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How I broke into TV writing

Updated: Feb 21

There are so many different ways to break into TV writing and there are more that spring up every day. And I've met people along the way that have broken in from all different angles, and who have used a shit ton of different tools and routes to make it.


Breaking Into TV Writing - The WB Lot

Warner Bros. Studio, where I got my first big PA job


But no matter what routes you choose, there is one thing that's consistent. It's all about your network. it's all about meeting people and getting yourself into the right position so that people think of your name when they need to fill a position.


I was right out of college when I started out. I knew I wanted to work in entertainment, but I wasn't even sure I wanted to be a writer.


That realization only came after I PA'd on a couple sets in New York City and saw the grueling nature of set work.


I preferred the nice, soft, lazy environs of a TV writers' room. So, with nothing written, no friends or family in the industry, and no idea of what the industry was, this is my tale of breaking into TV writing all the way up to getting my name on my first script of TV.


I broke into TV writing using assistant jobs


I took the only practical advice I had been given in college about working in entertainment and I found a PA job. I moved to LA and applied for a runner/PA job on Craigslist.


I had almost no experience, but this was a minimum wage job that mostly involved moving supplies back and forth in my car. Very easy to get my head around.


They just wanted to know that I was competent. And I was semi-competent, or at least competent enough to fool them about my competency. And they gave me the job.


This first PA job was for a production company that did a bunch of the pre-taped segments for a major awards show. I wanted to work in narrative scripted TV and this was not it.


But it got me in the door and I started to make connections. I met somebody who had worked for a production coordinator at Warner Bros. and they got me an interview.


I was then a PA on a CBS comedy, Partners, being filmed at Warner Bros.


This was big time, and it taught me an interesting lesson....



In TV writing, assistant work begets more assistant work


In the world of scripted TV, production coordinators are constantly looking for PAs. There are more PAs on TV shows than any other position.


And though PAs are not tackling the most complicated tasks, they are doing a lot of different tasks. And if done well, they can make a production run much smoother.


And production coordinators, the folks who hire PAs, know that. And good PAs will get referred around to other production coordinators. (They all talk!)


On a studio lot, like the one I first worked at, Warner Bros., there is a certain ecosystem you enter, and you can bounce around from show to show.


Based on my one connection made outside of WB, I then went on to work on three different WB TV shows, including 2 Broke Girls, and two WB pilots that didn't make it to series.


And on these shows, I was able to prove myself to different writers and eventually move up to a position where I was in the writers' room.


Making it to TV writers' assistant


I was a PA on a couple shows, I met the writers, and one of those writers got their own TV show and offered me the job of writers' assistant.


At this point, I had been around the writers' office for a while and had even sat in on a writers' room, so I knew what the writers' assistant job entailed. Still, it was a tough learning curve.


The amount of typing and painstaking attention to detail is too much for any one person. And yet, people seemed to not mind being around me, and once again, I was referred around.


I was the writers' assistant on several TV pilots, then an animated series for Netflix, then a huge reboot, Will & Grace, on NBC.



All of these were short stints, until finally I made it to the show that would give me my first script.


A freelance script: the TV writing stamp of approval


My writing partner, who was on a parallel path as me but on a different show, was moving up from writers' assistant to script coordinator.


There was an opening, he got me an interview and I got the writers' assistant job.


My first TV script

This show happened to be run by some benevolent showrunners, and once the writing staff all received their first scripts of the season, I was given a freelance script, meaning a script given to someone outside the regular writing staff.


This was on a network show on CBS and the money from that script literally changed my life.


I had been living paycheck to paycheck for a long time, and I was in a good amount of debt from some car troubles. This pulled me out of debt and even gave me the last bit of money I needed to finish off my student loans.


From assistant to TV writer


But it was not all smooth sailing from there. After this job, I moved up to script coordinator, the last job on the TV assistant path. I also received another freelance script, which got me into the WGA.


But I still had a problem. I was being referred around town and it was becoming easier to find work. But I was only finding work as an assistant, not as a writer.


So, I had to make a conscience decision to not take any more assistant work. I had some credits, but people were still thinking about me as an assistant.


I needed people to think of me as a writer.


I found some managers who were willing to take me and my writing partner on, and after many many meetings, chance encounters, and a lot of luck, we became EPs on a small anthology TV series on AMC Networks.


There's a lot more to the story


Breaking Into TV Writing

Now, this story is shortened for the benefits of the blog. There are a lot of chance encounters, hitting heads against walls, lucky breaks, and unlucky breaks that go into my story and the story of anyone looking to break into TV writing.


So, if you have any questions or want to know more, please contact me on the home page and I'll be happy to get into it more.


Or you can find the whole story in my book, which will be released by Turner Publishing in September.



Image Source: CBS, NBC, Warner Bros.

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Hello!

I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.

 

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