//Working for free

Working for free

As a screenwriter, obviously it is a lot easier to combine work and childcare than if you are working in production as you spend much of your time working at home

BUT what is difficult and frustrating is the increasing amount of work you are expected to do for free in order to secure a commission. In ye olden days I just used to suck it up but now that I’m paying out a fortune each month for childcare, I just can’t be hanging around waiting six months to be paid a meagre amount or not paid at all when whoever you’re working with decides that they don’t want to take the project forward after all.

It’s particularly frustrating when you’re working with companies that have enough money to have a salaried Development person yet apparently can’t pay you a single bean for writing a treatment / sample scenes or even sometimes an entire first draft. It does seem to me that, more than any other member of the production team, writers are expected to work ‘for the love of it’ and nevermind any need to pay the bills or feed the family.  In the year after my son was born I was so scared of not having enough money I pretty much turned away from writing entirely and ended up doing a ton of script reading instead – even more badly paid than writing but at least it was regular money coming in.

The increasing danger with this work-for-free culture is of course that only wealthy people or those with no family responsibilities can afford the time to write so the stories that get told and the experiences reflected on screen become narrower and narrower. Every time I see a screenwriting competition that offers the reward of a ‘meeting’ or a workshop or an option on the script it makes me MAD. If you’re going to run a competition then give the winning writer SOME MONEY so that they can buy the time to write. I was lucky enough to receive a couple of writing bursaries early in my career and they were briliant because they allowed you time and headspace to create  – something that becomes increasingly difficult and expensive to find once you have kids.

Anyway that’s my rant. Pay writers, we need to eat too, and so do our kids.

2018-11-05T15:22:09+01:00May, 2015|Development Stories|