilise well-crafted storylines. As a screenwriter, you may write a script alone or collaborate with a team of writers, depending on the type, size and budget of the project. Once an author writes a screenplay, the filmmaker or director moulds it into a story that better fits their setting, casting, concept and blocking.

What does a scriptwriter do?

Scriptwriters produce the material for a television programme, film or video to create an engaging and interesting tale that audiences want to watch and buy. Scriptwriters usually create the plot and characters for certain medium types. Some screenwriters prefer to specialise in specific film genres, such as horror, drama, comedy, romance, fantasy or action. Others may want to broaden their horizons and write in several genres and forms. Listed below are some common duties outlining what does a scriptwriter do:

  • creating narrative ideas and concepts to offer to filmmakers

  • writing treatments for forthcoming scripts to sell

  • curating adaptations of specific mediums to better match the forms of television, cinema or video

  • writing and editing screenplays based on unique ideas or actual events

  • following a predetermined plot framework with predetermined act breaks

  • creating genuine speech for each character using multiple voices

  • accepting criticism and taking notes for future draughts

  • collaborating and working closely with directors, producers and filmmakers to create and edit scripts based on various artistic visions

  • proofreading, trimming and editing scripts to ensure they're free of errors and appropriate to the overall plot

  • revising scripts as needed

How to become a scriptwriter

Working as a screenwriter usually entails working in the entertainment business, which may be demanding and competitive. There are several strategies to get your story recognised by directors and stand out from the crowd. You may consider taking the following steps to start your career as a screenwriter:

1. Pursue your education

While a degree is optional for this career, attending a film school can be highly advantageous. Film programmes can introduce you to various filmmaking and writing approaches you can use in your full-time position. You may either get a bachelor's degree in scriptwriting, creative writing or a closely related subject. Alternatively, you can go to a film school that provides a certificate programme. Completing either of these options can help you locate industry experts who may be your mentors or meet fellow students who may become useful professional connections in the future.

In addition to formal schooling, you may also hone your skills by studying screenwriting manuals. There are several screenwriting guides and how-to books available to assist you in learning how to develop a screenplay. Every script has a certain format, and it's critical to master the rules of the profession so that your writings stand out from those of other new scriptwriters.

2. Get acquainted with the industry

Working in the business might be simpler if you understand how it works. Consider subscribing to industry magazines and reading other related materials to have a better understanding of the films and shows that production firms typically purchase. This provides you with a sense of what popular content pieces filmmakers would be interested in and how you might develop them to enhance your chances of selling them.

One of the finest methods to learn the craft is to read screenplays. If you know what genre you want to write in, look at several successful screenplays and scripts to understand what strategies you can use to develop a good story that audience members and filmmakers like. You may discover free scripts online or purchase scripts in the form of a published book. Transcripts aren't identical to screenplays, so be certain that you're purchasing a genuine screenplay. It might be beneficial to watch the relevant movies or series when reading scripts.

3. Create a portfolio

Virtually all successful screenwriters work on their scripts for extended periods of time. Because a successful screenplay incorporates many aspects, such as character development, plot structure, theme and symbolism, language and subtext and scene beats, creating a screenplay requires a lot of effort and practice. Start creating your own pieces after researching writing trends, approaches and strategies in the business. Investigate several genres to see one you would be most interested in creating yourself. Begin writing in several genres and mediums, such as films, videos or television shows, to better understand what you like and are skilled at generating.

Once you've written numerous scripts, you can combine them into a digital portfolio. A portfolio is essentially a collection of your work that prospective employers may evaluate. Usually, three good screenplay samples are adequate to show your understanding of the narrative structure and your readiness to put in the effort to master the art. It also shows your ability to produce a script in a certain amount of time. It might help your prospective employers get a better sense of your skill set and writing style. Consider putting your work on a user-friendly website where prospective employers can quickly find it.

Related: How To Create A Portfolio And Content To Include

4. Apply for jobs in the film and movie industry

You may begin looking for jobs in this field once you've gathered all your sample work and fulfilled your required credentials. Because it's a highly competitive industry, you could start as an entry-level employee who works directly with authors and directors. This includes positions such as production assistant and writing assistant. You may utilise these opportunities to get a better understanding of how the business works and to make contacts that can allow you to gain further experience and eventually work in senior-level writing positions.

5. Continue pursuing your education

Consider pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree to further your scriptwriting skills. These programmes typically last two years and provide an in-depth study of writing, filmmaking and narrative development. Enrolling in this programme allows you to build complicated projects that you can use to showcase in your portfolio. Equipped with the additional skills and education, you can also produce distinctive screenplays that would stand out to production companies.

What skills do you need to become a scriptwriter?

Here are some important skills to develop if you're interested in becoming a scriptwriter:

Communication abilities

A scriptwriter has to be able to communicate effectively. This entails being able to communicate a message clearly and succinctly. You may use communication skills for content creation and your daily activities. When writing becomes an important part of your job, you may cooperate with directors, actors, clients and other important stakeholders. Excellent communication skills are essential to communicate effectively and attract more clients.

Related: Communicating Effectively In The Workplace

Creative thinking abilities

Being a good scriptwriter necessitates creative skills, innovative thinking and imagination. As a scriptwriter, it's essential that you're certain that your material is interesting and relevant to your intended audience. Creativity is a valuable soft talent that can add interest and charm to your work. Being an effective scriptwriter entails being inventive and viewing things from a fresh viewpoint.

Related: Creative Skills in the Workplace

Adaptability

When you make a livelihood from scriptwriting, you may write in a variety of genres. To earn money and develop your writing abilities, consider taking as many scriptwriting gigs as you can handle while providing high-quality content. As a scriptwriter, it's important to be adaptable and willing to take on new tasks. Successful scriptwriters are those who can adapt to new developments while still meeting the demands of their clients.

Discipline

Given the importance of completing assignments on time and delivering excellent material, it's essential that you commit to the job and fulfil deadlines. Ensure that you manage your time well to meet deadlines promptly. Regardless of the obstacles you face, successful scriptwriters always demonstrate discipline.

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