In my last blog post about quotes, I talked about how a writer’s compensation typically increases over time, in the same way most other professionals slowly build a salary history over the length of their careers through increasing levels of expertise and proven results.
Today, let’s break down how a writer actually gets paid out when they sell a script.
Screenwriting, in a lot of ways, is a fairly unique profession. Unlike a more traditional job at an office, or a retail store, or a school, a screenwriter’s job has a workflow that can vary greatly, unpredictable payment schedules, and a lot of effort put into a lot of opportunities that don’t go anywhere. And, on top of all that, there’s no clear professional ladder to climb; high-level success requires intangible components like luck and good timing in addition to perseverance, hard work, and quality output.
One way in which screenwriting isn’t so different from other professions is that salary history comes into play when it comes to the money you earn.
In a previous post, I wrote about the Writers Guild of America labor union, which most professional screenwriters end up joining sooner or later when they do enough work on guild-signatory projects. But what about all the writers that work on non-guild projects and don’t have the protections of the WGA in place?
At the very beginning of most entertainment contracts, there’s an important section called the conditions precedent. It tends to get overlooked because there are way more interesting sections like the compensation, credit, and perks like premiere tickets, but the conditions precedent is a critical area that shouldn’t be ignored.
In order to make sure everyone’s on the same page for these blog posts, I think it’s important to outline some definitions that will be used frequently in my posts. A lot of these are taken from the Writers Guild of America‘s (WGA’s) Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), with some other thrown in. Please keep in mind these are just general definitions and many will be elaborated upon in later blog posts.