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Screenwriting is a passion. I’m well aware of it since I myself have written six feature scripts within the last ten years and a seventh one is brewing somewhere in the back of my head.
But I also have a confession to make: I think my chances of ever selling a script and moving on to a professional level of screenwriting is just about zero. Or, more precisely, about 500,000 to 1, at best.
How did I come up with that number? Easy.
Every year about 50,000 feature scripts get registered with WGA (Writer’s Guild of America),which acts as the main repository of feature scripts in America. The average “float time” of a script is about 10 years. A script (if good enough) is circulated, considered, talked about, optioned, “packaged,” “attached to” this director or that talent, for about 10 years.
This means, at any given time, about 500,000 feature scripts are floating around. That’s how I came up with that 500,000-to-1 number.
And don’t forget – this calculation assumes that all movies are shot from feature scripts registered with WGA – not! There are a lot of books and stage plays that are made into blockbuster movies every year. Plus, there are those unregistered scripts that find their way into the pipeline. When you count those options too, your chances of selling a single script will really drop down to something like 1 million to 1!
And even when you take your chances and send in your latest script it’ll be treated only as a “business card.” Instead of receiving a check, you’ll get the question: “What else you’ve got?” Script writer William Martell (who has 19 scripts made into movies) says you need to have at least 9 movies circulating around at any one time to expect to make a single sale.
So is it a wonder that most screen writers do it as a second job and as a work of love while they try to pay their bills by doing something else?
And that’s precisely what I want to ask – if as a screen writer you’re going to do something else anyways to pay your bills, why not try technical writing? There is a great demand for technical writers especially in large metropolitan areas with industry and commerce, and moreover, anybody can do it!
Just look at me – I did not even speak a single word of English until I was 13. But I earned a solid living for the last 10 years as a technical writer in the software industry. If I can do it, don’t you think you can do it too?
Check out the facts:
According to the latest Society of Technical Communication salary survey, technical writers in the United States made an average of $60,850 in 2006.
The average salary went all the way up to $88,630 in San Jose, CA.
In Nevada, top 10% of technical writers made $114,950 in 2006. In New Hampshire, the top 10% earned $98,120.
Give it a thought. It might the best thing you’ll ever do as a professional writer to support your self and your family while continuing to write your screenplays in the evenings and weekends. That way your astronomically low chances of making it to Hollywood won’t hurt as much because you’d still be taking care of yourself and your family.