A Tale of Two Screenwriters

Screenwriting as a full-time job is often a bit fuzzy as to its exact nature and description. This is likely because it is always somewhat unique to each person that holds the job. Thankfully the internet is here to allow silly folks like myself to share a bit more about what we do as professional screenwriters. Let’s explore, shall we?

Screenwriting Full-Time

For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to talk about the two states of being a full-time screenwriter that I’m personally familiar with: freelance and staff writer. I also work mostly in animated television and will be sticking to that arena when sharing my tales.

In television, there’s a long list of job titles given to screenwriters. Oddly, many of those titles don’t even have the word “writer” in them. Other descriptors seem to have crawled their way into credits, words like “editor” and “producer”. Why? I imagine there’s some hollywood history to it. However, my personal theory is that someone decided being called a “producer” increased the odds of getting a date even though we all know being called a “writer” is a much sexier title. Or at least this is what I’ve been told by my Chief Intelligence Officer, whom I trust greatly. Of course, I did marry her when my only job title was the self-imposed “aspiring screenwriter”. Yes, I do consider myself lucky. In any case, let’s allow someone else on the internet to cover the strange history of job titles for TV screenwriters.

In animated TV, the job title list tends to be a bit shorter. This is mostly because animated TV shows, especially those meant for children, often have fewer writers working for them than their live-action counter parts. Fewer jobs = less job titles needed. Generally, screenwriters end up being called a producer, a story editor, or a writer.

Producers can once again come in many variations. I’ve only seen “executive producer” and “supervising producer” given to screenwriters. These titles are earned by a writer who also works as a producer for the show, essentially taking on additional responsibilities beyond the scripts to make the show amazing. These are the upper-level writing jobs. They’re also titles you can earn by creating your own original series. Often, those with a “created by” credit also have a job title that includes “producer”.

Then again, there are those writers that fall into the story editor category. This job is one that involves managing and editing other writers. However, I’ve also know many story editors that really should have had “producer” in their job title because that’s the sort of work they were performing. The animation industry is not always accurate or generous with their job titles. This is a bit of a problem when an animation writer talks with a non-animation writer. So here’s your info tip of the day live-action writers: a story editor on an animated TV series is probably really working as producer so don’t get smug about your credits.

As for those of us that fall into the simple “writer” category, there are really only two jobs to cover: freelance writer and staff writer. I’ve done both. I spent most of last year as a staff writer. And, yes, robots were involved. I’ve spent the last several months as a freelance writer. The jobs are quite different. So, in the coming days (or much more likely weeks… because I’m slow about blogging), I will share a tale of two screenwriters by exploring both jobs.

Come back soon… seriously. I mean it. Their will actually be some new posts.

-Zac

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