Screenplay Sale: How Much Money Do I Get?

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Screenplay Sale: How Much Money Do I Get?

You sold a screenplay! Congratulations! Back up those money trucks, it’s time to buy the Ferrari, get a private jet, and spend the rest of your days lounging by the pool fielding offers. Right?

Unfortunately, the economics of screenwriting are challenging for most people who do it, and that includes working pros. Let’s take an example sale and walk through it, and sadly observe the money get chopped away on that screenplay sale.

Earlier this year, Global Road bought the spec screenplay “Rawhide Down” from screenwriter Alex Cramer. Deadline reported the deal as six-figures. So, let’s say, for argument’s sake, this sale was for 350 thousand dollars or more.

The article also mentions this is a first spec sale for Cramer, who was represented during the sale by Verve, Circle of Confusion and an attorney. Here’s what that really means, working off the 350 thousand figure.

Verve takes 10%, Circle of Confusion takes 10%, and Alex Cramer’s attorney takes 5%. This is the standard operating practice of the industry (agent and manager each take 10%, attorney takes 5%).

So, working off that 350 thousand figure, we’ve just chopped down 35 thousand, another 35 thousand, and another 17.5 thousand. That leaves behind 262.5 thousand dollars. Anyone earning 262.5 thousand dollars in a year is going to be in a high tax bracket.

As of 2018, an individual earning more than 200 thousand dollars in a year will pay approximately 35% of that income in taxes, per Forbes analysis of the most recent IRS brackets. That’s another 78.75 thousand subtracted from the 262.5.

That leaves the screenwriter with 183.75 thousand. Still a lot of money, by any measure, absolutely. But consider this – most deals on the pro level take months (sometimes six months or more) to negotiate, before anyone gets money in the bank. It’s not like Deadline announces the deal on Monday and you get the check on Friday.

Further, can any screenwriter bank on making a sale like this every year? Probably not. Maybe another two years go by and still no new sale has come in. Now that 183.75 is dwindling. With careful management, though, there’s no reason this amount of money couldn’t bridge a strong writer to the next payday.

But if that writer immediately bought a Bugatti, and put a down payment on a new house, and got his girlfriend a 20-thousand-dollar engagement ring – maybe not. That’s the importance of understanding how much money the writer gets in a screenplay sale.

Have you ever sold a screenplay?

2 comments

  • Shaunda

    No not yet, hope soon.

  • Vincent

    Not yet. I’ve written a few romantic comedies, blending old-school style and intelligence (think Lombard, Powell & Loy, Cary Grant) with a modern-day sensibility without being vulgar (it’s simply not my style). We’ll see what happens. Any producers here interested in continuing to revive the genre?

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