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Complications Ensue:
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Q. In the FAQ section of your site, you mention that it can be a little more difficult for older people to break into TV writing. I just turned 29-years old and am considering going into television writing. I know I am probably at a disadvantage compared to, say, people fresh out of college who are looking to break into TV writing. 
My question to you is this: How much of a disadvantage, if any, is my age? I'm still willing to "rise through the ranks" and take on W.A. and P.A. jobs before becoming a Staff Writer and working my way up. But I know those types of jobs typically go to early- to mid-twenty somethings.
It depends what you've been doing for the past nine years. I started writing TV specs in my thirties and didn't get a TV episode on the air till my late thirties. On the other hand, I had a feature film credit, and a couple dozen feature specs, and I'd worked in indie features for years. If you started breaking into TV writing from being a TV agent, likewise, then 29 is not old at all.

Or, if you are Don Draper, it's not unreasonable, either.

If you were actually a soldier, cop, trauma ward surgeon, lawyer, or rich dilettante who solves crimes for the police, then you could parlay that into being the baby writer who actually knows something about the procedural world.

If you were, on the other hand, an accountant, then you would be, yes, a bit behind. But 29 is not outrageously old, if you're willing to pay the dues and work the ridiculous hours. I continue to think that the real issue for aging writers is not actual prejudice, but an unwillingness to eat all the crap sandwiches you have to eat to break in, or even stay, in the biz. (If you're successful, you get more bread to spread the crap on, which makes the sandwiches much tastier.)

There are also areas of TV where older people are more welcome. Kids' programming, ironically, is a haven for older writers, because they have kids.

But 29, for a writer? Not horribly old. (For an actor, 29 is horribly old. All things being equal, do not attempt to start an acting career at 29.)


Yeah, I worry about that myself as I am 48 and just getting into screenwriting. While I have written a bunch of unpublished very short stories, I wonder if it's too late. My solace from your blog is that I have been an insurance agent, an air traffic controller, economic developer for cities, restaurant owner and my metal band's CD still sells for $25 on Amazon. Hopefully that will parlay into something original. But I have asked my friends if we were 65 could we start a rock band that would take the country by storm like we would when we were 25. There is something about the generation gap and entertainment that are mutually inclusive. Sigh.

By Blogger Unknown, at 8:38 PM  

"I have asked my friends if we were 65 could we start a rock band that would take the country by storm like we would when we were 25."

Is that your pitch, Jeff? If it isn't, it should be. No 25-year-old could compete with you.

By Blogger Stephen Gallagher, at 8:28 AM  

I hear you, and I believe all that life experience will pay off in dialogue and onscreen relationships of all sorts. But my query was about not getting the current generation's thinking because I am a generation or two removed. Not that I need to write for them, but there is something exhilarating when your youth comes up against the edge of the box and you go outside the box because you haven't lived long enough to have life experience to recognize this. Often in my view it is when new ideas/genres/etc are created. Do 45 or 65 year olds create such things? I would love to see examples!

By Blogger Unknown, at 10:52 PM  

I'll give you a personal example. I own and run a bar. Luckily it caters to all ages and the generations mix pretty well. In my late 30s I found I could relate to a 22 year old because my thinking wasn't that far removed. The things I thought about, did for fun, movies I watched, were things that a 20-something would do or related to. Now in my late 40s I find my ability as that dynamic host of hospitality has lost some of its ability to relate to anyone at any age.

By Blogger Unknown, at 10:57 PM  

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