There are countless writers’ rooms that exist, especially in Los Angeles, yet the way in sometimes feels like a combination of secret doors and code words that are impossible to crack. So much of the entertainment industry is who you know, and that rule definitely applies here. Every writer’s story of how they got into a writers’ room is different, and there’s no one way to do it. However, there are ways that I’ve seen it happen time and time again, so if the writers’ room feels an impossible dream, consider me your guide to navigating the dream.
1. Get a Job as an Office Production Assistant (P.A.)
An office P.A. has a large array of duties, and if you want to rise through the ranks, you’re going to have to shine in all of them. Have a fantastic work ethic. Get there 15 minutes early, and stay late. You never know when you might walk to the elevator with the boss, who’s often the last one to leave. With every task you get, give it 110% and then some. It may sound silly, but if people are able to trust you with keeping the fridge stocked right and the coffee brewing, that can eventually evolve into them trusting you with larger tasks and a move up the food chain.
2. Make Friends with the Writers/P.A.s in the Writers’ Office
While you’re killing it in the office P.A. position, try to connect with those in the writers’ office. Know the fine line between being friendly and being overbearing, but a move toward the writers’ room often starts with someone in the room already knowing your face. They’ll remember how dependable you’ve been (keeping those snacks stocked, the lunch orders right and that coffee brewing is always appreciated by writers) and will have a good impression of you for when you move on to the next step.
3. Advocate For a Move to the Writers’ Office
Once you’ve established yourself as a superstar office P.A. and have mingled with the writers’ room, express your interest to be more involved. If there’s an opening, you’re likely going to be at the top of their list. People are more likely to hire people they know and trust rather than those they don’t. This will typically transition into a writers’ P.A., which is using all the P.A. skills you’ve honed, but specifically aiding the writers. Typically the next step on the ladder is a promotion to “Showrunner’s Assistant” or “Executive’s Assistant.” Crush that and then comes the Writers Assistant, and the rest is history. (Okay, that’s a little romanticized, but you get the idea. Regardless, you’ve got your foot in the door and you’re on the way up the food chain).
This, of course, is not the only way into a writers’ room. Every person’s route to the writers’ office is different. I’ve also seen people transition from a Script Coordinator into the writers’ room, and some people even come from working at talent agencies or skip the assistant route entirely and are staffed from creating great content via a web series, stand up, theater plays, etc. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there’s no one right way. However, this route is one of the most common ways, and I hope this makes the writers’ room feel less the impossible dream more like a challenging (but do-able) flight of steps to climb.
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Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.