How Much Does a Script Cost in the Market
Every aspiring screenplay writer looking to make a career out of their passion has one overpowering and sometimes anxiety-inducing question in their mind: Will I be able to make a living out of this? Scriptwriting is a craft honed with training, practice and patience, and with the ubiquitous and everlasting demand for entertainment, it is not a craft with a depleting market. There are several methods to calculate how much your script is worth in the market and what prices you can fetch.
However, the cost boils down to the type of script you have written, how established you are in the field, the budget for the film, TV show or another audio-visual medium, and whether you were recruited or are practising as a freelancer or ghostwriter. Whether you are freshly joining the throng of screenwriters within the industry and attempting to establish yourself alongside your competitors or a seasoned writer trying to understand and calculate your professional worth, information regarding the market value of scripts is essential. Within a dynamic market, knowledge of the base rates aids in valuation within a dynamic market while working on your script and negotiating when selling it. You deserve to understand your worth and get paid for the efforts of your labour!
In India, the average base salary for a salaried scriptwriter across demographics is ₹4.85 Lakhs per year, with the range beginning from around ₹3.5 Lakhs for an entry-level writer with less than a year of experience. On the other hand, different scripts have different rates if bought on a project basis. According to several prominent Indian scriptwriters, you can earn between ₹10-15 Lakh for a feature-length film project as a first-time writer. For the second script, you can jump to ₹25 lakh, and from there, it can go up to ₹75 Lakh to over a Crore per project.
However, this amount varies greatly depending on the language and length of the film, especially whether it is classified as a Bollywood film or not, because the former will necessitate a higher pay. For example, the market price range for Marathi-language movies begins at ₹2 Lakh per script but can go significantly higher. Rates change from country to country, especially within nations which boast established guilds for registered professions, such as the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA). The WGA publishes a yearly “Schedule of Minimums,” detailing the minimum prices they require their members to charge, divided based on feature films ($77,495 – $145,469), TV scripts ($5,052 – $57,480/episode) as well as script rewrites ($25,424 – $38,759). However, not every screenwriter is represented by a union and experiences the benefits of having an officially mandated compensation further negotiated by an assigned agent or manager.
Similarly, the Screenwriters Association (SWA), formerly known as the Film Writers’ Association, in India is a trade union of screenwriters and lyricists who are employed within the sphere of digital media entertainment within India primarily for film and TV. They have also published a Minimum Rate Card for such professionals who are registered members of the union, which is strongly recommended. However, SWA is yet to have this rate card
approved by FWICE as Minimum Basic Wages or agreed upon by the Producer Bodies as a part of the Minimum Basic Contracts. As elucidated previously, compensation structures for scriptwriters are heavily dependent upon the budget for the project, and the rate card follows that standard:
● (Minimum) INR 9 lakh for a production budget below INR 5 crore.
● (Minimum) INR 18 lakh for a production budget of INR 5-15 crore.
● (Minimum) INR 27 lakh for a production budget above INR 15 crore.
However, suppose the script is written as a group or a team rather than individually, with it being segregated into the various components of dialogue, screenplay and story. In that case, the scriptwriting fee will be split into thirds and given based on the component contribution. Such factors immensely affect the market value for the scripts, which vary over time as well.
For Indian television, scriptwriting is further broken down into Fiction Programming Compensation (One Hour Serial or Half An Hour Serial) and Non-Fiction Programming Compensation. Within the market value for scripts of one-hour serials, it is divided into the creator (INR 15,000/per episode minimum), episodic or broad story creator (INR 30,000 minimum), and screenplay writer (INR 30,000 minimum), and dialogue writer (INR 30,000 minimum). The rates are halved for the half an hour serial compensation. In Non-Fiction Programming, it is divided into the Episodic Theme or Concept fee per episode, dialogue script, and pilot script, which all range from INR 20,000 to INR 30,000, based on the length of each episode.
Due to unequal bargaining power, writers have historically been unable to negotiate contracts that could offer them fair terms based on mutuality. But with this knowledge on your hands of how much a script can be sold for in the market, primarily if specific associations represent you, you can go forth and conquer the film industry as a screenwriter. Your words and craft have an immense impact, and you deserve to be compensated fairly for it!