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misc how much should I charge for writing a short script?

Hi guys

I got someone asking how much I would charge for writing a short script (30 mins) based on his idea... 🤷‍♂️

I sold short scripts before, but this is the first time someone asks me to write one from scratch based on their idea? Does anyone have any experience with this and can give me some insight (not just in terms of rate, but also how to handle the job in terms of possible reactions from the client, if we should agree to a set number of drafts beforehand, to avoid being stuck in an infinite loop of changes, Ts&Cs, etc...)?
To be clear, this is London based, so someone with experience in the UK Industry would be great, but I'm open!

Either here or in private, if you prefer :)

Thanks!
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
Here's the way I structure the agreement. I'm leaving out the actual numbers as someone in London would be better placed to comment on that. Also be sure to confirm whether or not you'd be credited as the screenwriter. I sometimes am, but also do a lot of ghostwriting.

1. Detailed outline for a fee of A, which includes two rounds of revisions. I commit to delivering the first version of the outline in 2 weeks, and each round of revisions within a week of receiving notes/feedback.
2. First draft of screenplay for a fee of B. For a feature, I agree to deliver the draft in 3 weeks from when we agree on the outline.
3. Second draft of screenplay for a fee of C. I agree to deliver the draft in 3 weeks from when I receive the notes on the first draft.
4. Third draft of screenplay for a fee of D, to be deliver 2 weeks after notes on the second draft.

Any additional drafts are to be negotiated after the completion of the 3rd draft. I do it this way because there are some people that I NEVER want to deal with again, and so I decline any requests for additional drafts. Others are great to work with, and we continue forward.

I'm NOT saying that this is how you should do it - just that this is what's worked for me.
 
The first draft of a feature... in 3 weeks?? The quickest I managed so far for a first draft is around 6 months ahaha (including research, outline, etc...). I would take less if I didn't have another job, but still, 3 weeks... wow!

But yes, I agree about setting up a number of draft and charging for each draft, that would definitely be the way to go.

Thanks for the insight!
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I would ask what the potential budget is and ask for 10% of that.

Or you could start a little high and negotiate down. For a short, perhaps £500?
The first draft of a feature... in 3 weeks??
You said it's a short not a feature. 3 weeks seems reasonable. But if cannot produce a script in 3 weeks then use her agreement structure but change the amount of time.
 
You said it's a short not a feature. 3 weeks seems reasonable. But if cannot produce a script in 3 weeks then use her agreement structure but change the amount of time.
I was refering to what she wrote:
"First draft of screenplay for a fee of B. For a feature, I agree to deliver the draft in 3 weeks from when we agree on the outline."
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Once you work out your agreement take your money in thirds. A third upfront (before work), a third when you have a first draft to show, and a third upon completion (after delivery, so, if satisfied.) This ensures you will at least be paid for your time if they bow out at any stage or close to it.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
How developed is the idea? This can help in figuring out your price. A logline? A synopsis? A rough script?
 
Assuming it's ultra low budget since it's a short, for the average writer 5% of the budget is the low end. (1% on a big budget). HOWEVER, since it's not your original story, give up a point if you have to. In return, you give them the script, one rewrite to notes, and a polish. Small things will probably come up after you've met your obligations; if you're smart, you'll handle them gratis, but by all means, do as mlesemann said and specify in writing exactly what your obligations are.
And, of course, if they want you to work on set as the writer, that's a negotiable day rate. But be kind, especially to budding Fillmmakers. You never know where they might end up.
 
I've been asked for samples of work. Should I just send, for example, the script for a story I sold (they actually optioned it)? Or perhaps I cannot do that, since the company didn't produce it yet?
Maybe I can give them the link to a short that I also directed and produced, so they can actually SEE one of the stories I wrote? Although they might just want to see my writing skills, so they need to actually read something.

What would you do?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
I would provide any accolades, credits, and reviews, things you might have on a website. To "see" your work they are welcome to view any finished projects (short/feature). I don't see how sending a screenplay helps, even though they requested that. If I was building a house I'd rather see the model than the blueprint, even if that meant it involved others. But also, you may be legally bound from distribution? You can let them know it is not possible.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
If this is going back and forth a lot it seems like this may not end in a deal. I've dealt with plenty of flaky people that will waste your time.

Be firm and just set your price and terms, offer some reviews, and let them know you are ready to get to work. If they keep asking for more let them know you have provided what you are willing to, and are ready to get to work.
 
Thanks indietalk for the reply.

So, considering the structure kindly provided by mlesemann (and considering it's for a 30mins short), how much do you think guys I should charge, roughly, for the outline, first draft and any drafts after that?

I was thinking something along the lines of:

- £50 for a one page outline
- £900 for the first draft (£30 per page, basically) to be delivered in 2 weeks.
- ££450 for any draft after that.

As I said though, I have no experience whatsoever in this specific service, so if you think that's too much or too low, please let me know how you would adjust that.

Thanks!
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
I think you need to balance (a) the value of your work, (b) how much you think they can pay, and (c) how badly you want the work.

You may very well be worth that much, but if this is an individual rather than a company, it may be beyond their reach. I'd be more likely to stick to your guns if it's a company AND you want to do the project.
 
ok, so considering that would be my first job of this kind, maybe I'll take that down from £900 to... £500? And £250 for each draft?
I mean, I will still have to put in my time to do it, so I think lower than that wouldn't be worth it?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
I will still have to put in my time to do it, so I think lower than that wouldn't be worth it?
THIS is the only question we can't answer. You can. This is how you have to price jobs, until you can build a rep. You can work free, low pay, or rate. You have to decide what you will settle for and what your time is worth all while getting your name out there. You don't want to scare people away by being "new," so price accordingly. Low, slightly below what your time is worth would be me.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Another thing you can do is use a freelancer website and send them the link to your page. This way you cut through all the BS negotiations etc. and you can build a rep with ratings as well.
 
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