Dark Times for Screenwriters?

Paul Guyot pointed me to Nikki Finke’s column in the LA Weekly. She says that it’s bleak for feature film  screenwriters these days:

“These jobs,” said the admittedly depressed literary agent, “just
disappeared.” A manager joins the pity party and describes a litany of
givebacks by his scribbling clients: free treatments, free rewrites,
free polishes and/or free script-doctoring — all done with the hollow
hope that the studio will give these schmucks with Underwoods a paying
gig sooner rather than never. As for those sparse scribes offered real
pay for projects, they’re buckling under studio demands by cutting
their usual and customary by 30 percent. “It’s the bewildering nature
of the business right now that nobody has a quote. It’s a quote-free
system,” an agent describes.

In a word, it stinks out there for
screenwriters, worse even than the fetid stench of the usual shit flung
at them in previous years. These aren’t wannabes, either. These are
some of the top names in the biz. “I am fucking terrified,” a major
scribe tells me about his year of not getting any work. “I can’t
believe my career is ending like this.”

It’s no wonder so many of them are running to television and narrowing the opportunities even further for TV scribes…

6 thoughts on “Dark Times for Screenwriters?”

  1. Mr. Wheeler,
    If you check the stock market, you’ll see that prices are all up. Profits are rocketing up at companies across the country. And wages are stagnating, pensions are being scrapped, and benefits are getting slashed. Where’s the money going? To the stockholdes and the top executives. We’re in the middle of one of the biggest transfers of wealth in the history of this nation — so the fact it’s happening in this busines certainly should come as a surprise.

  2. Bigby, you are quite right. A friend, retired now from Business Week, has been keeping tabs on the pirates. Studies have indicated that CEOs of large companies now earn 400 to 500 times what the average worker makes; back in the 1960s, the golden age of the United States, those CEOs made 60 to 80 times what the average worker made. The CEOs and their immediate subordinates have walked away with the loot, screwing stockholders, and talented employees. Why are screenwriters, who conceive of the very stories that these companies produce, being hurt? The top dogs are walking away with the profits.

  3. It’s articles like this that make me grateful to be a novelist. Four million dollars is considered the VERY TOP pay for a screenwriter? Has anyone noticed that the very top novelists (Cornwell, King, Crichton) are probably making twice that per book? And these novelists can be assured of seeing their work in print every time they finish a project, because they don’t have to rely on the whole complicated production process that goes into a movie. Write the book, get paid, and BAM — that baby is assured of showing up on bookstore stands. As long as a top novelist can keep it up, and his fans keep buying his books, he’ll have a career till he keels over at his desk.


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