Screenwriters either freelance or work for a studio on a writing team. Although the unemployment rate is high, the average earnings are still substantial. The U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, and Switzerland have similarly good salaries and hourly rates for writers, but Norway’s average salaries convert to six figures in USD three figure hourly rates, likely due to the low competition. The purpose of this article is to take an in-depth look at the factors that influence a screenwriter salary in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland, and Norway.
Screenwriter Salary Influencers
A simple way to go about analyzing the differences in the screenwriter industry between these six countries is to break it into sections such as: industry, geographical area, experience, working hours, bonuses and benefit packages, and job outlook. Each section will specifically address each country.
Whether screenwriters are freelance or work regularly for a particular production company, the industry is very strong right now. Fresh ideas and good screenplays are in high demand, so screenwriters receive good pay across the world. The average salary between the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia is nearly $80,000 and about $34 an hour. Norway leads these countries by a landslide, with the average screenwriter salary being around $675,000 and an hourly rate of $324. Bonuses around the world vary in the range of $18,000 to $25,000 on average.
2. Geographical Area
The table below shows the basic values of a screenwriter salary by country*
|Screenwriter Salary||Hourly Wage||Annual Wage|
|US||$ 22.50||$ 77,419|
|Switzerland||CHF 42.36||CHF 88,688|
|Norway||NOK 2,643||NOK 5,502,608|
*All rates will appear with their USD conversions below.
Screenwriter Salary in the U.S.
The average salary for a screenwriter in the United States is $75,000 and about $22.50 per hour. Bonuses are large and average out to about $25,000. The U.S. cinema industry is an incredibly popular one, so this kind of salary is not surprising, though it does vary somewhat by city, as screenwriters who work in New York average about $90,765.
Screenwriter Salary in Canada
Screenwriting in Canada is similarly popular, so the average screenwriter makes C$77,788 (USD$61,273.61) which calculates to about C$37.27 (USD$29.36) an hour. Bonuses are fairly high in this field, as they are in other cinema-related fields. Depending on whether they write scripts for large production companies or independent films, screenwriters may have a more stable income.
Screenwriter Salary in the UK
In the United Kingdom, the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain enforces a minimum salary. For films budgeted over £2,000,000 (USD$2,610,800), a screenwriter will make at least £87,855.12 (USD$114,686.07), averaging about £42.10 (USD$54.96) an hour. Screenwriters in London likely make more, similarly to how New York screenwriter salaries are 120% higher than the U.S. average, which would come to about £105.426,14 (USD$137,623.28). Bonuses are less frequent with such high salaries, but also likely are greater sums.
Screenwriter Salary in Australia
As in the U.K., Australian screenwriters have a minimum salary determined by Screen Producers Australia, which averages out a yield of at least AU$27.97 (USD$21.79) an hour. This calculates to an average minimum of AU$46,561.73 (USD$36,281.60). Bonuses are likely similar to the U.S., and the upper range of pay for bigger cities like Sydney likely make 120% of the minimum at least, which comes to an average of AU$55,874.08 (USD$43,537.92).
Screenwriter Salary in Switzerland
The average Swiss screenwriter makes about CHF 88,688.32 (USD$92,115) and CHF 42.36 (USD$44) an hour. The average bonus is about CHF 2,385.82 (USD$2,478). Senior screenwriters, which typically means they have about a decade or more experience, in Switzerland make a median salary of CHF 105,988.87 (USD$110,084). Even entry-level screenwriters, though, make an average of CHF 69549.78 (USD$72,237).
Screenwriter Salary in Norway
Norwegian screenwriters make extremely good money in comparison to the other countries mentioned here. The average salary is NOK 5,502,608.76 (USD$674,389) and the average hourly rate is NOK 2,643.65 (USD$324). Their bonuses average at NOK 148,019.65 (USD$18,141) though, which is about what could be expected in other countries. Entry-level screenwriters in Norway make around NOK 4,327,190.26 (USD$530,332), while seniors earn NOK 6,594,352.64 (USD$808,191). This higher pay rate could be the result of less competition: there are less than 50 well-known Norwegian screenwriters.
Screenwriters often have no more than a high school diploma when they start out, something that all six countries have in common. Experience is valued much more than education, making an average difference of about 150% higher salaries when a screenwriter reaches about 8-10 years of experience. Getting in with the right companies and having experience in one genre also makes more of a difference than having written screenplays in various genres. Writing in the popular genres of the time can work either for or against a screenwriter, depending on their level of skill and the presentation of their idea.
If a screenwriter works freelance and presents different screenplays to different studios, they will set their own hours and work at the pace that is best for them. There is no realistic way to decide the average amount of time put into a screenplay when working from home. For those who work for a studio, however, shifts usually follow typical business hours and only on weekdays. The hours and pace of the production and filming process itself doesn’t often include the screenwriter, so their timeline and work hours aren’t usually affected; once the production company accepts the screenplay, the writer will move on to the next project and have no further part in the process.
Bonuses & Benefit Packages
In the case of freelance screenwriters, most do not have any type of benefits whatsoever unless health care is universal in that country. If they work in a studio with normal office hours, they are usually offered a health care package as part of their employment, but the numbers on how many actually receive health care are inconclusive. Bonuses, however, are common, though only the U.S. and Norway have decisive numbers on their averages, which are $25,000 and $18,000 respectively.
With a job outlook of 6%, the screenwriting industry is growing rapidly. New writers with new ideas are in high demand to keep the public interested as the old range of storylines become overused and boring. In 2014, the Hollywood Writers Guild’s report recorded the employment of nearly 5,000 people through their organization alone. However, most screenwriters do not have steady income and struggle against their competition.
Most screenwriters struggle with regular employment, but the average salary between the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, Switzerland, and Norway is about $180,000 a year and $83 per hour. Bonuses average at about $21,500. Benefits are standard with the health care system of the country for freelance screenwriters and those employed by studios alike.