How do you get the job that everyone wants? A writers’ assistant position is one of the most coveted jobs in the industry. It’s also one of the more direct routes to writing for television. The goal for a writers’ assistant is to eventually get one of the show’s freelance episodes and hopefully staff on that show if not another one. Having the experience of working in a writers’ room gives you tremendous insight into the process of TV writing. How do you become a writer’s assistant? Getting that opportunity can come about in a few ways.
In this post you’ll find:
- 5 ways to become a writers’ assistant
- 12 writers’ assistants on how they got their job
- 3 in depth interviews with writers’ assistants
What is a writers’ assistant?
A writers’ assistant takes notes in the writers’ room every day while the writers outline, break story, and pitch ideas. The assistant organizes that information at the end of the day for the writers to use while writing their episodes. The WA position enables you to interact with show writers and creators daily as well as learn how to write television from the room.
5 Ways to Become a Writers’ Assistant
Entertainment Industry Assistant Position
Become an assistant at a management, agency, or production company. In Hollywood, everything is connected. Work hard and smart people will notice. It can be delicate and difficult to connect the dots, but build trust with supportive bosses and opportunities will surface. Make your goals known and after you put your due diligence into the company you work at (the general one to two year requirement), leverage the relationships you have to segue into a position either as a writers’ assistant or a position close to the room.
For example, David Metzger worked as an assistant at a production company. He took the opportunity to make the jump to writers’ assistant when a show his company had greenlit went to series.
Personal relationships are the key to getting work in the entertainment industry. Coveted jobs are usually word-of-mouth; they aren’t posted publically (the exception is usually if HR is legally required to post the job). You don’t have to directly know who is hiring; a friend of a friend can get you seen through their recommendation.
In the interest of clarity, PA stands for production assistant, not to be confused with PA for personal assistant.
Because it can be hard to slip directly in the writers’ assistant position, many people climb the production assistant ladder. To be honest, getting a writers’ PA position can also be difficult. Some people take a job as a post production PA or general office PA on a show in hopes of transitioning over to the writers’ room as a writers’ PA or a writers’ assistant.
The PA route consists of hard work. Like any other industry job, stand out as being good at your job and make sure the right people know where you want to end up – that you want to be a writer.
Some people also work as a showrunner’s assistant to get the opportunity to be a writers’ assistant and then a staff writer.
Luck and Timing
Luck is being prepared for when opportunity presents itself. Put in hard work. Be a trustworthy employee with good work ethic. Have a good attitude. Be someone people want to recommend for a job, and you’ll find that friends and colleagues will want to help you. There is an element of hustle. Don’t expect people to put in the work for you, but you can do it. It takes time. And that is what we all underestimate – how much time it can take for some people, especially when you see someone who gets the job you want so easily.
Sometimes the stars have to align to get your foot in the right door at the right time. You’ll hear about a job from a friend of a friend. That job will get filled but two weeks later something else comes up and bam you have a job.
Absolutely no guarantees.
Truth of the matter is that there aren’t a lot of writers’ assistant positions in relation to the number of people who want that position. So don’t get down on yourself if it’s hard for you to get the job that you want. Get any industry job and network.
Out of the Box Methods
I have actually heard several accounts of people blindly reaching out via Twitter, email, and LinkedIn to show creators, writers, and so forth in order to create a rapport and ask to be a showrunner’s or writers’ assistant. There’s a fine line between being a complete creeper and appropriately connecting with someone.
Should you do this? I honestly don’t know. Can it be done? The answer apparently is yes. Is it the most viable option? Probably no.
Here’s how 12 writers’ assistants got their job
2 transitioned from a management company, agency, or production company:
- Assistant in management/tv production company to WA
- Assistant at production company to WA
2 transitioned from personal assistant position:
- Personal assistant (to an actor) to WA position
- Personal assistant (to a writer) to Writers’ PA to WA
2 transitioned from a production assistant position:
- Post PA to WA
- Office PA to WA
4 transitioned by having some form of assistant experience and using their network:
- Knew someone who passed along resume
- Friend passed along resume
- Reached out to friend who could refer them to a specific opening
- Knew someone who worked on the show
2 transitioned via luck:
- Reached out to writer on Twitter
- Blind email to the creator of a show, who kept them in mind for a future position
interviews with writers’ assistants
While the anonymity of the above is kept private here are 3 people who have shared their stories:
Interview with Annah Feinberg
Interview with Lauren Muir
Interview with David Metzger
When it comes down to it:
- Make your aspirations known. Put it out there that you want to be a writer and a WA.
- Put yourself around opportunity by meeting people and developing those relationships
- People are worried about their reputation. They do not want to recommend someone who will jeopardize that. Build trust by being good at every job you take. Show that you’re capable.
- Rarely do you go straight into a writers’ assistant position. People often have previous assistant experience which they use in combination with networking in order to hear about and apply to writers’ assistant positions.