So you have a great idea for a movie or TV show but don’t have the know-how to write it yourself. What do you do? Hire a screenwriter, of course! But how do you hire a screenwriter? Read on to see the five steps you must take to find a great screenwriter for your project with plenty of helpful pro-tips along the way.
How to Hire a Screenwriter
Step 1: Arrange your information
Before you start looking at potential screenwriters, be sure to get all of your thoughts in order. Decide how much influence and control you want to have over the story and characters. And be sure to always be upfront about all expectations when working with a writer. If you have the idea for a story and need someone else to put it down on the page and flesh it out, then make sure you can clearly communicate your concept.
It may help to write down everything about your idea that comes to mind in a short-form document like a treatment or synopsis. If you have never written one before, be sure to read through our guide on how to write a film treatment like a pro beforehand.
Here is Episode 1 of our TV Writing & Development Masterclass dedicated to writing a treatment.
This is also the best time to decide on things like genre, tone, and theme, which will help to guide the screenwriter when they get started. At this stage, it is also good to determine the level of violence, swearing, and any other potentially censorable content that you want to have in your script.
If you want to take a crack at writing the screenplay yourself, you can use StudioBinder’s screenwriting software. Screenwriting doesn’t have to be intimidating, and it’s free to get started.
screenwriter for hire
Step 2: Seek out screenwriters
There are two main ways that you, as an individual, can find a screenwriter for your project. Note that a studio or established film producer makes use of different methods when hiring a screenwriter, such as hiring through the WGA. As an individual, you can go on the hunt for screenwriters, or you can let them come to you.
For the first approach, you can check your connections and look into the local film community wherever you reside. If you live in a production-heavy location like LA, NYC, Atlanta, or others, you are sure to find screenwriters nearby if you look in the right places. You can attend networking functions and mixers to meet new creatives.
You can also seek out and message screenwriters on film websites like Stage32 or on social media platforms. Some screenwriters will indicate in their social-media bios if they are actively seeking writing gigs.
The second approach, which is typically preferred, is to post a job listing and let the writers approach you. You can post a screenwriting gig on many platforms. Start with the film websites like Stage32, Mandy, Production Hub, Coverfly, Inktip, the ISA (International Screenwriting Organization), and other websites for screenwriters.
Then move on to freelancing websites like Upwork and Fiverr.
There are plenty of good screenwriters on all of these platforms but not everyone who applies is guaranteed to be worth their salt, so be sure to vet them accordingly.
As a last resort, you can also try to post on community boards like Craigslist, but this is less secure and you are less likely to find talented writers this way.
how to find a screenwriter?
What to include in your job posting
Your job posting should describe the format (feature, TV, short) and should include the genre and a bit about the basic premise. A logline is perfect to include if you already have one.
Check out our tips for writing the perfect logline.
Your listing should also include your estimated budget range for the final product and the specific pay that will go to the writer. You will receive the best candidates if your pay is in line with typical screenwriter salaries.
If you have a specific deadline that the script needs to be ready by, be sure to include that in the posting as well. If you have any credentials as a director or producer, those are helpful to include as well.
Here is a pro-tip: do NOT offer deferred pay only. Many screenwriting jobs are posted with no up-front pay but promises of deferred pay once the script is sold or the film is produced and starts making money.
No professional screenwriter wants to work for free and count on deferred pay coming at a later date. Respect the work done by your screenwriter and compensate them for their time.
hire a writer
Step 3: Review the applicants
When screenwriters apply to be the writer for your project, it is common to ask for a resume and/or a list of their credits or past writing experiences. It is also standard for them to include a simple cover letter that introduces themself and their writing style or working preferences/availability.
You can also ask the potential writers to submit links to their IMDb profiles or clips of their writing if it has been produced.
The best way to tell if a writer is a good fit for your project is likely to take a look at a writing sample of theirs. A writing sample can be as short as five pages or as long as a feature film.
You can specify the length and genre of the sample you are looking for, or you can leave it up to the applying writer’s discretion.
Anyone looking to become a paid screenwriter should have at least a couple of writing samples ready to send out at a moment’s notice. Make a shortlist of the applicants that seem like the best fit, then move on to Step Four.
- Write Your Next Script For Free →
- Tips on How to Adapt a True Story →
- How Much do Screenwriters Make? →
movie script writers for hire
Step 4: Interview your shortlist
Set up interviews with your top contenders. These interviews can be conducted over the phone, through a Skype or Zoom call, or even over text or email if you prefer. The following video offers some tips for interviewing writers.
Keep in mind that the video below is focused on interviewing book writers for promotional reasons, but many of the same tips apply when interviewing a screenwriter for a writing gig.
Make sure that you and the writer are on the same page and that expectations have been clearly defined. It is paramount that you and the writer share the same idea for the story at this stage. It is crucial to avoid miscommunication or to leave out any important information this early in the creative process.
If the interview goes well, and the writer seems like a good fit for your project, you can go ahead and make the hire.
screenplay writing services
Step 5: Finalize the gameplan
When hiring the writer, it is best to have a contract in place rather than only a verbal agreement, not just for your sake but for the writer’s as well. If you are worried about your story details leaking beyond this relationship, it is not uncommon to have a screenwriter sign an NDA.
Before you send the writer off to do their job, you should first define a full timeline with deadlines and check-in dates. You can plan these check-ins based on the passage of time or, more commonly, at certain page-count milestones.
It's a good idea to check in with the writer’s progress and give it a look after the first 20-30 pages to make sure the writing is shaping up how you want it to.
It is easier to make broad changes and stylistic pivots earlier in the writing process rather than later.
You and your writer can conveniently and securely share files back and forth using StudioBinder’s file-sharing software when it comes time for these periodic check-ins.
how much does it cost to hire a screenwriter
How to pay for screenwriting services
Similar to script check-ins, payment for screenwriting services also frequently operate on a milestone basis as well. Decide with the writer the best way to handle payment. Transferring portions of the agreed-upon payment at certain page-counts is often ideal.
A sample payment timeline may look like the following:
- Payment Milestone 1: Finished treatment
- Payment Milestone 2: First 20 pages
- Payment Milestone 3: First 50 pages
- Payment Milestone 4: First 90 pages
- Payment Milestone 5: Completed 1st draft
- Payment Milestone 6: 2nd Draft
With all of the previous information established and all of the necessary documentation in place, you are now ready to send your new screenwriter off to do their job, and, hopefully, they’ll return with writing that you love.
Screenwriters Jobs Online
For a deeper dive in finding a screenwriter, you should familiarize yourself with your options online. Research these sites to see what the job market for writers looks like, post your own ads, and let the writers come to you.