Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why am I a Hollywood Assistant?

Why am I a Hollywood Assistant? This is a question I'm asked from time to time. I moved out here to become a writer/producer. My dream job for now would be to get staffed as a writer on a TV series. In order to do that, I need to write lots of spec pilots and other writing samples, and meet enough potential agents and managers in town that I'll get representation, and hopefully a staff writing gig.

So if that's what I'm trying to do, why am I working a job that takes up nearly all my writing time for very little pay? If I won the lottery tomorrow and didn't have to work, I would probably quit my job and focus on writing full time and have way more writing samples for both tv and film.

But the only reason I'd quit everything now is that I've been working in the industry for almost two and a half years. I've learned enough about how producers think and how the town works in general that I understand what would happen to the scripts I write. I may not have as many things written now as I would if I didn't have a day job, but the things I do finish tend to be tighter, with far fewer of the rookie mistakes than I would have made if I just sat in a Starbucks writing scripts all day.

So getting industry experience is the first reason I have my current job. When the time comes that I'm trying to produce my own scripts, or option a book so I can adapt it, I'll be glad of my experience here.

Another reason is that having my assistant jobs on my resume might help me on the path to get a staff writer gig. Here's how: Generally there's no "set" way to get staffed on a TV show, but one method that seems to work for a lot of people is to first be the writer's room assistant for a show. You get to have firsthand experience on what a room is like, and sometimes the assistant is allowed to write an episode, which leads to getting staffed, joining the WGA, and all that fun stuff.

Writer's room assistant jobs are very hard to get because it's common knowledge that they're the best jobs for getting hired as a TV writer. The competition is even steeper for them than it is for producer's assistant jobs, so nobody really gets those gigs unless a) they have enough desk experience, or b) their uncle is the Exec Producer on the show. So the two and a half years on producer desks also puts me on the path to get a writer's room assistant job (speaking of which, if you happen to know of anyone hiring for one of those, please think of me).

So yes, my job is a pain in the ass. The hours are long and I don't get overtime or benefits. I'm expected to devote half my weekend to reading bad novels and scripts despite the fact that I have no time for personal errands during the week (for example, there's been a dent in my trunk from a hit and run for over a year that I haven't had a chance to get fixed). But the flip side is that it is just enough to support me while I write, I get to do some creative stuff with it, and I learn how the industry works while making contacts.

It's a shitty way to get into an industry, but it's really all there is for the moment. Hopefully I won't be slaving away for much longer and I'll be able to do what I'm good at, what I enjoy, and what I moved out here to do in the first place.

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