Screenwriters are a diverse bunch, but they all have two things in common: they like to write, and they like movies. The best gifts for screenwriters are relevant to at least one of these--ideally both.
If you're stumped about what to get for the screenwriter in your family or friend's group, hopefully the list below will serve as a basic guide. We'll assume Leonardo DiCaprio's yacht is out of the question. So, beyond that, here are a few ideas:
1. Subscription to a Filmmaking or Writing Magazine
Getting serious about screenwriting means getting connected to the film industry. An easy way to get something a sneak peak behind the camera is to subscribe to an industry magazine like Variety or the Hollywood Reporter. You may also consider a subscription to more writer-focused like Writer's Digest or even something literary like McSweeney's Quarterly Concern.
2. Classic Screenplays (Hard Copy)
Reading screenplays is a pastime almost exclusively enjoyed by those who write screenplays. But it's also a necessary pastime for anyone trying to write a great script. Classic screenplays can often be purchased used for a few bucks on Amazon. For classic scripts, we recommend starting with The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction, Annie Hall, or anything by David Mamot or Billy Wilder. For newer scripts, consider, perhaps, Napoleon Dynamite or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
3. Books for Screenwriters (Beyond the Obvious Ones)
There are plenty of obvious books for screenwriters, like Story by Robert McKee, Screenplay by Syd Field, and Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. Here are a few suggestions that aren't so obvious. Note, these are "how to" books, just books screenwriters will likely enjoy (or at least appreciate): 1) This Movie Will Require Dinosaurs by C. W. Neill, 2) Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch, 3) Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet, 4) Film by Samuel Beckett, and 5) Alternative Movie Posters by Matthew Chojnacki.
4. Lucid Dreaming Mask
Ideas often come from dreams--especially lucid dreams. Apparently these lucid dream masks help facilitate that particularly creative state. Who knows, maybe this mask could help someone develop the next great high concept film idea?
5. Camera and Filming Equipment
If you have a somewhat larger budget for gifts, consider getting the screenwriter in your life some new filming equipment. Often the difference between a screenwriter and a filmmaker is simply a matter of access to a nice camera.
6. Standing Desk
Sitting too long, they say, is the new smoking--it's bad for your health. Too much sitting is also a killer of creativity. Thankfully there's an easy solution: a standing desk. A low-end but highly functional laptop table (like the one pictured) goes for about $30. The great thing about these is that they're portable and easy to fold up and store. Full standing desks are a bit pricier and take up much more space.
If you truly care for the screenwriter in your life, don't let them drink cheap beer or bottom shelf wine. Get them a nice bottle of booze. A nice bottle of bourbon is fine, but since you're buying gifts for a writer, after all, there's really no better choice than a good old fashioned bottle of absinthe. We recommend getting your hands on St. George Absinthe, if possible (because it's delicious).