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What is a screenwriter and what do they do?

You think you know what a screenwriter does – but do you?

Writing for film and television is the dream of many who come together here, but I don’t think we all understand the role of a writer in film and television. You have to be a problem solver, an imagineer, a peacekeeper, a collaborator, a compromise, and many other things.

So today I wanted to spend some time analyzing what it means to be a screenwriter in Hollywood. We look at the definition of the job, a description of the tasks and really look for the answer to “What does a writer do?”

If that sounds like your cup of tea, sit back, relax, and let’s get into one of the funniest, most stressful, and hardest-to-get jobs in the world.

What is a screenwriter and what do they do?

While that sounds like an ethereal task, I thought we’d be better off sticking to a clear definition from the start. To define “screenwriter” we have to look at every aspect of the job.

Screenwriter definition

A screenwriter is someone who works in the craft of entertainment media writing such as movies, TV series, video games, and web series.

Your task is to create or adapt stories for the various media.

Screenwriter or screenwriter?

Screenwriters are also called screenwriters, scenarioists, or screenwriters. In terms of preferred nomenclature, I think it’s always best to go for “screenwriter”.

When in doubt, just say “Author”.

What does a script do?

A screenplay is written by the writer and provides a blueprint for the film, television show, web series, or video game to be produced.

Job description screenwriter

As we covered in the definition, an author’s main job is to create the story for different types of mass media. You’ll need to create characters, build structures, and detail plants and payouts.

But there is so much more.

A screenwriter creates his own stories to sell, and that’s called speccing. They are also tricked into working on their own story studios in need of help, and this is called rewriting or script doctoring.

On television, screenwriters can be part of a writing room that has different levels of staff serving different roles and a showrunner who runs the room and helps with writing while also making business decisions.

Most importantly, you will have to deal with many intangibles on a daily basis. You’ll also need to work with producers, directors, actors, and the studio to make sure you hit the beats you want. You must be a peacekeeper too. You will hear the notes and make sure no one gets upset solving problems with the story you designed or someone else has and which you are currently working on.

But what does a screenwriter do?

You mean besides sitting and writing?

They’ll be there on TV while filming is in progress to answer actors’ character questions. The same goes for movies. They help solve problems by adding story details or adjusting dialogues.

Screenwriters do so many jobs. Not only are you limited to storytelling, but you could work in a large room to help directors break worlds or write backstories for TV docs.

There are many things your day will be made up of – writing, telling a story, going to the set, speaking to tech advisors, rewriting, and more. The role of an author in film and television is constantly changing, and more and more responsibilities are added.

But to get to the beginning of your screenwriting career, you need to do one thing most importantly: complete a great script.

So stop reading and start writing!

What’s next? Get Our Free Screenwriting eBook!

Much of what we talk about on No Film School when it comes to screenwriting is summarized in our new eBook. It also helps walk you through a 10 week writing schedule that will actually finalize your script.

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