How do studios send their films overseas

Hollywood calling! Here comes your big chance as a screenwriter.

Are you a screenwriter? Do you dream of working internationally? Universal Pictures gives you the chance to show what you are made of! Provided you dare to take on authors from all over the world.

What are we talking about? Universal Pictures offers a one-year scholarship for screenwriters. You can apply online if you meet the requirements.

Universal Pictures' 2020 Writers Program

First things first: there is a deadline for your application as an aspiring screenwriter in the service of the world-famous film production company in the USA. This is, don't be alarmed, October 1st. But hey, if that's what makes you tip over, you probably shouldn't read any further.

And, that too is typical of the United States and the way the overseas film business works: once you have submitted your application - after all, you do so directly at Universal Pictures - you only hear something again if you are one of the lucky few chosen count.

Why you want to participate in the program as a screenwriter

The scholarship holders can not only count on the fact that they can build an extraordinary network in Hollywood. They are also accompanied by Universal and trained in a special support program.

In the calendar year in which you are paid as a writer by Universal, you will get a script contract and you will write two scripts. To do this, you conclude a service agreement with the studio and commit to writing at least 40 hours per calendar week as a screenwriter for the studio.

If your work meets with approval and Universal decides to further develop your material until it is ready for film, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UFEG) will conclude an option with you to extend the collaboration for a further year.

Who can apply to Universal Pictures?

The Universal Writers Program is specifically aimed at screenwriters who (quote): "Either want to see their name on the big screen or have not yet managed to gain a foothold in the film industry."

Universal does not necessarily expect you as an author to have experience in dealing with and working with the film industry. However, it expressly points out that this can be weighted as an advantage.

You can only take part in the job advertisement if you have a valid work permit for the USA. And you have to be at least 21 years old at the beginning of the scholarship at Universal Pictures, which is March 31, 2020. Applying as a screenwriter is free of charge.

How much is the pay?

Your contract guarantees you USD 75,000.00 for the year you write for Universal Pictures in the Writers Program. This corresponds to € 68,000.- Please note that you are not permitted to pursue any other activity during this time.

How do you get selected?

Universal is looking for film writers who are aspiring or who are already working in their jobs and who are characterized by a unique perspective. Universal sees itself as a producer of films that tell a wide variety of stories and in them reflect the broadness of the global audience.

But don't worry, it's not about blending your visions into baby food at Universal Studios. Universal Studios is not looking for pudding makers. But scriptwriters who can creatively tell multicultural stories on a global level.

All scripts and specified treatments are passed on to professional editors for neutral assessment without specifying your name. So it doesn’t change whether you’re already world famous in this country or you’re just getting into the state.

What do you have to enter as a screenwriter?

In addition to your personal details, you will receive a script and a treatment that you have written to apply. This also includes your résumé, a letter of motivation and, voluntarily !, any letters of recommendation.

To show that you can do this, when you apply to Universal Pictures you have to include a script that you wrote yourself. The script must follow the famous 3-act structure, be between 90 and 120 pages long and have a clearly recognizable beginning, a middle section and an end. Aristotle sends his regards.

Substances that are not based on your own ideas will not be accepted. As a film author, you cannot enter adaptations of books in script form. Biographies and scripts about people who are still alive are also excluded.

All scripts that do not meet these requirements will be disqualified.

The treatment, which you also have to enter, must NOT be based on the same story as the script. If so, you will be - guess three times - be disqualified from Universal Pictures.

Your treatment must contain the following points:

  • title
  • your membership number at the flat share
  • a brief summary of the content
  • a brief description of the character
  • a description of how you intend to tell the story in three acts.

Registration with the Writers Guild of America is possible here. It costs you USD 20.- (€ 18.-). Your treatment must not be longer than five pages. Note that, as with the script, there are fixed specifications for line spacing and font size.

Legal paperwork

As always and everywhere in the USA, there are some mandatory confirmations to be submitted when entering data.

This not only applies to the already mentioned work permit, the age confirmation, but also expressly the legally binding confirmation that the script and treatment submitted were written exclusively by you. You can find all requirements in English online here.

To apply online to Universal Pictures as a screenwriter

This link takes you directly to the official Universal Pictures application form. Good luck!

More about work as a writer in the US film industry

All recommendations are from the Universal Pictures Universal Writers Program website.

Books (English language)

  • Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
  • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
  • The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
  • The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell
  • Rewrite by Paul Caitlin
  • Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
  • Screenplay by Syd Field
  • Story by Robert McKee
  • The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
  • Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge