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The Best Day Jobs For Hollywood Writers

A problem facing almost all aspiring TV and film writers or filmmakers is how to pay the rent while they’re writing speculative TV pilots or features.

The traditional entry level day jobs, working as a barista, an Uber driver, a waiter, cocktail waitress or bartender (combined with writing) can be physically and emotionally exhausting. When these writers finally have time to knock off a few pages, they’re hardly at their best.

Meanwhile, the other key to film writing success, networking with other writers and entertainment workers, gets short shrift. How can they work all day, write all night and network?

What about getting a day job working on a studio lot or at a production company? You’re going to be working closely with others who have similar interests. Knowing these people will pay off some day.

Story Analyst.

When I was still at the USC Film School, I worked as a bartender weeknights and a “story analyst” during the day. The job involves reading a screenplay or a novel each day, then writing a very tight synopsis for the execs higher up to read.

We also had to rate the script’s concept, setting, production values, storyline, plot structure, character, dialogue and pacing from “poor” to “excellent.” This turned out to be almost as valuable an education as film school.

You’ll need a working knowledge of the three-act structure and other basics of screenwriting. Where do you pick up this knowledge? I learned from a class on story analysis in film school. You can also learn by taking extension courses or reading books like “Screenplay” by Syd Field. It definitely helps if you’ve written a few feature length spec scripts, too.

As a story analyst, you will also have access and be working closely with people who have the power to greenlight a project. You’ll make a lot of valuable and very close connections.

Production Assistant.

I would consider “personal assistant,” “studio office staff,” and “talent agency” jobs to be in the same category and just as valuable for contacts and networking.

I also worked as a production assistant, driving film canisters for TV and film projects around to labs, to screening rooms and occasionally delivering scripts to actors. It’s as entry-level as a job can be, but you’d be amazed at how many producers, directors, writers and even actors started out this way.

For example, Kathleen Kennedy, who has multiple Academy Award nominations, began as a PA for John Milius. Her connections from working various PA jobs eventually led her to producing films with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Today she produces films with her husband Frank Marshall.

Writer’s Assistant.

When I was an Executive Producer, I co-created several TV series. We hired writing assistants to take notes in the writer’s room. One of them spent so much time in the writer’s room, he learned the voices of the characters and the tone of the show.

He worked so hard, for such long hours we rewarded him with his own script assignment. He did a nice job and was able to use that sale to get himself an agent. With representation, he was soon working as a staff writer on SpongeBob Squarepants. Eventually he became a showrunner for an animated show that won him an Emmy.

Another writing assistant, was afforded a similar opportunity. He was able to secure an agent based on a script he wrote for us. His interests took him into writing for hour dramas, where he landed a job on Dexter. He stayed on that show for seven years and eventually became an executive producer.

This happens all the time in television.  Showrunners will give script assignments to their assistants as a bonus for hard work. To get this job you’ll need to submit a spec for a television show or an original pilot. For obvious reasons, every wannabe TV writer wants this gig. It helps (a lot) if you know somebody, so networking is essential.

The point is, when you’re just starting out as a filmmaker, you’re going to have to choose a day job. Some of these jobs can leave you feeling like you’re drifting away from your goals or like your soul is dying. With entry level studio jobs, you can be working closely with people who can literally make your career.

Image credit: Creative Commons, arri film set, 2014, by Gerard Murphy, is licensed under CC By 2.0

The Best Day Jobs For Hollywood Writers

David Silverman, MA, LMFT



A lot of careers can really knock you around. The compettiion is fierce, in graphic design, architecture, you name it -- especially in creative careers in Hollywood. Writers and performers get slammed with rejection constantly. If you're going through something -- anxiety, addiction or depression -- I help people like you get through it. And thrive. Let me help you get your dream back on track.

Please check out my website: davidsilvermanlmft.com My story: my brother grew up with a severe case of OCD, and while I just a kid --- in family therapy with him, I witnessed a miracle as he was transformed, and now is enjoying the life he deserves. I went to Stanford University to study Psychology, and USC Film. I've worked in FIlm/TV and experienced high levels of anxiety, and got slammed with rejection myself. I learned how to get through it. Today, I love to help people to regain the lifestyle they deserve.

David Silverman Psychotherapy


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APA Reference
Silverman, D. (2018). The Best Day Jobs For Hollywood Writers. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 15, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hollywood-therapy/2018/03/the-best-day-jobs-for-hollywood-writers/

 

Last updated: 24 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Jul 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.