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Money for writing: Screenplay development and screenwriters earnings in French cinema

Vanderschelden, I (2016) Money for writing: Screenplay development and screenwriters earnings in French cinema. Studies in French Cinema, 16 (2). pp. 118-133. ISSN 1471-5880


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The funds allocated to developing screenplays currently constitute on average 2 to 3% of the overall budget of a film in France. Producers are more than ever dependent on presenting attractive draft screenplays to find their financial partners. As a result, screenwriters undoubtedly are active economic partners of production planning, but they do not seem to receive much professional recognition for this vital role. Moreover, their earnings often fail to reflect the amount of work produced and do not reward adequately the risks taken, including the possibility that production could stop after the screenplay is written. This article investigates the place of screenplay development within the economics of French cinema. Using recently published official reports and interviews, the author identifies different types of screenwriters – freestanding screenwriters, writing teams and screenwriters co-writing with the director – and addresses their working conditions. She surveys some of the contract modalities for the remuneration of professional screenwriters. Finally, she reviews the proposals made by different professional bodies to improve the remuneration of screenwriters and reform the financing of screenwriting.

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