I recently read What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, a travel memoir by Kristin Newman. Newman has worked as a TV writer for shows like Chuck and That ’70s Show and, in between writing gigs, travelled extensively around the world. Reading her memoir got me thinking: could screenwriting be a viable career option for digital nomads?
Writing features (movies) is a job that you can do pretty much anywhere, especially if you’re writing on spec (you haven’t been commissioned to write this script, but hope to sell it to someone).
TV writing, on the other hand, often requires you to be in a writer’s room but, as Newman found out, there are often breaks between assignments that allow you to travel much like a teacher or professor does when school’s out.
Although TV Writing is more restrictive, writing movies is definitely something that you can do on the road – if you can sell your scripts that is. While thousands of screenplays are written every year, only a few are optioned, and even less of those are produced. Some screenwriters get lucky (although that’s not to say that they aren’t talented as well) and sell screenplays regularly. Others option them for a fee, which may be enough to sustain a digital nomad lifestyle in somewhere like Thailand or South America or maybe even somewhere more luxurious (depending on how much you get offered).
Many screenwriters also make a living simply from reading other people’s scripts and providing notes (often called script doctoring). Although many do this just for some short-term cash, this can be quite a lucrative career in itself and it doesn’t necessarily require you to be tied to one place either.
Unfortunately, finding screenwriting jobs like this isn’t as simple as going on Upwork. It’s usually done through networking, and having a selection of great scripts that others have enjoyed reading (but, for whatever reason, don’t necessarily want to make).
It’s essentially a cart before the horse situation. If you’re already working as a screenwriter, there’s nothing to stop you living the digital nomad lifestyle. There are cons, of course: moving around constantly can mess with your process, and it does detach you from normal life, but it’s very doable otherwise.
Unfortunately, if you’re living the digital nomad lifestyle, it isn’t necessarily very easy to move into screenwriting. Networking is important, and this usually requires you to spend time in LA or New York. It also takes a long time to get good, and to build up that collection of great scripts that others either want to buy or will read and then provide you with other work.
Given that anyone can now self-publish through services like Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing, writing fiction might make more sense for entrepreneurial digital nomads. It’s not as exciting as getting your work on the big screen, but it could be the more financially viable way of profiting from your fiction.
You never know, if it’s good enough it could even get made into a movie later. It worked for Alex Garland.
Have you written a screenplay? Even better, have you written a screenplay while travelling? Let us know your experience by leaving a comment below.