Using screen contracts the Guild receives—including those provided by agencies through our new franchise agreement—the Guild has analyzed more than 1,000 deals from the last few years to provide information on feature compensation. Because screen jobs are held by everyone from the newest to the most seasoned writers, and include work on projects for studios, mini-majors and indies with budgets that range from $5 million to hundreds of millions, we analyzed the contracts several ways in order to drill down on compensation at studios and among writers of different experience levels.

The Guild aims to advance all writer income, not just minimums. We believe this information can help feature writers (and their reps) negotiate for higher pay. A fundamental goal of the agency campaign was information sharing that would facilitate this type of resource for members. As we move forward, the Guild will continue to enhance and update this type of information.

First Drafts

Being hired to write a first draft screenplay accounts for almost 50% of screen contracts analyzed. This includes deals where only one step is guaranteed as well as contracts with multiple guaranteed steps.

One-Step Deals

All Company Median Studio Median Maximum Reported
$250,000 $293,750 $2,000,000
Check out the WGA Schedule of Minimums for feature minimums, listed on pages 1-5.

Among one-step deals, the median guaranteed compensation across all companies for work in recent years was $250,000. For writers working at the major studios—Disney/Fox, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros., Sony—the median was closer to $300,000. This reflects the fact that studio projects typically have higher budgets than the entire market, which includes projects from indies and mini-majors. The maximum reported amount for a one-step deal was $2 million.

When broken down by experience level, the numbers change. For new writers working on one of their first jobs, the median for a first draft screenplay is $100,000, with the maximum reported one-step deal at $300,000. The numbers increase for members who do not have a screen credit, but may have worked in television or on other screen projects that haven’t been produced, or where they were not credited. For these writers, the median was $140,000, and the maximum reported compensation was $500,000. On the other hand, writers who have been credited on a film had a median one-step deal of $400,000, which increases to $450,000 among writers who have two or more screen credits. Notably, writers who have been Guild members for 10 years or more, regardless of credit, had the same median compensation as members with at least one screen credit.

Member Experience Level Median Maximum Reported
New Members (2016-present) $100,000 $300,000
Members with No Screen Credits $140,000 $500,000
Members with 1+ Screen Credits $400,000 $2,000,000
Members with 2+ Screen Credits $450,000 $2,000,000

While experience is only one of many factors that affect how overscale compensation is determined on any given project, this analysis does offer some benchmarks.

In addition, it should be noted that many of these contracts have additional optional steps that may be triggered—meaning writers may be earning more money on these deals even if only one step is guaranteed.

Deals with Multiple Guaranteed Steps

A little more than half of screenplay contracts include more than one guaranteed step; most commonly these are two-step deals with a rewrite as the second step. In deals with a second (or third) guaranteed step, the median for the total guaranteed compensation is slightly lower than for one-step deals, which reflects the fact that many one-step deals are significantly above MBA minimums.

All Company Median Studio Median Maximum Reported
$235,000 $262,500 $4,000,000

For newer members and those without screen credits, multi-step deals result in higher pay at both the median and maximum reported levels, with some of this increase driven by studio deals. The tables below compare median and maximum compensation reported for one-step deals and deals with multiple guaranteed steps.

Member Experience Level 1-Step Median Multi-Step Median
New Members (2016-present) $100,000 $175,000
Members with No Screen Credits $140,000 $175,000
Members with 1+ Screen Credits $400,000 $300,000
Members with 2+ Screen Credits $450,000 $450,000
Member Experience Level 1-Step Maximum Reported Multi-Step Maximum Reported
New Members (2016-present) $300,000 $650,000
Members with No Screen Credits $500,000 $1,000,000
Members with 1+ Screen Credits $2,000,000 $4,000,000
Members with 2+ Screen Credits $2,000,000 $4,000,000

Rewrites

Rewrites are the second most common type of screen deal. For this work, the median for a one-step rewrite across all companies, including the studios, was $150,000. The maximum reported one-step rewrite deal was $1.5 million.

All Company Median Studio Median Maximum Reported
$150,000 $150,000 $1,500,000

Rewrite compensation also increases with experience level. Newer writers saw a median of $75,000 for a rewrite, with the maximum reported compensation for a one-step rewrite deal at $250,000. For writers without a screen credit, the median was $85,000, with a maximum reported amount of $750,000. The median rewrite deal for writers with at least one screen credit was $200,000, and this increased to $250,000 among screenwriters with two or more credits. While most rewrite contracts are for one guaranteed step, there are a small number with multiple guaranteed steps. The maximum guaranteed compensation for multi-step rewrite deals are included in the table below.

Member Experience Level All Company Median 1-Step Maximum Reported Multi-Step Maximum Reported
New Members (2016-present) $75,000 $250,000 $1,000,000
Members with No Screen Credits $85,000 $750,000 $1,000,000
Members with 1+ Screen Credits $200,000 $1,500,000 $1,750,000
Members with 2+ Screen Credits $250,000 $1,500,000 $1,750,000

Together with our franchised agencies, the Guild is committed to defending and raising writer pay across the board. The Guild will continue to develop materials about individual writer compensation as we receive more information from the agencies. If you aren’t represented by an agency, please remember to submit your contracts directly to the Guild.

Have questions or feedback about this information? Please contact the WGAW’s Research Department.