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MattStraq
07-29-2010, 03:34 PM
Hey all. My name is Matt. I'm an Aquarius who enjoys long walks on the beach and isn't afraid to share his feelings. After a few months lurking, I think I'm about ready to ask my first question.

I'm an aspiring TV writer who lives and works in NYC. I've read "Crafty TV Writing" and all of Jane Espensen's blog. I've written two great specs and an original pilot. I've entered a couple of contests, and am awaiting the results.

Now what?

Ok, that's probably too open ended. Better questions would be what shows, especially comedies, are written in NYC? 30 Rock, SNL, Letterman, Colbert, The Daily Show ... what am I forgetting?

Next, is anyone willing to share contact info for TV agents or managers on my coast? I'm sort of starting from square one out here, and don't know where I should aim my queries..

Thanks so much in advance. As one of the great television luminaries of our times, Liz Lemon, always says: "I want to go to there."

JeffLowell
07-29-2010, 07:22 PM
I wrote on a sitcom that shot in NY for 2 years. Even though the staff all lived there, all of our agents were in L.A., and we were all hired out of L.A. That's not uncommon - 95% of the jobs are in L.A., so that's where all the writers and reps are. That's really the path to TV - if you just chase NY shows and agents, you're making it much harder on yourself.

Madbandit
07-30-2010, 08:09 AM
I wrote on a sitcom that shot in NY for 2 years. Even though the staff all lived there, all of our agents were in L.A., and we were all hired out of L.A. That's not uncommon - 95% of the jobs are in L.A., so that's where all the writers and reps are. That's really the path to TV - if you just chase NY shows and agents, you're making it much harder on yourself.


If the OP's a college student, he could try to get an intership with any of the shows he mentioned.

MattStraq
07-30-2010, 09:11 AM
Thanks for the responses so far.

If the OP's a college student, he could try to get an intership with any of the shows he mentioned.

I'm (unfortunately) a few years removed from college. As I look into internships out here I notice that most shows do require applicants to be currently enrolled in school.

As for the move to L.A., it is something I'm considering. Since I like the job that I have now my plan is to forge a few connections or win a few contests before I leap. Is this stupid? Is it more important that I'm out there ASAP?

JeffLowell
07-30-2010, 09:42 AM
I think it's pretty impossible to break into TV without being in L.A. The few people I know who've done it have been big writers in another field. (For example, I know a big playwright who was recruited.)

That said, L.A. is crazy expensive and jobs are rare. I think the plan of seeing if you have what it takes before you move is a really, really smart one.

qualitycontrol
07-30-2010, 09:47 AM
I'm in NYC, did features mostly, just now getting into TV. I've placed well in contests with TV and almost landed a manager... figuring I'd wait til I got at least got someone on my side before I moved to LA. I am very open to the idea, but waiting to see if I really have what it takes before I uproot.

I'd also recommend internships for people who are in college. I worked on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which was fun and educational, but I don't think I'm suited to that kind of writing. Talk show writing is basically being a stand-up.

Madbandit
07-30-2010, 08:29 PM
Thanks for the responses so far.



I'm (unfortunately) a few years removed from college. As I look into internships out here I notice that most shows do require applicants to be currently enrolled in school.

As for the move to L.A., it is something I'm considering. Since I like the job that I have now my plan is to forge a few connections or win a few contests before I leap. Is this stupid? Is it more important that I'm out there ASAP?


Unless you have an agent or a manager in LA, I think it would be foolish to move. You may have a lot of scripts written down but there's A LOT OF PEOPLE who have scripts written down there (including Jeff Lowell). You just have keep writing scripts and send the ones that are good to contests.

MattStraq
07-31-2010, 07:31 AM
...That said, L.A. is crazy expensive and jobs are rare. I think the plan of seeing if you have what it takes before you move is a really, really smart one.

Compared to NYC, though? Granted, I don't know L.A. real well, but I have visited a number of times. My sense was that cost of living was actually lower than out here.

Unless you have an agent or a manager in LA, I think it would be foolish to move. You may have a lot of scripts written down but there's A LOT OF PEOPLE who have scripts written down there (including Jeff Lowell). You just have keep writing scripts and send the ones that are good to contests.

That raises a good question: Which TV contests are likely to get me the most attention? In the last few months I've thrown in on the Disney/ABC fellowship, the WB Writers Room, Scriptapalooza TV, Creative Screenwriting's AAA contest, and a contest run through the New York Television festival. Whatever that is.

Are some of these worthless? I'm still new enough to the game that I can't tell the reputable contests from the ones run just to drum up entry fees.

JeffLowell
07-31-2010, 08:16 AM
NY is more expensive, yep. But the job market is brutal in l.a., so unless you can line something up, it can be tough.

IMO, Disney and WB are the only two contests that are worth anything. (Unless you qualify for one of the diversity programs.)

MattStraq
07-31-2010, 12:15 PM
What about querying managers and agents from this side of the country? Can I talk reps into reading my stuff if there's no chance of an in-person meeting after?

... IMO, Disney and WB are the only two contests that are worth anything. (Unless you qualify for one of the diversity programs.)

I'm going to go all Henry Louis Gates (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica/) on this one. Dig deep for an Inuit second cousin..

JeffLowell
07-31-2010, 02:17 PM
What will it hurt to try?

NatachaVonBraun
07-31-2010, 02:30 PM
I've gone to countless panels with professional writers at the WGA (there's an all day event today (that's streaming as well) about breaking into television writing. I went last year. Anyway, 50% of the breaking in stories I've heard go like this: "I started temping, an assistant got fired, they gave me the job, and now I'm an executive." The other story: start as an assistant for a writer/writer's room* (you have to know somebody to get those jobs) and if you can write you'll end up as a writer on the show or another show.

You gotta be in LA babe.

*You have to be youngish to be a gopher.

JRS3
07-31-2010, 04:35 PM
Yeah, in most of the stories I've heard, the staff writers started out as assistants. Over time, they were given more chances to write and positions opened up on the staff.

The only other way is to go to a graduate school with alumni that recruit from their alma mater (USC, etc).

I mean, there are exceptions. There's a local guy who broke in when he was a security guard for a locally shot TV show. He managed to slip a script to someone in power and that led somehow to writing Star Trek episodes. But that's such a long shot.

odocoileus
07-31-2010, 05:11 PM
Some people come to sitcoms from standup and improv.

Which is nice.

killertv
08-04-2010, 12:05 PM
Some people come to sitcoms from standup and improv.

Which is nice.

like donald glover, who got staffed on 30 rock out of nyu based off his performances in the ny area.

there's an event in nyc about what it takes to make it as a pa which may offer some insight into the opportunities for networking/entertainment employment in the city

http://hollywooduniversity.blogspot.com/2010/08/learn-what-it-takes-to-become-made-in.html

Madbandit
08-05-2010, 11:32 AM
I've gone to countless panels with professional writers at the WGA (there's an all day event today (that's streaming as well) about breaking into television writing. I went last year. Anyway, 50% of the breaking in stories I've heard go like this: "I started temping, an assistant got fired, they gave me the job, and now I'm an executive." The other story: start as an assistant for a writer/writer's room* (you have to know somebody to get those jobs) and if you can write you'll end up as a writer on the show or another show.

You gotta be in LA babe.

*You have to be youngish to be a gopher. (gopher://gopher.)


Being a background extra (I'm still waiting for a third gig, here!!! :eek: )

Nexus9
08-17-2010, 12:43 PM
You gotta be in LA babe.



Being in LA certainly increases your chances a lot, but you don't HAVE to be in LA. Every screenwriting professor I had when I was in college all worked in television at some point in their career, and all lived and never left (minus meetings in LA and other places) the east coast. In other words, they launched their careers and maintained them without moving out to LA. It a very possible to do so. Was then and still is. Just dip your hands into everything you can and don't stop making yourself noticeable.

odocoileus
08-17-2010, 06:38 PM
Being in LA certainly increases your chances a lot, but you don't HAVE to be in LA. Every screenwriting professor I had when I was in college all worked in television at some point in their career, and all lived and never left (minus meetings in LA and other places) the east coast. In other words, they launched their careers and maintained them without moving out to LA. It a very possible to do so. Was then and still is. Just dip your hands into everything you can and don't stop making yourself noticeable.

If you've already got a base in New York theater or standup, then yeah. Or if you've established yourself in features already.

lache
08-17-2010, 06:46 PM
I don't think you have to live in LA, but you have to at least KNOW LA. I lived there for a year and then decided to come back to my home, but I'm glad that I lived there because I have a better understanding of the industry. Some writers need to stop seeing the industry as this big monster that can't be tamed, people in Hollywood are just like you and I.

Nexus9
08-17-2010, 09:35 PM
If you've already got a base in New York theater or standup, then yeah. Or if you've established yourself in features already.

Not entirely. At least one of my professors got his start in the industry though television writing. Got started writing documentary programs and worked up into writing and directing features. Never moved out to LA. And yet another got his start through technical production around NYC (including working on a Woody Alan feature as an apprentice editor) and ended up writing and directing for a particular TV program for 12 years. Others, yes, got their start as feature writers, but the point, ultimately, is that you can break into TV writing while living in NYC. How it happens isn't so much the point; it's the fact that is can happen.

godisagnostic
08-18-2010, 01:21 AM
One of my teachers has worked only in NY as a TV writer. She spent a lot of time writing for Children's TV.

There are many paths to a TV writing career. PA to writer's assistant is just one path and it can be damn near impossible to even get that writer's assistant position.