It depends whether you’re being paid by a penniless director just out of film school or someone more established.
But there are some factors that do tend to feed in reliably…
Crudely put, it all depends on a combination of:
- How much you are in demand as a writer – how ‘hot’ you are
- The quality of the script
- How ‘hot’ the script is – (not the same as how good the script is)
- The budget of the movie (you usually end up with about 2% of that, but it’s a fiendish calculation that is highly negotiable)
- The size and quality of the production company
- Which country you are in
- Whether you are writing a tv show or a movie.
Just to pull a figure out of the air – and independent movie made here in the UK with a name star and a good, in demand, director could make you £30,000 - £40,000 for the script.
Agents always tell me the fee tends to be 1 or 2% of the entire production budget – but there are so many variables attached to that it’s kind of hard to say.
I guess, if I were to sell a script in the UK, with my level of experience, and it was to the average UK company, not a big American outfit, I’d expect between $60 and $100K, if that helps.
TV writers in the UK earn between £8K and upwards of £50K per hour of drama, depending on how successful they are, with the bulk of writers earning around £10-15k per hour.
With these kind of figures floating around, screenwriting can be a very, very desirable job indeed...