Screenwriter

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Screenwriters write the stories for feature films, TV programmes and computer games.

Salary range: Variable

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How to become a screenwriter

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by private training providers
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University

You could do a degree or postgraduate qualification in creative writing, English or journalism, but this is not essential.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in any subject for a postgraduate course

More information

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College

When you’re starting out you may find it useful to take a college course to help develop your skills and understand dramatic structure. Courses are available in:

  • creative writing
  • scriptwriting

These are also often available as short courses in adult education centres and at some universities.

Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements for this route.

More information

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Direct application

If you want to get directly into this job, you may have an advantage if you have writing and storytelling experience from another field like journalism, advertising copywriting or acting.

You’ll normally start by coming up with your own screenplays and ideas, and trying to sell them to agents and producers. Once you’ve had some work accepted and started to build a professional reputation, producers might then commission you to produce scripts for them.

Other routes

You could take short courses in screenwriting run by film schools, regional screen agencies and private training providers.

More information

Career tips

As a new writer, you could get yourself noticed by entering screenwriting competitions. These competitions are run by broadcasters and regional screen agencies to discover new talent.

You can also find advice about submitting your work to the BBC at BBC Writers Room.

Further information

You can get more advice on writing careers in film and TV from ScreenSkills.

You can get more information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of English language
  • excellent written communication skills
  • persistence and determination
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day activities may include:

  • coming up with themes and ideas
  • researching background material
  • developing believable plots and characters
  • laying out the screenplay to an agreed format
  • preparing short summaries of your ideas 
  • selling your ideas or ‘pitching’ to producers
  • getting feedback on your work from producers or script editors
  • rewriting the script before arriving at an agreed version
  • networking with agents and producers
  • handling your own tax and accounts, if freelance

Working environment

You could work in an office, from home, at a film studio, at a TV studio or on a film set.

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Career path and progression

Your career will depend on how successful you are, and how popular your work is.

You could combine writing with other work like teaching, lecturing or editing.