How Much Did European Screenwriters Earn in 2012? For the First Time, Numbers Are Out
Each culture struggles to talk about specific subjects. In the U.S.A, sexuality and anything related to the naked body and/or female pleasure create uneasiness and thus, structures have been put in place over decades to make this talk complicated and sometimes impossible. In France and, as it turns out, in Europe, we really dislike talking about money. Especially money related to ‘art’. We come from a tradition that cultivated the ridiculous idea that art is a self-sufficient form, and artists shouldn’t bother themselves with mortals issues such as money when they have plenty of food for the soul. Doing so is vulgar and we, sir, are not vulgar. We are Europeans.
What that really means is that European Screenwriters often don’t know anything about average and standard fees and are left in the blind when it comes to negotiate contracts.
Fortunately, the Federation Screenwriters Europe, a network regrouping 25 european countries and 7,000 writers, made a survey composed of seven questions that was filled by 700 professional European Screenwriters about their income in 2012.
And here are some of the key information that came out of it:
- Screenwriters’ median income, after tax, from screenwriting in 2012 was € 22,000.
- 57 % of the writers surveyed earned less than € 30,000 and only 7 % earned more than € 100,000, showing the disproportionate range of yearly income.
- Only 23 % of all screenwriters polled reported an increase in pay from 2011 to 2012 with a majority of all respondents (57 %) depending on income outside of screenwriting.
- Most writers worked in multiple fields of screenwriting, but a strong minority (34 %) depended solely on television for their yearly income.
Median 2012 Net Income for Screenwriters organized by Nation (Countries with less than 5 Respondents Excluded)
If you wonder how this plays against the average U.S. screenwriter, here is what the report says:
By comparison, working members of the Writers’ Guild of America West in 2011 earned more than 5 times the average
European screenwriting wage, bringing in an average income of € 160,282 (210,165 dollars). Chuck Slocum, Deputy
Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, estimates the median to be closer to 100,000 dollars.
NB. It is common that screenwriters in Europe and the US can have no income from screenwriting in a year, hence this survey monitored
only the 4000 (approx.) screenwriting members of the WGAW earning fees in 2011, out of an overall total of just under 8,000 members.
Of course, a French or Finnish TV show won’t have the same distribution, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that American writers are paid more. But it is also true that screenwriting is still considered, at least in France, as a secondary art-form and mentalities are only now slowly changing thanks to the WGA and its members, showing that every good film/TV show starts with a great story and investing in screenwriters is investing in a better story.
The full FSE report including greater details about the methodology as well as a breaking down of the data collected can be downloaded here. Let’s hope this is only the first of a series of detailed reports that will help sparkle a healthy conversation between Guilds and better screenwriters working conditions.
Thanks to Alison Kathleen Kelly
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