Posted by: steveonfilm | April 22, 2009

The other kind of screenwriting

I’ve mentioned a few times before I have friends who are actually “in the business.” They’re not superstars or anything, but they do aget paid to write for a living. At first I thought all their money came from writing spec scripts, or being hired to write an IP, and then just managing their money carefully until the next project came along. Little did I know their main revenue stream was coming mostly from something else…rewrites.

A discussion with my friend a few weeks ago opened this up for me. I had always know that “script doctors” worked on things. But I always thought it was just someone the director liked working with, to change a few things to be in line with how the director wanted to approach things. What I didn’t know was that writers were brought in to revise as little as two scenes, or maybe just a line of dialog.

The pay on this sort of thing can vary by project. Hired to do a complete uncredited rewrite? That can be high six figure work. Just a few pages? Might be as “little” as ten grand.

Variety had a story today about some of Tom Cruise’s script doctors. You can read it by clicking here. Evidently, there have been some massive amounts of dough shelled out in rewrite fees for custom projects. Millions of dollars. And it’s easy to see how. Variety says that the script doctors Cruise uses “have been making as much as $250,000 a week, for two to six weeks.” Four weeks? That’s a million bucks right there.

So if you don’t think you can make it as a feature writer, don’t give up. There is highly lucrative career in rewriting. As my friend put it, “Some of the best writers in Hollywood have never been credited for any of their work.” Sure, you don’t get your name in lights, but can you really notice the marquee when you whiz past in your Mercedes S Class?

Enjoy.
-Steve

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