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How to Find the Perfect Screenwriter for Your Film or TV Project (Step-by-Step Guide) – 2023

If you have a great idea for a new film or television project, finding the right screenwriter to transform that concept into an incredible script should be one of your top priorities. An exceptional screenplay that engages readers and brings your vision to life is the foundation for cinematic success.

However, finding a screenwriter with the ideal blend of talent, experience, and collaborative spirit to match your specific needs requires effort. You need someone who not only writes amazing scripts consistently but also understands your creative vision and can work synergistically with you.

This process takes time and diligence, but it’s worth it to partner with a screenwriter who will set your project up for excellence. Here are the most effective steps to locate and hire the perfect scribe to bring your film dreams into reality:

Close up headshot of a serious screenwriter focusing intently on handwriting on paper at a desk.

Define Your Film Project Needs and Budget

Before beginning your screenwriter search, you need to crystallize details about your prospective project. Determining core information ahead of time will guide your hiring process and help assess which writers may be a fit.

Consider crucial factors like:

  • Genre – Drama, comedy, horror, sci-fi, etc.? Different writers specialize in certain styles.
  • Format – Is it a feature film or a TV script? Short film or mini-series?
  • Length – What is the approximate page count or runtime you have in mind?
  • Scope and scale – Is it an intimate indie piece or a big-budget blockbuster concept?
  • Tone – Should it be humorous, dark, whimsical, gritty etc?
  • Target audience – Who is the intended demographic and psychographic?
  • Deadlines – What is your ideal timeline for the script to be completed?
  • Your vision – What key themes, messages, and feelings do you want the project to convey?

Having clear direction on these elements will help you assess which writers have the right sensibilities, experience, and voice for your specific project. A great match on paper is key.

Additionally, establish your budget range for what you can afford to pay the screenwriter upfront along with any potential bonuses or royalties related to eventual production.

While deals vary, be realistic about compensation for the level of writer you need. Top screenwriters can command six or seven figures for studio films.

But for lower-budget independent films, compensation often starts at around $10,000-$30,000 for the script alone.

With your film concept specifics and financial resources defined, you’re ready to start your writer search.

Look Within Your Existing Networks

A great place to begin your hunt for compelling screenwriters is right within your own existing professional and creative networks. If you’ve worked on films or other projects before, leverage those connections.

Reach out to:

  • Film producer colleagues
  • Directors or editors you’ve collaborated with
  • Actors, crew members, and other industry pros in your circle
  • Talent managers and agents
  • Entertainment lawyers you know
  • Friends or associates with screenwriting expertise

Red vintage movie theater seats facing an empty blank white screen

Explain your upcoming project and its parameters and ask if they have any screenwriters in mind they can enthusiastically recommend for this assignment.

Referrals from within your network often carry more weight than blindly venturing out on your own. If someone you trust has worked successfully with a screenwriter before and raves about them, explore that lead.

Also, check with any screenwriters you may have already worked with previously on other projects. They will have deep insight into exactly what your creative style, vision, and workflows are like.

If they have availability and would be a good match, see if they are interested in collaborating again. Building on an existing rapport can help kickstart the creative juices.

Browse Screenwriting Sites and Listings

Once you’ve tapped your networks, begin browsing screenwriting sites, job boards, listings databases, and freelance platforms to search for additional qualified candidates.

Key resources to consult include:

  • The Black List – This platform publishes highly rated unproduced screenplays along with writer profiles. You can search by genre and budget level.
  • InkTip – Contains a searchable database of scripts and screenwriters. You can post your project to invite pitches.
  • Stage 32 – Job board with listings for film writers and collaborators.
  • International Screenwriters Association (ISA) – Global screenwriting group with an online directory.
  • X (formerly Twitter) – Search relevant hashtags like #screenwriting, #scriptchat, and #screenplay to find active writers.
  • Mandy.com – Creative industry job board with screenwriting gigs.
  • Screenwriting.io – Database of scriptwriters for hire with client reviews.
  • Amazon Studios – Option to find and connect with scriptwriters.

As you explore options, look for writers who have credits and experience that align with the genre, tone, and scope of your planned film or television project. If you need a comedy writer, review their past humor scripts. Seek out writers with a proven track record in your specific realm.

Having writing samples to review is crucial as well, which leads us to the next step…

A infographic with illustrated steps for finding and hiring a screenwriter

Assess Portfolios and Writing Samples

A screenwriter may talk a good game about their skills, but you need to see actual evidence before bringing them aboard.

Any writers you are considering should provide you with links to their websites, profiles, and portfolios highlighting their qualifications. Look for:

  • Past-produced credits on films or television shows similar to your planned project.
  • Favorable reviews and coverage of their scripts on sites like The Black List.
  • Writing awards, nominations, fellowships, or recognition from major institutions like Sundance, Nicholl, Austin Film Festival, etc. This demonstrates their talent is distinguished.
  • Sample scripts they are willing to share that match your genre and tone. Read at least one or two all the way through. Is the dialogue crisp? Do characters and story arcs resonate?

Seeing their existing body of work will reveal their inherent strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Determine if their style seems like a fit with your creative sensibilities. Quality matters more than quantity, but you want to collaborate with an experienced, masterful scribe.

If possible, check in with references who have previously hired them and get feedback on what the writing and collaboration process was like. Any red flags to uncover? You want to verify their reputation is solid.

Interview Potential Candidates

Once you have promising writer candidates in mind, set up interviews so you can further assess compatibility. This is an opportunity to directly ask key questions to help determine who may be the ideal collaborator.

Some topics to cover:

  • Have them expand on their experience with projects like yours and why they are drawn to this genre. Look for genuine passion.
  • How would they approach bringing your concept or source material to life? Listen for inspired ideas.
  • Ask about their writing process. Do they like frequent check-ins and guidance or more autonomy?
  • Inquire about their work ethic, time availability, and ability to meet deadlines. You need someone reliable.
  • Discuss previous collaborations with directors. Any issues balancing creative perspectives?
  • Do they prefer writing spec scripts or working from detailed outlines or treatments?
  • How do they handle revisions and notes? You want someone open and non-defensive.
  • Ask for their thoughts on film vs. television vs. streaming series and where they see your project fitting best.

This is also your chance to elaborate on your vision, themes, story arcs, and characters. Gauge their level of engagement and insight on your passion project. The ideal writer will immediately connect with your concept on a creative wavelength.

Take time to seriously consider how your working relationship would pan out. Hiring the right screenwriter is like entering any partnership. Make sure your communication styles mesh well.

Two business partners shaking hands with one holding a script, closing a deal

Negotiate Terms

Once you’ve found one or more promising writers to work with, it’s time to lock them in. The final step is negotiating agreeable terms for compensation, timeline, rights, and credits.

Key elements to pin down contractually:

  • Treatment – Will they write a full treatment first for approval before proceeding to a script draft?
  • Payment structure – Determine the amount along with payment timing, such as 50% upfront, and 50% upon script delivery.
  • Deadline and timeline – Agree on a schedule for the first draft and subsequent revisions.
  • Rights details – Address who owns the intellectual property, copyright, ability to sell the script if unproduced, etc.
  • Production bonuses – Will they get any bonus if the film gets made, and achieves success?
  • Credits – How will they be credited onscreen and in promotions?
  • Future involvement – Could they be attached to adapt the script during production or write sequels?

Drawing up a clear written agreement or a contract drafted by an entertainment lawyer prevents misunderstandings down the line. Protect both your and the screenwriter’s interests and rights.

Make sure to allow adequate time in the timeline for providing notes on drafts and completing rewrites. Fully produced, polished scripts often go through 10+ revisions. Collaborative give-and-take creates excellence.

A pleased director in a theater seat giving a thumbs up sign of approval


Finding the perfect screenwriter to craft an incredible script that brings your creative concept to cinematic life requires effort. But taking the time to research options, assess portfolio samples, interview candidates, and negotiate terms is worth it.

The right screenwriter combines fleshed-out talent, relevant experience, passion for your vision, and a collaborative spirit. This investment sets your film or television project up for true excellence.

So approach your writer’s search methodically, review choices carefully, trust your instincts, and partner with someone who will transform your idea into a masterful script that captivates audiences. Action!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to hire a professional screenwriter?

The cost to hire a professional screenwriter can range quite a bit based on their experience level and the scale of the project. For low-budget indie films, hiring an aspiring screenwriter may cost $5,000-$15,000 for the script. Established writers for major studio films often get $100,000-$500,000 just for the initial draft.

How much does a screenwriter cost?

An average starting price for hiring a screenwriter is around $10,000-$25,000 for an original feature film script. But the cost can range from a few thousand for new writers up to over $1 million for A-list, Oscar-winning screenwriters working on major studio projects.

How do I contact a screenwriting agent?

You can identify screenwriting agents by searching listings like the WGA, checking IMDb credits, or looking at talent agencies that represent writers. Many agents list their email or an online contact form. Send a well-crafted query email pitching your project and why you think your client would be a great fit for the assignment.

Can I pay someone to write a script for me?

Yes, you can hire professional screenwriters through job sites, listings databases, and script services. Outline your concept, vision, and budget. Make sure to sign a work-for-hire agreement defining rights, credits, and payment schedule. Never ask a writer to work solely for backend profit participation.

How much does Netflix pay for scripts?

For original feature films, Netflix is reported to pay around $300,000 on average for scripts, though their top deals can go over $3 million. For new TV series, script fees typically start around $75,000- $150,000 per episode. Established TV writers on Netflix shows can earn $400,000 or more per episode.

How much do first-time screenplays sell for?

It’s rare for first-time spec scripts to sell for over six figures unless they top major contests like Nicholl or make the Black List. More common entry-level script sales are in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 if produced as an ultra-low-budget film. Breaking in as a new screenwriter is very difficult.

How do I submit a script to Netflix?

Netflix does not accept unsolicited submissions. To sell a script to Netflix, you need to secure representation from a reputable literary agent or manager first or get your script to a producer who has an existing production deal with Netflix. Getting a new script directly to Netflix requires going through the proper industry channels.

Who is the highest-paid screenwriter in the world?

Some of the highest-paid screenwriters today include names like Stephen King, Aaron Sorkin, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, Steve Zaillian, and Eric Roth. Top studio writers today can command fees in the $3-$5 million range for major projects.

How do I sell my life story on Netflix?

To sell your life rights to Netflix, your life story needs to contain compelling, film-worthy material. Hire an entertainment attorney to help broker a deal. Partner with a producer to pitch Netflix on adapting it. Netflix will want to see you have a following. Be prepared to relinquish creative control.

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