What would be a good starting point to find a job in the business out there in LA? I'd like to move there as soon as I can, but I need to find something first. Plus, I'm a guy, and maybe it's different in LA, but everywhere else, assistant jobs are 90-something% of the time given to women. Besides just finding a job, what else do you recommend doing in order to get better at writing?
First off, I talk to a pretty equal number of female and male assistants across agenices, studios, networks, prodcos. Certain bosses have gender preferences, but overall, I think the playing field's pretty equal. My mailroom "class" was about 11 guys and 3 girls (is it wrong that I really enjoyed this?). On any account, I assure you that dudes get jobs.
Annnd - I hear ya. It is more than a little daunting to move to a new city (which, for many of us, is three timezones away) without a job. But I'm telling you, it's what you have to do. For most of the people I know, it takes about 6-8 weeks to find a job - and maybe longer to find the right one, even if you know a ton of people out here already like I did. Check out my blog posts from August & September - especially this one - for more on the search. I've heard of people with contacts taking trips out here for pre-move interviews, but it didn't seem plausible for me. I think you're going to have a really tough time trying to get a job here if you don't live here. For one, there are zillions of other people vying for the same position. Why would your prospective employer bother dealing with someone who can't come in for an interview if there are thirty people who can come in tomorrow? Also, assistant gigs become available and are filled VERY quickly. Nobody is going to wait a few weeks or more for you to move. So, although you're going to face many blank stares from the friends and relatives who would never dream of doing it, just come here. For the record, I didn't have a job OR an apartment when I started my journey down the 90. (I'm not saying it's not a big deal. I'm saying you'd better be damn sure you want this - so sure that you're willing to face the uncertainty of being jobless and homeless.)
In those 6-8 weeks of The Search, there are a few things you can do. It would be great if you had some money saved up. I didn't because I was aching to start Real Life, but I'm still in credit card debt, I have a weakness for pretty clothes and I've learned all my financial lessons the hard way. You can work as an extra through Central Casting pretty much immediately. I know a few people who did that while we interned out here during college and had some very amusing stories to tell. My friend was going to write a show about it until realizing Ricky Gervais beat her to it. Sneaky, that one. You can find PA work through internet sites, friends, etc. You can also get temp work through staffing agencies like Star Staffing. As for the real jobs - there is the UTA list, craigslist, mandy.com, entertainmentcareers.net, mediabistro.com, and all the various studio and network websites. Also don't be afraid to look at the production listings in the trades and call up the offices to ask if you can send a resume. The worst they can say is no. You may eat up a lot of your cell phone minutes, but I do know of three people who got jobs this way. None of these avenues will pay off as much as personal referrals (which is why networking is so important), but I've gotten a few interviews as a result of scouring the internet. And once you have your first job, you'll have those referrals so you probably won't need to scour ever again (yay!).
Keep in mind that none of these jobs will lead directly to TV writerdom. The whole point of getting a job in the industry is to 1. learn how it all works and 2. make contacts, so you can complete the two-step process to TV writing success: writing a great script, and getting someone important to read it. There are plenty of writers who don't start out as Hollywood assistants. It makes the most sense for me, but if you've got some other way to pay rent, go for it. I always liked the idea of marrying some rich, attractive man who supported me while I sat around and wrote scripts by the pool - but I also liked the idea of a fourth season of Veronica Mars. Time to let go of the dream.
As for how else you can become a better writer:
READ: scripts - especially the real ones and not the online transcripts, if you can get your hands on them (another perk of being a Hollywood asssistant). books. blogs. screenwriting books. trades like Variety & the Hollywood Reporter.
WATCH: tv. film. youtube videos. whatever.
DISCUSS: your writing and the writing of others in classes, workshops, writing groups.
GO: to events hosted by the Academy, the WGA, Paley, etc.