All aspiring screenwriters believe that if they could only sell one great script or even one potential treatment they’d be made for life. After all, once you get your name on one blockbuster writing gigs won’t stop pouring in, right?
Think again. Like any other career, being a screenwriter has its ups and downs. If you don’t believe me, ask the anonymous screenwriter who spoke to Reuters about how his career has gone after his first movie made more than $80 million. But after that success his career eventually went dry and he’s currently working a two-week sales temp job.
How did that happen? The screenwriter explains, “I was doing fine for a while, and then it seemed like after the writers strike, studios and production companies used that as an excuse to cut in-house deals and use that as an excuse not to pay writers for anything.” Plus, with the economy being how it is, many otherwise greenlit projects are being put on hold. That means there are more screenwriters competing for fewer gigs. “A lot of the jobs I used to go up for, A-list, like super A-list writers are going for those jobs right now. In the past, they wouldn’t have. There was enough of every level to go around.” The first type of films to be cut are what the screenwriter calls “middle-ground movies that filled the marketplace,” as it seems most films are either micro-budget or major studio tentpole projects.
He finds that he’s more often being asked to develop a project for free on the hope that a studio will buy it — but if they don’t bite, he’s out of luck. As for the films he’s already done, he admits, “the residuals shrunk up, some projects didn’t turn out like we had hoped they would, a couple of projects went direct to DVD.”
The anonymous subject doesn’t allow the interview to turn into a woe-is-me piece, as he says, “I’m still obviously fighting the good fight and have some projects that are moving forward, but I don’t know if any triggers are going to be pulled. In the meantime, I’m having to do some temp work just to pay the bills.” But it’s important for those in show business (or even those of us who just observe and report about it) that not everyone whose names are listed in the critics is a millionaire. Many of them are struggling just as much as many of us are.
So keep in mind that once you get your big break in the arts the fighting isn’t over… it’s probably just begun!