How to Hire a Screenwriter — 7 Steps to Find a Writer for Your Movie Idea
Do you have the perfect idea for a movie or a TV show but don’t want to write the script yourself? You might consider hiring a screenwriter, but it’s not exactly easy to find one without first knowing what you’re looking for.
There are some things you’ll want to know before you get started, including:
- Decide what kind of script you want
- Organize your thoughts
- Search the right places
- Create a job posting
- Review screenwriters’ work
- Prepare a contract
- Understand payment
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In this blog, learn how to prepare to hire a writer for your movie or television show idea, so you end up with a finished product that you, and the writer, are happy with.
How to Hire a Screenwriter
To avoid pitfalls that can often happen in entertainment industry transactions, ensure you have a solid understanding of the following processes before you venture out searching for a screenwriter for your project.
Decide on what kind of script you want
Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean you’re ready to share it with a potential screenwriter. First, you need to figure out exactly what kind of script you want to be written.
Is this concept better suited as a television show or movie? Does the story have legs to carry it through multiple seasons? Or is it more straightforward and can be told in 90 minutes? What genre is this story? Is there a specific network or streaming service where you could see this story existing? It’s important to understand what kind of script you want someone to write before you ask them to write it!
Knowing the answers to these questions will help your future writer understand format, length, and what the project will entail in terms of time and revisioning.
Organize your thoughts
Another step before seeking out screenwriters is to organize your thoughts and pull all your information together. If you have notes, try to organize and clarify them. Ensure your understanding of the story is as clear and concise as possible. You’ll need to be able to paint the picture of the story you want the screenwriter to tell. Writing out a short treatment or synopsis may help you to flush out your idea further and help you explain it to a potential screenwriter.
Where to find screenwriters?
Once you feel that your ideas have developed enough, where do you find a screenwriter? A good first place to start can be by checking your local connections. Check out the local film community. Do they have networking events? Are you friends with anyone in the film industry? Could they point you toward any screenwriters? You can also try searching social media platforms. Twitter has a thriving screenwriter community. With a simple tweet, you might find some strong screenwriter candidates. In addition, Facebook offers several screenwriter groups.
Make a job posting
If searching for a screenwriter through social media or networking doesn’t work, you can always try posting a job listing. Film and screenwriting websites like Coverfly, Production Hub, the ISA (International Screenwriting Organization), and Inktip all have areas for job postings. In your posting, include a logline: a brief 1–2 sentence description of the project that intrigues a reader. Also, include the genre and whether this is a television pilot, a short, or a feature-length script. If there’s a deadline that the script needs to be finished by, include that as well! When asking writers to apply, mention if you would like them to submit their résumé or writing sample.
Review potential screenwriters
Once the screenwriting applicants begin to roll in, prepare to review their applications. That means reading cover letters, sifting through resumes, and reading writing samples. Some writers might link you to their IMDb profiles or clips of produced work. Narrow down your list to writers you think would be a good fit and set up some interviews! The interviews don’t have to be overly stiff or uncomfortable; they can be as simple as a phone call, a zoom meeting, or even grabbing coffee and speaking in person.
During these interviews, you want to see if you and the potential writer get along. Can you see yourself collaborating with this person? Do you feel that you and the writer are on the same page? You want to be sure to provide the writer with any pertinent information so that you can avoid issues of miscommunication.
Prepare a contract
So, you found the right writer for your project! When hiring a writer, it’s important to have a contract in place for the writer and your own benefit. You might also have the screenwriter sign an NDA if you’re concerned about the project getting out into the public. Hiring an entertainment lawyer can be helpful when creating contracts or NDAs, but it is possible to do those things yourself. Be sure to do your research when it comes to the legal aspects of hiring a writer! During this step, review a timeline of meetings and deadlines. Address how you will securely share pages back and forth. You want to be clear on how this process will go.
Be ready to pay!
Screenwriting is a job like any other; screenwriters deserve to be paid adequately. You may want to offer deferred pay, but don’t be surprised when screenwriters aren’t interested in taking on your project. Screenwriters don’t want to work for free and count on being paid for their services. A common way to pay a screenwriter is in installments, as certain page counts are met. Maybe you send payment after the first 25 pages, then after the first 50 pages, after the completed first draft, etc. However you plan on paying a writer, be sure to be upfront and clear about it.
There can be many things to consider when hiring a screenwriter, but I hope this blog alleviates some of the stress from the process. Use these seven steps as a guideline for the hiring process. When interviewing screenwriting applicants, remember to be upfront, communicate clearly, and use common sense! Good luck and happy writing!