1. Section 1: Obtaining Work as a Screenwriter – Commissioning
Commissioning is the act of giving authorisation to put something in place. Within the media
sector this could be things like the greenlight for production in general, an authorisation of a
particular budget, approval of a particular plot/storyline, or, in terms of writing, it is
essentially the ‘go ahead’ to write based on the successful acceptance of the pitched ideas.
● Commissioning Editors – They are the senior employee of the broadcaster and is
responsible for funding and selecting programme ideas. They will usually specialise
in a specific genre and have creative input and oversee the writing process
● Directors – The directors are responsible for pulling the ideas and the script
together. They provide the overall creative vision from which the DoP, technicians
and editors work from and they interpret the script the way they see it working.
● Producers – The producers oversee all aspects of the production that the director
doesn’t, such as financial, legal and administration. They will pitch, organise and
finance a project then give it to a writer to develop.
● Script Editors – They provide a critical overview of the scriptwriting process and use
analysis skills to identify problems within the script but don’t develop solutions to
them. Overall, they help to strengthen and develop screenplays.
● Agents – Agents will find work for their clients, organise contracts, negotiate
appropriate deals, support and guide writers’ careers and build relationships with
● Writers – They are responsible for research and developing an engaging narrative
and emotional impact with the audience. They write the screenplay to meet the
brief in the appropriate format. The vast majority of writers are freelance and will
sometimes write in teams.
Commissioning bodies are essentially where you might go to get your script commissioned.
● Corporations – Almost all pitching of ideas for big corporations such as Disney or
Universal go through established relationships which provides a safe bet of already
known names who have already worked for big companies, indies and agents. These
companies are part of a large conglomerates because they have complete ownership
of all stages of production. These corporations can give up and coming writers
opportunities to submit their scripts and if the corporation likes their script then
they may commission the show to air on one of their channels. In the US there is a
‘pilot season’ each year where a lot of networks will run competitions to get your
● Independent Production Companies – Independent production companies strike
deals with other companies to produce material. Different companies are known for
different genres and writers can directly submit their work to these companies.
● Independent Directors – An independent director is a member of the board of
directors who does not have a material relationship with the company and isn’t part
of the executive team and not involved with the day-to-day operations on the
2. ● Organisations – There are a number of organisations set up to assist new writers to
start their career. An example of this is the ‘Writer’s Guild of Great Britain’ which
supports writers across media including film, online, radio, theatre, TV and
● Competitions – Competitions are set up for screenwriting with cash prizes. Winning
these competitions increases your chances for agents and producers to read your
Section 2: Working as a Writer – The Demands and Requirements
When working as a writer it is important to present your work professionally. This includes
using the correct formatting for the industry they are working in. For example, films and TV
require master scene script format, and radio requires emphasis on things like sound
effects. This is important because any scripts that aren’t formatted correctly will most likely
not be read, and if they are then they won’t be taken seriously.
Being represented by an agent is important because a lot of publishing companies won’t
accept clients unless they have an agent to represent them. Having a well-known and
experienced agent is especially beneficial because they will already have contacts to send on
the work. The amount of pay the agent receives depends on what percentage you and your
agent decide on that they will receive from what you earn due to the work of your agent,
which is usually between 10 and 25%.
Communication while working as a writer is important because most of the time a writer
will be hired by a client to write a script according to the clients needs. Therefore good
communication skills are required to ensure you are writing what the client wants and to
the client’s standards. With poor communication skills the quality of work would be poor
and you would find it difficult to produce what the client wants. Therefore communication
skills are an important and useful skill to have.
Making sure time is divided correctly is very important when writing scripts, especially when
the script has been commissioned and the writer has to work with a whole team of people
that are relying on the script being done at a certain time. Wasting time can cause scripts to
remain unfinished for extensive periods of time. If deadlines aren’t met, it can cause
strained relationships with agents and producers, making it less likely for you to be hired in
Royalty payments are payments that writers will receive from the sales of books and films
along with the use of the script. They are split between the writer, agent and producers and
the payment that the writers receive can be varied.
Being able to collaborate with the directors and producers as a writer is very important. This
is because directors and producers work on relationships and therefore if you have a good
relationship and good collaboration with the team then they are more likely to work with
you again, and if you are known by agents to be collaborative then you will be more likely to
get work elsewhere too. However, if you don’t collaborate well with the team, you will be
known for that too, making it harder for you to get hired elsewhere. A good example of a
3. successful collaborative project between a director and writer is The Apartment (1960)
which was a collaborative project between Billy Wilder and IAL Diamond. They had a good
relationship and the filmreceived incredible ratings with 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, 8.3/10
on IMDb and 4.7/5 on Amazon. The duo had made numerous films together starting with
Live in the Afternoon (1957). Their collaborations led to huge success as in 1980, Diamond
and Wilder were awarded the Writers Guild of America’s Laurel Award for their
screenwriting which wouldn’t have been possible without their collaborations.
Once the script is sold, the writer only has the rights that were agreed with the purchaser.
Writers are rarely ever involved in the actual development of a film however they may
sometimes come on as advisors or as a producer. Although many scripts are sold each year,
many do not make it into production because the amount of scripts that are purchased
every year outnumber the amount of professional directors that are working in the film and
TV industry. Some scripts are optioned which means the production company buys the
rights for a certain period of time with the option of making it. While they hold the rights for
the script, nobody else can produce it.
Section 3: The Scriptwriting Process - Legal and Ethical Considerations
As you work digitally, a date is created in the film and this automatically attaches the
copyright to you and the date. You should always put the copyright symbol and your name
on every page of the script, including the front. You can’t copyright an idea you have, but
you can copyright the script that you write. You can take extra steps such as registering it
with a bank or solicitor and sending it to yourself without opening it to prove its creation
date. Copyright lasts for the life of the writer plus 70 years. An example of copyright is from
the Paramount film What Men Want (2019) which was sued for copyright infringement by
screenwriter Joe Carlini after noticing many similarities between the film and his own script.
The filmwas sued for $72 million which will give Paramount a negative reputation for
Writers have to be very careful when it comes to plagiarism. If their script is too similar to
an existing product, it could be considered plagiarismeven if not intentional. Plagiarism
covers a spectrum from word for word copying to changing some words, to copying ideas
and arguments. The common thread is that copying is dishonest because it is
unacknowledged. Plagiarismcases may be settled via the originator receiving a credit which
makes the eligible for profit. An example of plagiarismis when the Indian scriptwriter Juni
Chaturvedi was accused of plagiarismfor her script in the film Gulabo Sitabo (2020). She
failed to submit her own script to that of one submitted in March 2018 and although she
was innocent, this led to delays and negativity from the public for the film. This could also
damage her reputation for future employment.
Libel refers to writing inaccurate and malicious things about an individual, group or business
in a written text or broadcast. Research by writers must be precise to therefore not to court
legal issues through misinterpretation. To collect damage, individuals must prove actual
malice was intended. An example of libel is a screenwriter for the film What Maisie Knew
(2012) called Carroll Cartwright had a libel suit against him by his former lover claiming she
was falsely and maliciously portrayed in the screenplay saying she was portrayed as a selfish
4. and uncaring mother when in reality she is a devoted and loving parent. Cartwright received
a $3 million libel suit for this which would lead to lower employability in the future and a
When writing fiction, bias is an ethical issue. You may wish to consider how you are
representing different people, groups, events and organisations. Representation is a central
issue in media production and it should always be in your thoughts when you are creating
and writing. If you are writing non-fiction, it becomes even more of an issue.
Writers must consider their intended form and audience when writing scripts. The BBFC
have strict guidelines about what can and can’t be shown on TV, video, games, radio and
film. To make the subject matter appropriate some aspects may need to be censored. This
generally revolves around depictions of violence, sex, language, discrimination and drug use
based on who the audience is and how the material is presented.
In broadcasting, watershed is the point in time after which programmes with adult content
may be broadcasted. It divides the day into the overnight period where family-oriented
programming suitable for children may be aired and where programming aimed at or
suitable for more adult audience is permitted, though not required. It could also mean the
period of time during which adult programmes are broadcasted. Most channels on TV will
have a set time where they will start airing adult programmes, usually around 9PM.