As a screenwriter, you probably spend a lot of time wondering about money. More specifically, you’re probably wondering, “How much money does a film writer make a month?” Though there can be a lot of variables involved, it’s usually not a complicated question. But as with many things in life, there’s more than one way to answer it.
Fixed vs. Variable Fees
When you’re first asked this question, you might assume that the answer is straightforward. After all, isn’t screenwriting more or less a commodity? Aren’t most people who do it for a living paid the same, regardless of whether the movie is a hit or a bomb?
The truth is that the money in screenwriting is more complicated than that. The way that a motion picture studio or independent company structures their contracts can have a significant impact on how much you’ll make per screenplay. So it’s important to know the differences between the two types of deals before moving forward.
In most cases, fixed fees refer to a set amount of money that the studio or company paying you will reimburse you for the development and production of the screenplay. In exchange, you give them ownership of the material (i.e., the screenplay) and they have the right to broadcast or show the movie (or series) at some point in the future. Since you don’t own the material, it doesn’t really matter if the film is a dud or a masterpiece; you’re still paid the same amount. However, this is usually not the case, and most screenwriters will tell you that it’s better to have a royalty-free contract.
Usually, when a screenplay is delivered on a royalty-free basis, the money is calculated as a percentage of the overall revenue the film earns. For example, if your screenwriting service is credited with a hit movie that earns $10 million, then you might be entitled to a 10% royalty on that movie.
As the name would suggest, a royalty-free contract states that you don’t have to share the revenue from the sale of the screenplay. In exchange, the studio or company promises to pay you a certain amount of money regardless of the final outcome of the film (e.g., whether it’s a hit or a bomb). As with a fixed fee contract, there’s no room for negotiation; once you have the contract, the only variable is the amount of money you’ll be paid. Having a royalty-free contract can be a good choice if you’re looking for more flexibility or want to avoid committing to a specific amount of money.
Varies By Film
While most screenplay contracts are structured similarly to the ones mentioned above, each project is different. Some production companies and studios have a policy of paying more if the movie is a commercial success and will therefore affect the amount of money you’ll eventually earn. In those situations, it’s best to ask about the fees before you begin work.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the fee structure can vary a lot, so make sure that you know what you’re getting into before you begin writing or working on any script. Knowing how much money you’ll make per screenplay will allow you to determine how much you need to make per month so that you can have enough to pay your bills and save some money for the future.