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Comparing Director and Screenwriter Jobs

Updated on June 19, 2013

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

A movie or TV program requires the efforts of several types of professionals to reach its audience. As of 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 352,340 total workers in motion pictures and video, and 291,150 professionals in broadcasting. These industries contained such varied occupations as management, sales, arts and design, and production. Two of the better-known job types belong to directors and screenwriters.


Directors hold the highest creative title in any entertainment production, often second only to producers in authority and responsibility, and ultimately answerable to them.

  • They audition and select actors, decide on production staff, and shoot the movie or program so it remains on schedule and under budget.
  • Because they may have selected or approved the script being produced, directors have broad discretion in modifying it so it fits their creative needs and studio requirements.
  • They may further change the screenwriter’s intention by editing the final product as they see fit.

Director Careers

As of May 2011, according to the BLS, directors in motion pictures and video earned a mean $115,920 per year, or $55.73 per hour.

  • Those in radio and television broadcasting averaged $69,540 yearly, or $33.43 hourly.
  • This was higher than the mean $92,220 yearly, or $44.34 hourly, earned by all directors, including those in theater and live entertainment, and put it near the top 25 percent of all directorial salaries, which ran an annual $116,020 or $55.78 per hour.
  • Most directors have a bachelor’s degree in acting, communication or writing. However, their primary qualification is several years as actors, writers, editors or choreographers.


Screenwriters create the script used by producers to put together a production, actors to perform dialog and movement, and directors to create a movie or TV program.

  • They decide on the characters and setting, determine their motives and goals, and write the text on computers, primarily using word processors or script applications.
  • Most develop their creations as a freelance effort, which they then try to market to production companies for a fixed fee and/or royalties.
  • They generally have no control over how their creations are modified once they are bought, unless they also direct the production.

Screenwriter Careers

Average earnings for screenwriters in motion pictures and video was $100,060 per year, or $48.10 per hour, while those in radio and television broadcasting made $63,900 yearly, or $30.72 hourly.

  • Compare these amounts to the average annual $68,060, or $32.72 hourly, made by all authors and writers.
  • No formal education is needed to become a screenwriter, although many have bachelor’s degrees in English, communications or journalism.
  • A necessary quality for the profession, aside from creativity and talent, is perseverance. The profession is highly competitive with studios able to choose from too many script submissions. Knowing directors and other decision-makers in the industry can help speed a script on its journey toward production.


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    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      I know some people in my country who work for movies. I'm so much interested in movie making. Thanks for the interesting comparison. I have been trained to write screenplays. I'm still waiting for my first screenplay contract.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I would really like to be a screenwriter one day. Thanks for sharing this information! Voted up!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      This was great information. I know some who want to be directors or screen writers and this is a clear cut description of what it takes to be in that end of show business. Perseverance is certainly the quality that is needed to be successful in this very competitive industry.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Very interesting! So, I would make more money--on average--turning another author's book into a screenplay, than actually writing the masterpiece myself...Darn, that doesn't seem quite fair! Unfortunately, I haven't done either, but I still enjoyed reading about it. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Lady Wolfs 4 years ago

      Nice hub and very informative on screenwriters and directors. Definitely a tougher industry than most may think which requires hard work.

      Voted up and interesting!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 4 years ago from Thailand

      Up and interesting. These jobs are hard to crack though, but pay very well if you can make it. Certainly flair and experience are likely to make a big difference to your chances, but then some people are just outright talented/lucky.

      Pinned, tweeted and sharing.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Alocsin, nice to know directors earn quite well and the screen writers do not lag far behind though their role is not as exacting.

      Great info. Voted up.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Good luck with that, MarleneB. Aside from possibly making it big in movies, You're adventures in selling the screenplay might make for a good hub.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a fascinating creative field. Wouldn't it be great if we could all have a well-paying job that we loved? Very informative Hub--thanks!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      To me, this is one of the most interesting professions on the planet. My husband and I wrote a screenplay together and had the greatest time of our lives. Was it sold? Oh no. We haven't even shopped it yet. We get a kick every time we read the script. We love attending conferences, but we don't have the nerve to venture further. Now, after reading your hub, I think I'll blow off the dust and package that baby up for presentation. Your hub is quite informational, and also inspirational.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Aurelio,

      This series of what people earn in different professions is so interesting. We often take for granted that there are people behind the movies and television...but I for one, had no idea of what they typically earned. Obviously much of what they do is for the love of it. Hopefully if they are also not only pays the bills but allows them some freedom to enjoy other things that they enjoy like vacations or other splurges. Thanks for writing this and doing the research. Voted up, interesting and will share.

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Interesting and very nicely written.

    • Paul Maplesden profile image

      Paul Maplesden 4 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I found this a succinct, informative, interesting hub. It gets straight to the point, makes useful comparisons and provides links to some other useful resources. Excellent work, voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Interesting hub here of the differences of the roles.

      Voted up +++ and sharing.

      God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper