Complications Ensue:
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Monday, December 06, 2004


Periodically I get an email from someone who wants to know how to get in the door as a writer.

As I've mentioned in my FAQ, the best way I know is to write the two specs. No one will give you a writing gig without a sample.

If you can get a job working for writers on a show as an assistant, that's an excellent way in, because writers will usually try to throw some work to their assistant if there's a way to do it without losing money out of their own pocket. And the assistant is first in line for a break.

The same goes for interning a fortiori. Few people can afford to intern, but if you can, the advantage is that people will rarely turn down someone who wants to work for free.

The mistake most people make as an intern is to treat it as a job. They do what they're asked to do and they do it cheerfully and well.

That's missing an opportunity. First of all, as an intern, you're only getting paid in information. So if you're not asking questions, you're not getting paid in full. Wait till your writer is procrastinating, and hit him with intelligent questions about show business and your show in particular. It will make him feel intelligent and knowledgeable, and may also actually spark an idea about the show he's avoiding writing. You've now given him something useful, and learned something yourself. Most interns ask WAY too few questions.

Second, your goal as an intern is to make yourself worth money. That means don't just do what you're asked. Suggest things you can do in addition. You want to be so good that your writer can't part with you and will offer you money (hopefully someone else's money, like a production company's) to stay.

In show business, just doing the job is rarely enough. That goes double when you're dispensable and don't know anything.

If you can't intern or assist, then it's all about the two specs. There is no way to be a writer that doesn't involve a lot of free writing! If you really are a writer, you'll be thrilled just for the opportunity to write something that someone else will actually read, even if it never gets produced.

(I once asked a friend of mine at college, Shoshana Marchand, why we write. "Because you can't possibly sleep with everybody," she said...)


Great post. My wife and I are a producing team. I started out acting/delivering pizzas, but she was an intern. She read every piece of paper that came through the office. Asked to help with script coverage. Offered to take notes in development meetings. Within two weeks, she was hired on as an assistant. She never stopped asking questions, and wiggled her way into every single meeting she possibly could. Today, we own our own production company, and much of what makes our wheels turn are the lessons she learned from her intern/assistant days.

Today, at our company (Joke Productions) we see people who come in to make the most of an opportunity, and those who don't. You can guess who's going far in about the first 15 minutes.

Expanding on your sentiment here, we have a post on our blog aimed at breaking into producing called How You Get Your First Job In Hollywood that might appeal to your readers.

Regardless, it comes down to the point you made...treat it like more than an internship...more than a job. This is your REAL showbiz education. Squeeze every bit of knowledge out of the job you can. That's a solid path to success.
Twitter: @jokeandbiagio

By Blogger Biagio of JokeAndBiagio, at 1:03 PM  

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