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Playwright vs. Screenwriter: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A playwright is a person who writes plays, which are then performed on stage. A screenwriter is a person who writes scripts, which are then filmed and shown on television or in movie theaters. Though both playwrights and screenwriters create stories, there are several key differences between the two professions. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between playwrights and screenwriters, and we provide helpful tips for aspiring writers.

What is a Playwright?

Playwrights create original works for the stage, including dramas, comedies and musicals. They may adapt existing works, such as novels, short stories or films, for the stage. Playwrights typically collaborate with directors, producers, actors and other theater professionals to develop their scripts and see them through production. They also revise their scripts based on feedback from readings and rehearsals. Playwrights may work in theater companies, or they may be freelance. Some Playwrights also teach classes or workshops on playwriting.

What is a Screenwriter?

Screenwriters are responsible for writing the screenplay for films, television shows and other video productions. They collaborate with producers, directors and other members of the creative team to develop the story and characters for the project. Screenwriters also rewrite scripts to improve the flow of the story or to make changes based on feedback from the creative team. In some cases, screenwriters may be asked to write treatments, which are brief summaries of the story that are used to generate interest in the project. Screenwriters typically have a bachelor’s degree in screenwriting or a related field.

Playwright vs. Screenwriter

Here are the main differences between a playwright and a screenwriter.

Job Duties

Playwrights and screenwriters fulfill different duties when creating their work. Screenwriters typically focus on the technical elements of writing, such as how to best convey a certain emotion or character trait through dialogue and action. Playwrights, however, often consider the artistic elements of their work, such as which actors and actresses would be best for each role and how to stage particular scenes in order to create the most dramatic effect on the audience.

This can also apply to the production process for both writers. A playwright may oversee the rehearsal process to ensure that the cast is performing the script as they intended. Screenwriters rarely perform this duty, though, because films are usually shot rather than rehearsed. Instead, screenwriters often fill roles as producers on film projects, where they can assist with casting decisions, location scouting and other important factors in producing a final product viewers will enjoy.

Job Requirements

There are no specific educational requirements for playwrights and screenwriters, but many of them have a bachelor’s degree in English, theater arts or another related field. Additionally, many professionals in these fields pursue internships or apprenticeships to gain experience. Some also participate in writing programs or workshops to improve their skills.

Work Environment

Playwrights typically work in a variety of environments, depending on the type of play they’re writing. For example, if they’re working on a musical, they may need to be near musicians and singers so that they can collaborate with them. If they’re working on a comedy, they may need to be near actors and actresses so that they can observe their performances and make adjustments as needed.

Screenwriters usually work in an office environment where they have access to computers and other resources for writing. They also often travel to film locations to meet with directors and producers to discuss scripts.


There are several similarities between playwrights and screenwriters in terms of the skills they use on the job. Both need to have excellent writing skills, as they are constantly creating new content. They also need to be able to tell a story that will engage an audience, whether it is a group of people watching a play or moviegoers watching a film. In addition, both playwrights and screenwriters need to be able to work well under pressure, as they often have deadlines to meet.

There are also some differences between playwrights and screenwriters in terms of the skills they use on the job. Playwrights may benefit from having directing skills, as they sometimes direct their own plays. Screenwriters, on the other hand, typically do not have this opportunity, as films are usually directed by someone else. Screenwriters may also need to have some knowledge of film production, as they need to write their scripts with this in mind. This is less important for playwrights, as the production of a play is typically less complex.


The average salary for a playwright is $53,522 per year, while the average salary for a screenwriter is $64,012 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the type of work you’re doing, your location and your experience level.


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