Most screenwriters work on a freelance basis, contracting with production companies for individual projects. Those who work for television may contract with a TV production company for a certain number of episodes or seasons.
The first step to getting a screenplay produced is to write a letter to the script editor of a production company describing yourself, your training, and your work. Ask if the editors would be interested in reading one of your scripts. You should also pursue a manager or agent by sending a brief letter describing your project. A list of agents is available from the Writers Guild of America (WGA). If you receive an invitation to submit more, you will then prepare a synopsis or treatment of the screenplay, which is usually from one to 10 pages. It should be in the form of a narrative short story, with little or no dialogue.
Whether you are a beginning or experienced screenwriter, it is best to have an agent, since studios, producers, and stars often return unsolicited manuscripts unopened to protect themselves from plagiarism charges. Agents provide access to studios and producers, interpret contracts, and negotiate deals.
It is wise to register your script (online registration is $10 for members, $25 for nonmembers) with the Writers Guild of America. Although registration offers no legal protection, it is proof that on a specific date you came up with a particular idea, treatment, or script. You should also keep a detailed journal that lists the contacts you've made, including the people who have read your script.
Competition is stiff among screenwriters, and a beginner will find it difficult to break into the field. More opportunities become available as a screenwriter gains experience and a reputation, but that is a process that can take many years. Rejection is a common occurrence in the field of screenwriting. Most successful screenwriters have had to send their screenplays to numerous production companies before they find one who likes their work.
Once they have sold some scripts, screenwriters may be able to join the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Membership with the WGA guarantees the screenwriter a minimum wage for a production and other benefits such as arbitration. Some screenwriters, however, writing for minor productions, can have regular work and successful careers without WGA membership.
Those screenwriters who manage to break into the business can benefit greatly from recognition in the industry. In addition to creating their own scripts, some writers are also hired to "doctor" the scripts of others, using their expertise to revise scripts for production. If a film proves very successful, a screenwriter will be able to command higher payment, and will be able to work on high-profile productions. Some of the most talented screenwriters receive awards from the industry, most notably the Academy Award for best original or adapted screenplay.
Tips for Entry
Attend film school and major in screenwriting. Apply for internships at film production companies.
Enter your screenplay in screenwriting contests, and look for specialized contests such as the WGA's Feature Writer Access Project (https://www.wga.org/members/programs/feature-writer-access-project) and TV Writer Access Project (https://www.wga.org/members/programs/tv-writer-access-project).
Attend film festivals to network with film industry professionals. Visit https://www.filmfestivals.com for more information.
Consider hiring an agent to help you promote your work. A list of agents is available from the Writers Guild of America.
Look for jobs and/or market your services at Mandy.com.