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How to get a TV writers' assistant job

Updated: Feb 20


Many up-and-coming TV writers assume that when beginning their journey to becoming a TV writer, their first step should be getting a writers' assistant job.


This is one of the few jobs people outside the industry know about that will allow them to get experience in a writers' room and, potentially, allow them to move up.


And while that is true, there is a little known truth about these jobs that you should be aware of...


TV Writers' Assistant jobs are not entry level positions


Even writers in writers' rooms who did not put in any time as an assistant are often blind to this truth.


Writers' assistant jobs are hard to come by and they take a certain amount of skill and knowledge about how a writers' room works to perform a decent job. That's why you don't see writers' assistant jobs posted anywhere.


These jobs are usually promoted from within, or those who have done the job before are referred by friends and colleagues to production coordinators or showrunners, who are in a hiring position.


So, are you telling me there's no way to get a writers' assistant job?


No, I'm just staying that writers' assistant is the second step. The first step is to get a position as a...


Production Assistant jobs are the first step towards becoming a writers' assistant


Showrunners want to know that writers' assistants are familiar with how a writers' room operates so they know what notes should look like, how to work with Final Draft, and basically how to make their job seamless.


And the only way to gain that experience is by being a Production Assistant. Specifically, you're going to want a Writers' Production Assistant job. Though, certain productions are small enough that they only have one or two PAs who handle everything.


Once you're in a PA or Writers' PA position, then you can start learning.


Ask the showrunner if you can sit in the writers' room. Get a feel for the pace of the room and see what the writers' assistant is doing. Ask the writers' assistant if you can help them with anything.


They have a lot of work to do and this helps you get a sense of what that work is while helping them out. You will also be presenting yourself as someone who is interested in their job. So, if they move on or move up, they may recommend you to replace them.


So, how do you get a production assistant job?


I have compiled a cheat sheet with 7 ways I've seen friends and colleagues get their first jobs in entertainment. Sign up beneath this post.


What does a writers' assistant do anyway?


The writers' assistant job is one of the hardest jobs in the TV writers' room. They are the ones taking notes while the room is discussing story, characters, and episode throughlines.


They are compiling the notes at the end of the day and sending them out to everyone.


In comedies, they are also often the ones physically typing the script out while the showrunner dictates what should be changed or added to the script. This is something called being "on screen."


The Final Draft document is pulled up on two big screens on either end of the writers' room and the writers' assistant (or the script coordinator) makes changes in real time.


The writers' assistant in comedies (or the script coordinator) may also be responsible for sending the script out to whoever needs to get it. They'll manage an unwieldy list of 300 or so email addresses that receive the script through secure platforms.


Is being a writers' assistant worth it?


Yes, BUT it must be in the right environment.


This is a stressful job, and with the wrong showrunner, this job can be terrible and not at all worth any experience you'll gain. However, in the right environment, it can be great.


You'll learn how to craft an episode of TV with first-hand experience in a way that very few others have. You'll be meeting other writers and getting to know them intimately.


With a good showrunner, you'll also get a chance to pitch and get yourself in the running for a writer position. And you'll be in the running to get a freelance script, which is a script of a TV show written by someone outside of the regular staff of writers. This can mean a fat paycheck and a seriously great credit to your name.


In the end, getting a writers' assistant job can be hugely useful in your pursuit of being a TV writer. But the right environment, showrunner, and show will mean everything.

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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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