How to Hire a Screenwriter

You may have a great idea you’ve thought about for a while. It sounds good in your head, but translating that idea into details isn’t as easy as it seems. Perhaps you even have it all down already in an interesting novel sample. However, turning that into film is something entirely different. 

You quickly learn how hard it is to be a good screenwriter. But you can’t make a movie without a script. So what to do?

The Writer’s role in the filmmaking process

He bridges the gap between actual film and hard-to-capture concepts. A screenwriter offers professional and proven expertise that beginners can rely on for a movie making formula that works.

Additionally, many hire screenwriters to distribute the burden of screenwriting or when they are unable to do the writing themselves for one reason or the other. Maybe you’re in a hurry. The pressures of your day job or social life make it impossible to set aside time for your film. You’re juggling making a movie with other responsibilities in your life. 

A pair of extra and qualified hands help you shoulder some of the most important tasks of film. That frees you up for personal responsibilities or gives you more time to handle other aspects of moviemaking that you need to take care of as well.

In terms of what a screenwriter brings to the table, there are quite a number of things. For example, your story contains numerous elements that you need to bring together in an organized fashion. That entails diverse scenes, characters, locations, and costumes, to name a few. You need to merge all these elements and more to ensure a story that flows coherently and avoids a start-stop plot that constantly breaks away from the illusion. 

A screenwriter can blend all these aspects into a compelling story that makes sense and entertains. In a nutshell, a screenwriter’s most important role is to turn your story into a good screenplay, where the birth of every good movie starts.

A screenwriter also works the visual elements to inspire emotion and set your movie’s tone. Additionally, he gives the movie a sound sense with his way of writing. 

Generically, the screenwriter fashions believable characters, weaves compelling plot points, guides essential character development, and adheres to basics of filmmaking that you may not be aware of. A screenwriter is crucial to the filmmaking process, and hiring a good one is the first step to any successful movie. 

How much does it cost to hire a screenwriter?

If you’ve decided to outsource your writing, then the next question on your mind probably revolves around the amount of money it’ll set you back. How much you’re going to pay a screenwriter depends on several things. Most importantly, experience and track record and if they’re registered with the WGA. 

The writer’s guild has an MBA that governs amounts paid out to screenwriters. It stipulates certain minimum rates for screenwriters, usually around at least $5,000 a week, depending on the scope and budget of your project. Eventually, you may pay a screenwriter between 2 and 5% of the project budget. It may take a writer between 6 and 12 weeks, sometimes even up to four months if the storyline is complex, to come up with the first draft.

A good writer with produced credits may set you back between $5,000 and $15,000 a week. Inexperienced screenwriters aiming to earn their maiden paid credits, and with a handful of screenplays to their name, may cost up to $5,000 or at least $2,000. 

For studio-level writers new to the guild, they may set you back the MBA rate plus an additional 10%. For more established professionals with a lot more experience, the overscale may shoot up to 50%. Some writers may also work on a periodic wage that ties in with a film’s duration. For instance, you may get asked for a standard rate of about $45 per minute of film. Premium writers may offer a charge rate that’s a little bit higher. 

How to contact a screenwriter


Upwork is a one-stop marketplace for a variety of needs across different industries, curating professionals from across the globe. Be it a graphic designer, web developer, or screenwriter, there’s a whole lot of options for basically anything and everything. Many professional filmmakers have sourced talent for their movies, including actors, from Upwork. 

With a vast network at the disposal of users, Upwork offers plenty of screenwriters to choose from. You can narrow down what you’re looking for in line with budget considerations, the genre of your movie, experience, among other preferences you may have.

You’ll need to create an account first on Upwork if you don’t have one or simply bypass that by logging in with an existing Google account. To get a curation of the best screenwriters the platform has to offer, simply look up screenwriters in the search filter. 

The platform will present you with a selection of the best writers they have, including personal details and what they’re charging for the services. Typically, freelance screenwriters work on an hourly rate on Upwork, which varies between 30$ to $100. A decent writer seems to cost an average of $60. Each screenwriter is ranked on a 5-star system.

The great thing about looking for a screenwriter on Upwork is that it’s easy to figure out if they’re the right one for you, and there are endless options. You can sample profiles and past works of your potential hires, taking into account reviews from past clients and other accomplishments. 

Profiles also include the genre of specialization, total jobs performed, location, and a breakdown of the writer’s skills. Simply create a job post, describe the details of the project and screenwriters will apply for it. You can then interview screenwriters and determine who’s the right fit for you. 

Facebook forums

There are plenty of social media forums where screenwriters hurdle up to discuss projects, industry pointers, among other subject matters. You too can join in and figure out from the members who you’d like to approach for the job.

Maybe pose in the guise of “you’re doing it for a friend” then feel out the people there for a couple of days. Perhaps ask for a couple of ideas on a screenplay you’re working on to test the waters.

Work out their expertise and determine if there’s someone on the forum you can work with.

One particular group you can look into is Writers Helping Writers. Close to 50,000 people follow it and the group unites all sorts of writers spearheaded by a best-selling author. It consequently offers a huge network of professionals and the perfect one for your movie may just be around that corner. 

The forum updates daily, offering cool insider tips and tools that may even convince you to do your own writing. You’ll probably need to side chat individual members via direct message because on-platform advertising is frowned upon. 

Consider the Facebook underground of Writers Unite! as well. Novice screenwriters often stretch their muscles here. If you’re looking for raw talent that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, this might just be the place to find it. The group brings together fiction writers who regularly air their work for the passionate and, of course, to catch the eye of a talent seeker. 

The forum was created in 2007 and it’s a private group with about 10,000 members. You’ll have to send a request to join before you can talk with anyone. Luckily, requests are almost always approved. 

Screenwriting forums

Screenwriting forums on the interwebs can also be gold mines for talent. One good place to start looking would be The Black List. The website encompasses both guild and non-guild writers. Via various policies of use, the forum sees to it that screenwriters regularly submit their works to maintain membership. 

Users upload scripts for evaluation every so often while readers are even paid to rate the work. The Black List focuses on writers and advancing their careers. You can join as a screenwriter or as an industry professional such as a financer, manager, director, producer, agent, etc.

Another forum worth your time is Script Mother. You can create an account for free and begin your search straight away as opposed to The Black List where you’ll need to wait a while for application processing. 

Script mother is a screenwriting forum where writers go head to head in various competitions that recognizes the most well-written scripts. 

A community of writers judges the quality of works, which are ranked on a points system. The best scripts are highlighted in award categories. You can get a screenwriter across any experience level you desire and across a diverse range of specialties including feature-length screenplay, poetry, short film, and TV series.

Alternatively, you can look for a forum that outrightly offers job opportunities to screenwriters. That way, you get straight down to business without beating about the bush. However, the best place to find talent would be a forum for screenwriting enthusiasts where passion often outweighs the need to impress.

You’re more likely to find natural talent, and at a cheaper rate, away from job boards who also tend to contribute to price inflations with their commission cuts. 

Contacting agents

Some screenwriters, professional ones especially, have an agent who manages the business side of things so they can focus on other things. You can reach out to these agents to get the screenwriter you’d like. The great thing about screenwriters who have an agent is that they tend to be more established professionals. Serious writers usually have someone taking care of intermediary chores. 

It shows commitment and speaks to the level of belief in their talent if they have representation. Having an agent is equivalent to third-party endorsement of the writer’s talent given that the majority of agents work on a percentage commission from the writer’s projects. That’s usually about 10% of the screenwriter’s cut or thereabouts. So you probably won’t need to worry about agent fees as the screenwriter takes care of those from his own pocket.

Getting in touch with agents can be challenging. You can reach out to your state or local film commission for assistance. They probably have a record of screenwriters in the area and beyond who they’ve worked with and their agents. 

They’ll be more than happy to help especially if you’re going to make the film locally. The writer’s guild can also help you out with agent contacts. You may also get contact information for past directors and producers who can recommend a good screenwriter for your film.

If a limited budget means you need to save expenses at all costs, try local universities and colleges. Reach out to the writing department and sit down for talent discussions with the professors or teachers. Offer a part-time job or internship to the student body.

They tend to burn the midnight oil in search of course credits, and you’ll probably pay them a lot less than you would an established screenwriter. While admittedly still mostly unproven, you’d be surprised at the sort of gems you can unearth in the unlikeliest of places.  

What to look for in the hiring process

Review their expertise

You’d want to get someone who knows what they’re doing. While paid credits aren’t always entirely accurate as a measure of a screenwriter’s prowess, they do speak to some expertise. It helps to go over the past works of your candidates, so you can get a feel of their abilities. If they have done anything of that magnitude before, then they surely have a couple of personal projects they’ve been working on. You can ask to see some of those. 

That said, it’s also prudent to fashion a sample test for a concept of say about three pages just to be sure. This serves to test originality and spontaneous creativity and to see if their skills back up their track record. Someone can hand in a friend’s work and claim it as their own.

Professional and proven writers may be your natural inclination, but those certainly don’t come cheap. So don’t be afraid to give little-known names the chance as well. After all, the best writers in the game were once novices at one point. 

In such cases, academic backgrounds and other professional achievements thus far will be your yardstick of quality. You can also ask the writer for references as well, but be sure to determine the relationship between referees so you can ascertain an unbiased assessment.

A WGA membership can also be relied upon as a screenwriter’s gauge of quality. But the lack of it shouldn’t dissuade you from considering candidates. Aside from the monetary requirements, a writer needs to have worked on a project with a signatory company to be eligible to join the WGA. So being a member substantiates a writer’s experience in a professional work environment.

Consider your film budget

Your film’s budget also obviously dictates the kind of screenwriter you’re going to hire. If you have a little bit more money to spare and would like a WGA professional, then it’s not going to be cheap. WGA writers generally tend to cost a lot more than non-guild writers.

They bring a certain level of substantiated professionalism and proven expertise to the table without a doubt. But that doesn’t mean that WGA is always the best way to go. You can get lucky with a talented amateur on his way to the top who’ll cost you a fraction of the WGA ranges. In rare cases, you may even get yourself a full-feature film written for a couple of hundreds of dollars.

Anyway, as a general rule of thumb, remember that you’re going to pay an expert screenwriter about 5% of your film’s budget. So whatever you’ve worked out as your budget, factor in an additional 5% on there for this cost. If your budget is $200,000, ask yourself if you can afford to part with $10,000 on screenwriting expenses. 

If not, you can try looking into less expensive sourcing options such as writing seminars. Better yet, slate an advertisement in an entertainment trade paper, stipulating how much money you are willing to pay a screenwriter.

A tight budget means you have to assess your options. Schools and internships are an excellent source of affordable talent, and the same goes for screenwriting forums, which are usually not devoid of talent looking to break into the industry. Remember as well that WGA rates also go up with the size of the budget. You’ll pay a WGA screenwriter a lot less for a low-budget film (defined as less than $5 million) compared to the rates of a high-budget movie.

What is the writer’s preferred genre? 

While some writers juggle between multiple genres, most are usually set on a specific road of storytelling. Should you go with a versatile writer who can intertwine genres or stick to one with a specialization in the area of your desire? Of course, the screenwriter you’ll go with needs to be at least familiar with your genre.

Advisably, they should have completed works in the area. A couple of paid credits in that category would be a huge plus. A specialized writer brings more expertise to the table having focused on a singular area. However, a generalized screenwriter also shows great versatility and a depth of creativity.

One who is familiar with the film niche of your choice is preferred for complex projects that require an insider’s knowledge. If you’d like a cinema verite movie made in the likeness of The Blair Witch Project, for example, you’d want someone who has experience writing these sorts of movies. Various categories of cinema require different levels of understanding. A horror screenwriter may not be the best at romantic comedy and vice versa. Sometimes, a specialized writer is the best way to go.

On the other hand, being different is not always bad. Some great movies have broken the rules of genre writing and they have more than got away with it, turning into successful epics that rocked the box office. If yours is cutting through multiple themes, you’d want a writer that has experience across the various divides. Someone who can bring all these different aspects together in a way that not only works but thrives. 

Can you work with this person?

All qualifications aside, the other important question you need to be asking yourself when interviewing screenwriters for your project is compatibility. 

  • Are they easy to work with? 
  • Can they work on their own without supervision? 
  • Or do you need to be watching over their shoulders to get anything done? 
  • Does he even believe in your idea first of all? 

The best writer in the world offers very little if he is not buying into your project. So establish your vision first and ensure your potential hire also believes in it and isn’t just doing it solely for the money. Passion for the task is an essential ingredient of great writing. Perhaps ask your screenwriter to elaborate on what he likes about the concept.

You can also have a test project to figure out personalities. Perhaps a short spec to test the waters before you completely dive in. A good screenwriter is willing to accept corrections, although that’s not to say that he should be a pushover. He should also be fast, have a clear outline and timeline for completing the project.

A lack of any substantial roadmap is an indication of disorganization and an absence of commitment. Before putting pen to paper, a good screenwriter will have you in the know of possible completion dates and when you can expect your first draft.

We all have different personalities, some more volatile than others. Determine if your personalities blend or they’re like oil and water. It’s hard to work with someone who you can’t stand because of one habit or the other.

The trial run we were talking about offers this opportunity to get to know your screenwriter beyond the superficial level of a sterling CV. Otherwise, you may call it quits way into the project when you’ve already spent a great deal of money and have to start from scratch. 

A sort of trial phase, even one as simple a day out discussing locations, for example, can tell you what you need to know. Protection Status