How Long? How Much? - Complications Ensue
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Q. How much will it cost me to have a pilot script written for my one hour drama? Also how long would it take to write? How much for a pilot script and two additional scripts?
WGA scale for an hour episode is $31,000.

WGC scale for an hour pilot is around CAD $20,000 -- say around 17K US. Scale for an hour episode is about CAD $12,000. That's an advance against a production bonus, should the episode be produced, of roughly 2-3% of budget, split among the credited writers.

However, writers you would want to write your pilot are usually overscale writers.

The fellow who writes a pilot is considered to be "creating" the show, whether or not he came up with the idea. (Sometimes he'll agree to co-create, but don't count on it.) In Canada that usually entitles him to a royalty of, say, 1%-2% of the budget of every episode ever produced. Not sure what the deal is in the States.

The creator is not necessarily the showrunner. If the network doesn't consider the creator up to running a show, they'll pick a showrunner they like.

How long a pilot takes to write something depends on how easy a concept it is to write. I've written a draft of an hour script in four days, but that was on a show I was up to speed on, with a detailed outline. The pilot I just wrote took six weeks for a first draft, based on a finished pitch bible. If the concept needs reworking, add more time. If you choose to write without reworking the concept first, double your time estimate.

With writing as with all craft, the same tripod applies. Fast, cheap and good: pick two.

Labels: , ,

3 Comments:

Isn't the idea with the tripod that you pick two? That is, you can be fast and cheap, but it won't be good. You can be fast and good, but it won't be cheap. Or you can be good and cheap, but it won't be fast.

Not that it changes the substance of your reply in any way. I'm just being a little anal.

By Blogger jacobw, at 6:17 AM  

Whoops! Sorry. Braino. I meant to type "two."

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:14 AM  

You mean if I hire you to co-write the pilot script to The Black Tower based on my scene-by-scene treatment, Alex, you will be considered a co-creator of the show -- and get a percentage from all future eps of the series?

Now I understand why the writers and producers I've been talking to over the years have been encouraging me to write it alone.

KJC

By Blogger Kelly J. Compeau, at 12:54 PM  

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