View Full Version : Writer's Assistant career path
How long are people assistants before they rise to writer? I know it all depends ... but typically?
09-04-2002, 07:39 PM
I'm not in the biz, but it's my understanding that that's not the typical path.
The typical path is that you submit a spec. If they like it, they'll give you an assignment. If they like what you do with that assignment, they'll give you more assignments, and/or eventually a staff position.
I'm sure you can learn a ton as a writer's assistant, but I'm also reasonably sure you wouldn't generally put that knowledge to use on that same show. For example, if you're an assistant on Law & Order, you might write a spec for Third Watch and submit it to Boomtown. I don't think you'd generally try to parlay your assistant job on L&O into a staff position on L&O.
I'm sure someone in the biz will correct me if I'm wrong - Maestro
09-04-2002, 08:15 PM
If you get a job as a Writer's Assistant, concentrate on that and gain knowledge from the experience. It isn't the path to a Writer's job. In fact, you might get yourself fired if you constantly push yourself as a Writer. Someone MIGHT give you a shot or ask to read a script, but don't go into the job with that as your purpose. If it happens, great. But the real thing you want to get is a working knowledge of a staff at work. This will give you an advantage over other Writers. Also, without even trying, you will be making contacts.
Now, if someone asks you what your goal is (and someone will), say that you want to be a Writer. Or, if you want to, say "I want to be like you, a successful Writer". And leave it at that unless they keep asking you questions.
At the same time, still be trying to get your work read wherever you can. I had an assistant who got three assignments while she was working for me, none of them from my show. And I had to let her go because, as I told her, she was now a Writer and didn't need to be my assistant (the fact that she wrote a kick ass spec script better than I could made it easier).
A Writer's assistant is just what it says. Stick to that. The benefits will come without having to push it.
09-04-2002, 09:00 PM
I agree with Zoditch's post - I have been a writer's assistant at 'ER' for several years, and felt there's a lot to be learned from being observant, helpful, and not too pushy. While in the position, being an assistant has to come first - if people are nice, in time, they'll come to offer advice and help out. I'm not sure if it's a typical path to becoming a writer (if there is such a thing), but like Zoditch said, write the best specs you can and try to take advantage of the contacts you'll make through the job.
I just shook hands with the exec prod who's hiring a writer's assistant ... it was a case of incredible timing ... but here's my new question ... (not to put the cart before the horse) ... Do hours prohibit spec writing on the side? ... In other words, if my GOAL is to be a writer, is it just DUMB to do go this route? I just determined that my temp job in some ways STANDS in the way -- despite the fact that it's at a studio ... I leave house at 7:30 and get home at 8; tired; hard to write but I manage a little ... Maybe I should just wait and see what happens and ask questions then .. YOU GUYS ARE GREAT
09-05-2002, 09:28 PM
That depends on what your tolerances are. I firmly believe in regular hours for people, but I tell my assistant that I expect them to work the hours I work if I need them (and that can be brutal). I'm also liberal with time off when I can afford it. If I can, I like my assistants to go home at six p.m.
I think the benefits of what you learn more than makes up for the delay in your spec.
09-07-2002, 01:01 AM
If you don't want the job, can you give the EP my name?
Seriously, if I were in your place, I'd take the job. Willie was fortunate to land a job on a long-running show, but how many ERs are there? Most shows are lucky to get a pick up for the "back 9". And even if the show does go several seasons, the EP may not. (e.g. David Greenwalt/Angel) So why not take the opportunity and run with it while you can?
what exactly does a writer's assistant do?
09-18-2002, 08:44 PM
It varies slightly from plave to place, but usually, a Writers Assistant is assigned to several writers. That person will catalogue and file changes to the script, production reports, Network/Studio memos, as well as sitting in on story meetings and pitch sessions to take notes. He will also type in changes to the script, depending the the writer's style (some writer's prefer to do that themselves, others make handwritten notes to be incorporated), he will format scripts when needed, translate scripts from freelancers into the script program used by the staff, etc. etc. etc. This is all in addition to normal secretarial things such as taking messages and making appointments.
This can mean very hard hours as production waits for no mortal soul. And when you are shooting in another time zone from the office, it's even worse.
thank's for the info. truly appreciated.
09-25-2002, 02:56 PM
Many TV agents like writer's assistants and often
solicit them for scripts.
Even if it doesn't lead to a job, it could lead to
representation - which is a great start.
I had a friend who was an assistant on that
Bruce Campbell sydie show JACK OF ALL TRADES.
He pitched an idea, and he and his partner wrote
it up, and had their first TV script produced.
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