Scripts are the foundation upon which any film project is created. Without them, there is no story, no film, and no final product. That means that the producers of the world looking to invest in and bank off of unique and compelling stories have to pay a significant amount to access that level of talent.
The typical selling price for a spec script is approximately $110,000. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) sets distinct minimums for various projects, such as brief TV episodes, movie script sales, and high-budget feature films, ensuring that compensation corresponds with the nature and scale of the work.
But let’s be honest, trying to answer “How much is my script worth” is a really tough question to answer in a single sentence or two.
For example, a feature length film will cost more than a short film or TV episode, and a first-time writer will make significantly less on a sale than an established industry veteran. Most screenplay writers have fixed rates for each type of script, so as long as you know where you stand in the marketplace, you can set reasonable expectations for projected paydays.
Cost Breakdown by Type of Script
Typically, a feature length film is between 90 to 120 pages long, or between 90 and 120 minutes on-screen. This is your standard feature film. For this type of screenplay, the Writer’s Guild of America pays anywhere from around $70,000 and upwards of $150,000, meaning the average feature film script clocks in at just over $100,000.
Keep in mind: this calculation is based on professional screenwriters who are represented by the most established organizations in the business. In other words, this represents the ceiling of what the very best writers stand to make.
For an amateur screenwriter, or someone who writes as a hobby with no history of bought or produced projects, you’ll realistically only make pennies to the dollar. It takes a lot of work, patience, and diligence to establish the kind of relationships and reputation that earns you over 6 figures for one script, and it is a very long road to get there.
A road often filled with writing assignments with 1 or 2 fewer zeroes!
In contrast, television episodes vary greatly in length, as they can be anywhere between 22 to 60 minutes long. And that’s just traditional TV! Thanks to streaming, episodes now can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as 2 hours.
Like film scripts, episodic TV scripts vary greatly in price but generally fall within a similar window as film. Shorter episodes tend to cost less but some writers have a fixed episode rate and charge per episode while others will have a fixed rate to produce all episodes for a series or season.
Very generally speaking, TV episode scripts garner between $50,000 and $120,000 per episode based on WGA minimums. Again, this is based on established writers who have existing networks and reputations within the business. For anyone trying to break in, they stand to make far less until their reputation precedes them.
Short films are extremely popular, particularly amongst up-and-coming filmmakers, as they can be made for significantly less than their feature-length counterparts. Short films can be as short as two minutes long or as long as 50 minutes so the scope of possibility is large.
Because short films are more often made independently and without the support of Guilds or unions, this is a much more amorphous sector for script valuation. It’ll be significantly less than film or TV and extremely dependent on overall budget. Expect as little as $100 for a short film script or as much as $100,000 depending on the project.
Related Celtx Article: How to Write a Short Film Script [9 Highly Effective Tips]
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Commercials are their own beasts. By nature they are nearly always less than 1 minute longer, however, they are often very costly to produce.
Like all projects on this list, the price of a commercial script is dependent on the scriptwriter’s portfolio. If a writer has lots of experience in the field and has had many successful projects sold or produced, then the cost will automatically go up. For a commercial, just like a short film, expect anything from $100 to $50,000 depending on the project.
Where to Buy or Sell Scripts
Now that we’ve established how much a script costs, you need to know where to sell these scripts.
One option that is accessible to all is to go on freelancing platforms such as Fiverr, Contra, or Upwork. These platforms have hundreds of writers offering their services . You can chat with buyers and sellers alike, that way you can find the best match for your project.
The catch here is that selling your script services as a “freelancer” means your rates will need to be significantly lower than those outlined above. Those spectrums are based on established writers with representation and proper Guild membership; using a freelance platform almost always means you won’t have any of those credentials and your rate will need to be lowered accordingly.
For those of you who are more experienced in the film industry, there are associations that exist, such as the Writer Guild of America, where writers and people in the film industry can buy, sell, and commission scripts. La creme de la creme of writers, or well established scriptwriters in the industry, can be found there but there is usually a members fee and stricter guidelines for pricing.
Another thing to consider is that there are two options for buying or selling scripts. Either you buy or sell a script that has already been written, or you commission a writer to transform your idea into a script. It completely depends on what your vision or project is. This will also affect the cost of the script.
Related Celtx Article: 7 Ways to Make a Good Short Film Script Great
The spectrum of script costs couldn’t be wider given how many elements factor into it. The cost of a script will depend on the type of script you are writing, how long it needs to be, who the potential buyers are, whether or not you’ve sold any projects in the past, the depth of your portfolio, and a laundry list of other considerations.
For a seasoned writer with a few notches in their belt, you can expect well into the 5-figures but it’s going to be a long road to get there. That’s why Celtx is excited to help you get there with our huge library of free and education blog content, and a free software to help you cut your teeth at your craft.
There’s a lot of money to be made as a writer but few are willing to put in the work to get there. Think you have what it takes?