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Complications Ensue:
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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm always thrilled when I hear from working tv and film writers who read this blog, because not only does it make me feel like I'm not completely talking out of my hat, it's an excuse to ask them questions about their craft and their history. Aury Wallington got her start as a script coordinator on Sex and the City, and turned that into her first TV script gig. How, you may ask? I did ask, and Aury was kind enough to write back:
Sex and the City was the first TV show I'd ever worked on -- I'd been living in New York and working in features (as a celebrity personal assistant.) But my dream job was to write for television, and a friend of mine recommended me for the SATC job. I wasn't sure if I'd ever get a chance to write an episode, since it was such a huge successful show and I was a complete beginner. But there wasn't a lot of TV shooting in NYC, and I was scared of moving out to LA and starting from scratch. (which, by the way, was crazy -- even though it ended up working out unbelieveably well for me, it's absolutely vital for a person who wants to work in TV to move to Los Angeles. Aspiring TV writers will increase their chances a thousand percent by living in LA... and within a month after SATC ended, I'd moved out here...)

I worked as hard as I could on Sex and the City, not only doing my script coordinator duties, but also looking for any opportunities I could find to write *anything* -- I wrote episode descriptions for the HBO website, and anytime the props department needed written copy (when they would show a newspaper with Carrie Bradshaw's column in it, for example) I would volunteer, and write the coolest, funniest copy I could, even though no one would ever read it (it would be a one second blur of words on the TV...)

But the producers started noticing that the props were these funny articles, and I was also writing and publishing short stories and essays, which I'm sure help legitimize me as a writer. Plus they knew and liked me personally, so, when they were assigning the freelance episode for season six, they gave it to me.

(I think freelance episodes are also misunderstood by most aspiring TV writers -- I know that before I'd actually worked in TV, I thought that freelance scripts were the way for unknown writers to break in -- the reality, of course, is that freelance episodes are assigned to established writers, and are generally only given as "the big break" to assistants who already work on the show.)

Which is another reason to move to LA... a good 50 percent of the working writers I know got their start paying their dues as writers' assistants on shows, and 99 percent of TV shows are based in LA. (even if the show films elsewhere, frequently the writers will work from LA.)

I was incredibly fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to write for SATC -- but my "lucky break" came after 3 years of working on the show and building relationships with the producers... which, I think, shows another point -- finding a writing job in TV really is, in many ways, about "who you know" -- but the good news is, it's possible to get to know the people who can provide opportunities... you just need to realize that it might take some hard work, and it might not happen overnight...


Thank you Alex for talking to Aury and thank you to Aury for her candid thoughts about the biz and breaking in. Isn't she teaching a TV class through Media Bistro? Sounds as if it will be well worth it.

By Blogger Scribe LA, at 8:22 PM  

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