Monday, July 11, 2011

How Many Working Writers Are There?

I was just reading through the Writer's Guild of America's financial statement and something grabbed me.  (Okay, I was procrastinating - you caught me.)

In 2010 there were only 1,615 feature film screenwriters working in Hollywood.  That number kind of sounds big doesn't it?

There are about 700 movies made a year in the US (about half of those are released theatrically).

Still sounds kind of ample, doesn't it?

Now compare that to the roughly 6 million school teachers, 1 million plumbers and 1.2 million lawyers working in the country and a writer can start to feel pretty special or pretty freaked out.

More numbers:  Half of Half of Half...

Last time I checked, the union had about 12,000 in its ranks.

Roughly half of those are in the West.  And of that number, roughly half of those are television writers.

That means that there are about 3,000 "active" (meaning recently employed) feature film screenwriters in Hollywood.

Slightly more than half of those are employed in 2010.  1,615 of us to be exact.

What I'm trying to impress on you is this:  There are a lot easier ways of making money.

Yes, a lucky and talented few earn amounts rivaling small State Lotteries, but your odds of doing that are about the same as buying a lottery ticket.  

I'm proud to be counted in the 1,615.   But, let me assure you, like in most other businesses the top 5% of that number are making about 75% of the money.   The rest of us writers are dividing up the dregs.

Sure, there have been years where I raked it in (and I'm hoping this year is another one of those).  But, when you start down this road, make sure you're not doing it to become rich and famous.  Famous?  Quick name 10 famous actors in 30 seconds.  Easy right?  Quick name 10 famous screenwriters?   Uh-uh.  And writer-directors don't count.  Try again.

There are only two reasons to become a screenwriter.  The first is you need a script to launch your directing career. (But this website isn't geared for "means to an end" writers.)   The second (and only valid) reason to become a screenwriter is because you cannot imagine doing anything else.

That is the only way you'll stick with it.  It's just too hard of a game to play if you have any other more sane option.  Those school teachers and lawyers are bringing home a paycheck every week.  Those plumbers know they can make the house payment.

Working as a writer means working as hard as you can and having little to no control of the outcome.  It's not for the weak of heart, mind or stomach.

And if you don't have any other sane option?  If you must write movies?   If it is not possible for you to define yourself without Final Draft?    Then I say, "Welcome aboard the crazy train, it's quite a ride."

Happy Writing.


  1. Recently read this blog, and shared it with a friend who is a writer. Thank you for the references and the numbers. It was very useful.

  2. Perhaps, if the perverts that write the garbage we have to quickly turn off the TV would actually write some decent stuff, there would be more employed writers! Mainstream America is tired of the trashy crap being pumped into our living rooms!!!!

  3. such a nice collection...