Screenwriting is a craft. While you might be naturally good at it, it takes time to become an expert at it. Just look back to your very first script. I’m sure you can see the growth in your writing.
With every script, you become a better screenwriter.
But how and where do you land your very first job as a screenwriter? and what non-writing jobs can lead to a writing job?
In this article, we will look at entry-level jobs for screenwriters such as writer’s assistant, showrunner’s assistant, production assistant, office production assistant, studio reader, big agency assistant, and internships in production companies.
Being a writer in a writers’ room is a very creative job. Most of the time, writers need an assistant to take care of the more administrative tasks while they focus on creating in the room and writing.
A writers’ assistant is in the room while writers pitch ideas and work on episodes which makes it an incredible job to learn more about how a writers’ room work.
In the room, the writers will be working on storylines for the season and episodes, while the assistant will take notes of what is being said.
When a writer has a question about something that was mentioned in the room the week prior, the writer’s assistant will go into their notes and find the answer, helping everyone win time and be able to focus on the story.
They’re an extremely valuable asset in the writers’ room.
A writer’s assistant will proofread screenplays and pitches, fact-check the writer’s work, and schedule appointments for the writer.
The position of a writer’s assistant is definitely the most wanted entry-level job for writers in this industry.
To give you an example, there are about 800 job postings a year and hundreds of thousands of applicants.
More often than not, you will get a job as a writer’s assistant through someone you know. Networking is key.
The showrunner in television is like the director in films. They oversee the writers’ room, and the entire production of the show from outlining a season to filming and editing.
The showrunner’s assistant will help with any tasks. More often than not, these tasks are administrative tasks supporting the creation of the show.
Most of the time, a showrunner’s assistant will manage the showrunner’s schedule, take messages for the showrunner, answer calls, coordinate meetings and write coverage for shows.
While these tasks sound familiar to the writer’s assistant tasks, the showrunner’s assistant will also support the showrunner in performing roll calls and overseeing filming.
They’re not as connected to the writers’ room, while that’s where the writer’s assistant spends most of his or her time.
Easily one of the hardest but most common entry-level jobs available.
A production assistant is usually the first on the set and the very last to leave.
It’s a difficult job where you’re up on your feet all day long. However, it’s a great job to make connections with industry people and usually, if you work well, you’ll be re-hired over and over again.
Eventually, when people take a liking to you they will ask you what your dream is and that is when (and only then) you can mention your script. But you will most of the time not meet any writers on set. It can take a long time until you’re offered a shot to do something else than being a production assistant.
The production assistant supports the producer and director. They get everyone ready for the day. Additionally, they prepare daily call sheets, runs errands, and do anything that they’re asked to do.
Office Production Assistant
The office production assistant is at the same level as the production assistant but they are staying in the office set up on the production. They’re not on set helping the producers. They’re in front of a computer usually helping the production coordinator.
Their tasks are office tasks. They answer phone calls and make copies. They have excellent organization skills and keep track of what needs to be bought, crafty, and any paperwork that goes around a production.
Studios receive thousands of screenplays. The executives cannot read everything they receive. And most of the time, they won’t unless someone else reads it first.
That’s where assistants come in.
Those screenplays go through a process where an assistant reads the script and writes coverage and give the script a “recommend” “consider” or “pass.”
Only when a script has been vetted by this trusted reader who understands what the studio needs and wants, will the producer read the script.
Most of the time, assistants are recommended for these jobs by other connections they have, which brings us back to how important networking is.
But a good way to land a studio reader job is to start as a freelance reader or read for a festival or contest. Create a portfolio with some coverages you wrote and why you gave a “recommend” “consider” or “pass.”
Talent Agent Assistant
Being an assistant to a talent agent in one of the big agencies (CAA, UTA, Gersh) is a great way to be in direct contact with talents (and in your case, the one that matters the most is the showrunner).
But, while you work there you have to be extremely professional and never approach a client with your script unless you’re ever asked to by that client. Otherwise, you will get fired immediately.
Here again, it can take a very long time until someone gives you a shot to pitch your story if they ever even do.
And when you work with talents, you need to be extremely good at what you do and extremely professional. There’s no room for error.
The agent assistant usually helps the talent manage their clients, manage the agent’s schedule, answers calls, take messages, send the client’s script at the demand of the agent, and more. They also coordinate auditions and gather resumes.
A production internship is one of the most accessible jobs for someone who just came out of film school or looks for their first job in the industry. It’s also an unpaid job, which you can only take if you’re in a position where you can pass on a salary for a given time.
A production intern helps a producer with every production task, reads screenplays, writes coverage, organizes scripts, and anything else needed.
Eventually, these jobs might lead to a paid job at the same company.
It’s a great way to learn everything about production but it isn’t directly connected to writing and can send you on a path that is more linked to producing versus writing.
With this article, you read about many different entry-level screenwriting jobs that can help you get closer to being given a shot.
However, with all these jobs, it will take time until you’re asked what you want to become. It will take time for you to get someone to read your script through any of these jobs.
The one that will get you a writer’s position the fastest is the entry-level job of a writer’s assistant, but it’s an extremely competitive one.
Additionally, all of these are extremely stressful jobs with long hours and what will most likely keep you going is to remember that eventually, one day, someone will ask what your dream is and you might get a chance to tell them about your screenplay.
We recommend looking at this article about how to get started as a screenwriter. It will show you another route to consider pursuing to eventually have your well-deserved big break.
Best of luck to you!
Article by Lena Murisier