Screenplay Ghostwriting Services
Erick Mertz Writing
If you watch movies or television, which I’m sure most of you do, you’ve probably seen the credit roll across your screen: screenplay by. What does that actually mean though? What is a screenwriter?
Beyond the technical definition, I like to think of a screenwriter as a skilled visual storyteller. More than a novelist or short story writer, because screenwriting is the basis for movie making, it demands that the writer thinks in pictures.
Like most other types of writing, screenplays can be ghostwritten. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that a vast majority of the movies and television programs you watch were written by someone (or a team) behind the scenes. Hiring a screenwriter for your project is, as it turns out, a viable option.
I’ve been a screenplay ghostwriter for many years. My journey began when one of my screenplays (actually the first script I ever wrote) was a finalist for a major award. That near win launched what has been a fun and exciting career. Over the course of that time, I have written dozens of award-winning, optioned and produced narrative fiction screenplays.
Additionally, because it is the nature of a screenwriter for hire, I have worked with producers, directors, and other movie professionals to craft high quality work for their productions.
As a way of illustrating what screenplay ghostwriting is, I have assembled a few of the basic questions I’m asked frequently. I hope they give you some direction in your search for a screenwriter for hire.
What Is A Screenplay?
In the most general terms, a screenplay is the blueprint for any visual storytelling. What do I mean by the term visual storytelling? Try and think of the traditional feature length movie, hour and half-hour long scripted television, as well as the short, experimental content you might see somewhere like YouTube. That’s all visual storytelling.
If you turn on a screen, and see someone performing a story, odds are, they are working off of a screenplay.
A screenplay is literally the document that breaks down a cinematic story into production elements. These are the separate scenes, lines describing the physical action the characters take, as well as the dialogue they speak to one another (there is a lot more, but these are just the basic elements).
After a screenplay is written, the actors in the case receive their copy to learn lines and character actions and the producers decide how to translate those scenes into sets. Only then can the director finally decide how they’re going to put it all together and tell the story.
A screenplay is, compared to fiction, a highly technical and carefully structured document. While a black and white page full of text can be anything, fiction or nonfiction, story or essay, a screenplay looks unmistakably like a screenplay. In fact, much of the art of writing an effective, sellable screenplay comes down to how the screenwriter chooses to work and navigate within the format.
How Do You Hire A Screenplay Ghostwriter?
Screenplay ghostwriting is a viable way to bring your cinematic ambitions to life. As I suggested above, a majority of the material you watch was written by someone working behind the scenes.
After many years working in the industry, one thing has only become more clear to me. Producers are always busy. In fact, I would say, they’re some of the busiest people I’ve ever met.
Making movies is tough work and most professional people don’t have the time it takes to sit down, create characters and scenes, and develop the kind of powerful story it takes to win over an audience. Often if they do, they work on it in spurts, which means that the story comes out a bit of a mess.
There are a lot of movies out there! Viewers have options. The story has to be right.
Hiring a screenplay ghostwriter can be as simple and intuitive as hiring for any other position. The bottom line for what you’re looking for, as a client, is an experienced professional who has written a number of high quality screenplays, giving them a diverse array of work samples and references from former clients. Most importantly, that person has to be open to your ideas.
How do you know the screenwriter you’re talking to fits that bill?
Any old screenwriter for hire won’t do. To hire the right screenwriter, you need to schedule an interview and be prepared to ask the right questions. When you’re interviewing that prospective writer, ask them what kind of work they’ve done. Have they written in your generally defined genre? Sometimes clients ask me who I’ve worked for, not necessarily trying to get me to drop names, but as a way of verifying that I’ve gone through the process with someone.
This is a very important, often-overlooked aspect. Why?
Simply writing a screenplay from your own imagination is a necessary baseline skill. This is not the most important thing in my mind though. What do I think is the most important thing?
Working with someone else and learning to see their vision and really get their story, is the necessary set of skills you’re looking for. The best screenwriter for hire knows how to collaborate on ideas, receive instruction and, from that, create something extraordinary.
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How Screenplays Work
Who Can Hire A Screenplay Ghostwriter?
The answer to this question can, realistically, be anyone with a cinematic story they want to tell. Over my career, I’ve worked with a wide variety of clients. Here are just a few:
- Independent producers looking to hire a ghostwriter for their next project;
- Established screenwriters struggling to implement notes;
- Outsiders looking for a break in the industry;
- Publishers looking to create a cinematic version of a successful novel or short story;
- Independent authors interested in securing the cinematic rights to their literary properties;
- Television producers with an order for a season of episodes;
- Screenwriters who have a finished screenplay they don’t know how to improve.
What is a screenwriter? This example explains it all. In most instances, screenplay ghostwriters are a skilled, versatile professional, willing and able to bring your cinematic vision into focus.
How Long Does It Take To Write A Screenplay?
When it comes to film or television production, often the project’s timing is a critical factor. Actors have tight schedules and locations are only available for a limited amount of time. If you want to shoot your film during a special season, in the snowy dead of winter or during the peak of summer, you only have so much time.
To get everything together, a screenwriter likely needs to work under a deadline.
Time constraints scare off certain writers. For me, as a professional ghostwriter, there is nothing that I love more than working on a producer’s deadline. Constraints keep the project on a tight timeline, ensuring everyone keeps moving forward, not losing sight of the goal out in front of us.
A screenwriter for hire should, during the initial interview, be able to give you a solid timeline. I always like to estimate that, in order for me to write a professional quality screenplay that you can turn around and sell or produce, I need anywhere from three to four months. Sometimes, when the working conditions are right, I can finish in two or three, but that depends on factors like clear story direction, good communication with the client, and quick turnarounds on rewriting notes between drafts.
I would be wary of any screenplay ghostwriter whose estimated timeline comes in under a month. I have talked to some clients who went out to hire a screenwriter, heard what sounded like a great turn around time, but were disappointed with the end results.
In my experience, a screenplay definitely requires a shorter timeline than say a novel, but ultimately, quality storytelling takes time. Don’t cheat yourself by trying to go too fast.
What Does The Screenplay Market Look Like?
I’ve been writing screenplays since 2005. What got me started on this journey? In that year, I entered a screenplay in the Nichol’s Fellowship In Screenwriting and ended up a finalist. This put me in a prestigious air and gave me a start.
When I started out, the emerging screenplay market felt robust. There were a lot of small and international markets emerging from out of nowhere. I would go to screenwriting conferences, meet with other writers, and we would rejoice in what felt like unlimited possibilities.
Almost twenty years later, that once booming market is even more robust. In fact, one look at the number of producers and streaming platforms out there should indicate that now is a fantastic time to write and shop a screenplay.
Why is this? The screenplay market really comes down to questions of distribution. How many possible outlets are available to distribute your project. Between content hungry platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime (I could keep going, there are so many others offering original content) there has never been a better time to find a viable producer to get your story onto screens.
With this optimistic news, however, I deliver an equal measure of caution. Yes, producers are hungry for new screenplays and intellectual property. Yes, there are many more available options available now than ever before. But that doesn’t mean that the bar for content is lower.
Yes, you heard that right. Your screenplay needs to be just as good as it did in a tighter market.
Seeking out screenplay ghostwriting is a way you can ensure your cinematic project is in the best possible shape when you reach out to producers, directors and agents. If your plan is to hire a screenwriter then you need to interview thoroughly, ask them a lot of questions, and make sure that they can deliver the best possible product. Otherwise reward may not follow the risk.
How Does Having Your Screenplay Ghostwritten Work?
One of my favorite aspects of being a professional screenwriter for hire is meeting new, prospective clients. I love that first consultation meeting when I sit down and listen to their ideas. I am always impressed by the depth of imaginations and vision out there.
That’s where the screenplay ghostwriting process begins. An initial consultation.
I customarily sit down with any prospective client that reaches out to me and, for thirty to forty-five minutes, we discuss their project in depth. We answer a lot of questions. Is this project ultimately a movie or a television show? Who are the main characters? The setting? More and more, my market savvy clients will want to talk about prospective platforms for their work before we even get started.
Once I’ve created the contract with the client and our work starts, the first work benchmark I complete is to write the detailed outline for their story. This isn’t a scene by scene description, but more of a five or six page treatment, showing the key story arcs and moments. Sometimes the client brings a great deal of information to the project, characters, setting and story. Other times, however, it’s up to me to craft those details. Then, with an approved outline in hand, I start writing the script.
The first screenplay draft takes anywhere from eight to twelve weeks for me to write. Once it’s done, I turn it into the client for their approval. On most projects, I expect to see a few changes between the first and final draft. Yes, I’m a professional screenwriter, with a lot of experience, but that first draft always needs a little work. Call it a punch up or polish.
Once I’ve implemented those changes, and the client is happy with the end result, they take the completed screenplay away. At that point, we’re done.
What Can You Do With A Screenplay?
The possibilities here are, as I alluded to earlier, almost endless. A client who walks away from screenplay ghostwriting with a well written story can bring it anywhere. Any avenue opens to them, whether agent, manager, producer/production company or director, they can submit with confidence.
In some instances, that target audience is a screenplay contest or fellowship. These paths are a perfectly viable way not just to sell one screenplay, but create a career in the industry. Whether it’s the local screenplay contest or the Nicholl’s Fellowship, winning or placing in one of these is a lot more than a career breaker. It helps define a writer’s path.
Whatever path lays out ahead, I encourage my clients to dream big. As big and ambitious as the story they want to bring to life. A screenwriter for hire is a fantastic way to develop a project with assurance. Nothing is certain in the movie business, but one thing is for sure, hiring the best is your best next step.
Contact me for a service quote
If you are serious about hiring a professional ghostwriter for your book, screenplay, or non-fiction story, or you need help with editing or self-publishing your manuscript, please contact me.
Every new contact receives a free 30-minute 1:1 consultation about their ghostwriting project or manuscript consultation.
Additionally, I offer all independent and self-publishing authors a 10% discount on my already affordable services.