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The 5 Ways to Get a TV Writing Job

Updated: Feb 21


TV writing jobs

I got into TV writing through assistant jobs. This was the one clear path I could see where, at a young age, not having written many scripts, I could start to make connections and see what the TV world was like.


But, contrary to what I thought at the time as I was bringing coffee to a writers' room on the Warner Bros. lot, this was only one of several routes to break into TV writing.


There are literally no requirements for this job. No college degree necessary. No soft transferrable skills that interviewers will pour over before checking references. No background in a related field.


What you do need is two things. One of them is a decent script. (You can find out more about what scripts you need to have as a TV writing sample here.)


The second thing you need is a network. This business operates on who you know. And in order to get into a writers' room, you need to get to know a lot of people.


That's why I want to give you a quick overview of the five different ways me and my friends and colleagues have made those connections, broken through and found ourselves writing for TV.


The goal here is not to give you some evergreen route. The goal is to give you a base of understanding of what exists so you can MAKE YOUR OWN PATH and find your unique way of breaking into this ridiculous industry.


The TV Writing Assistant Path


This was my path. It was not a very fun path. Nor was it a direct path. I've gone over the various TV writing assistant jobs in a previous post, but to give you a brief outline of them here, the jobs are:


  • Writers' PA

  • Showrunner's Assistant

  • Writers' Assistant

  • Script Coordinator


These jobs can be, at times, menial (writers' PA), extremely difficult (writers' assistant), or can induce therapy-seeking (script coordinator).


But they all do one very important thing. They bring you into the writers' office, and occasionally the writers' room, and they start introducing you to writers. Not only will these jobs show you how TV is made from the ground up, but they will vastly improve your writing.


My writing absolutely sucked before I stepped into a writers' room. I learned a lot mostly as a writers' assistant. You're really in the thick of it in that job.


And by the time you're a script coordinator, you're usually jaded and have learned everything you need to know. In fact, most script coordinators are far more experienced writers that most new staff writers on TV shows. Which brings me to my next point....


Don't get stuck in these jobs.


They can absorb you so much that your goal turns from finding a TV writing job to finding your next TV writing assistant job, and everybody around you will start to think of you as an assistant rather than a writer.


Plus, TV shows don't last long enough for you to get promoted except on very rare occasions. So, use these jobs for what they're good for. Meet people and learn what a writers' room is like.


Screenwriting Competitions


Be very careful with competitions. Some are money grabs. Some aren't money grabs but can't really help you that much. And some are truly respectable and can launch your career.


Screenwriting competitions

This is really rare, but I wouldn't mention it if I didn't see it happen firsthand. A PA friend of mine won a competition and went from being the production assistant on the TV show I was working on to a highly paid genre screenwriter overnight.


In other cases, these competitions can get you in touch with managers who may like your writing and want to represent you. Maybe they'll even start getting you meetings. This is an ideal screenwriting competition outcome.


Because the TV writing competition world is a bit more of the Wild West when compared to the feature screenwriting world, make sure to do your research before applying to any competitions.


A good place to check is on Screenwriting Reddit.


TV Writing Workshops, Fellowships, and Labs


Every major studio has a workshop or fellowship program that can usher you directly into a TV writing job.


Check out the major ones at Warner Bros., NBC, Disney, and Nickelodeon. There's far more but those have been around the longest.



Warner Bros. Workshop


In recent years, they've pivoted to focusing on writers who come from underrepresented backgrounds. Here's how they work...


You complete an extensive application to get in, then have an interview, and what follows is a 3-12 month program, depending on the studio, in which you learn from current showrunners, writers, executives, and alumni of the program about what it means to be a TV writer in a writers' room.


It's truly invaluable experience, but here's the cherry on top...


When the program is over, these workshops will get you meetings for TV writing staff jobs on one of their shows. And the shows will be incentivized to hire you because the program will pay your salary for the year.


In effect, the programs are telling their shows, "here are some free writers and none of their salary will come out of your budget." Pretty great deal for the TV shows and amazing deal entryway to the industry for you.


Stand-up and Improv


A couple of caveats to this route... This is pretty much exclusive to comedy. And TV writing, and stand-up/improv are separate pursuits unto themselves. If you are not interested in stand-up or improv, don't pursue these routes. They are hard enough as it is.


Stand-up Comedy

Okay, now that that's out of the way, you should know there are a TON of stand-up and improv performers who make their way into TV writing.


TV comedies need a lot of jokes, and who better to churn out jokes day after day than people who do that for a living?


Some performers enter the TV writing world and their stand-up/improv careers progress simultaneously. Others find a whole new career in TV writing and end up focusing solely on that.


Be Creative and Make Things


Okay, that sounds vague, I know. But before you call me out, hear me out.


I know so many writers who have shot a short film, or started posting on Twitter, or written a book, or... you name it, and gotten the attention of a writer, or showrunner, or studio.


The point is that it helps to put yourself out there. If you have an art that you like to do, or if you like to film sketches with your friends, put them online. Share them with people.


These can be your calling cards. They can be your entryway in.


And that brings me to my last one...


Social Media


I'm going to try not to sound like somebody's grandfather here when discussing social media. I'm not going to tell you "you should go viral" or anything like that.


But I am going to tell you that there are communities online on Instagram and TikTok and Reddit and they are full of people looking to do exactly what you want to do.


They are sharing information, forming writer's groups, sharing scripts and giving each other notes. There is a whole world there to take advantage of, particularly if you don't live in one of the two TV hubs of Los Angeles or New York.


A tiny percentage will get propelled into TV writing jobs by showcasing some art or performance, or sketch on social media. But that will statistically not be you.


What will be the case for you is that you'll start meeting other people, improving your writing and expanding your network. And that's really how you get a TV writing job.


Breaking into TV writing


This is a very quick summary of one of the sections of my book.

Breaking Into TV Writing

I go over each of these paths in detail and include first-hand accounts from friends and colleagues of mine who have broken through using each of these paths.


Image Credit: StudioBinder, LianG, Marc2122

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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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