Sunday, August 16, 2009

Part Two

Cleempfshk. That's the sound of my plastic hangers sliding across the wooden bar in my hallway closet. (Okay, I'm no onomatopoeia expert - but I do love metaphors.) I just moved all the skirts and pants and button-up-shirts of my work attire out of my room, because I'm not really going to need them anymore.

Friday was my last day at the agency.

No, I didn't get a sweet writer's assistant gig (though I interviewed for eight). No, I haven't sold my feature spec for some huge number against some huger number. And no, I didn't get fired! I quit. Here's the thing - I started working at the agency in October 2007, telling myself that it would only be a year. Then I spent a few months in the mailroom. Then the strike hit. Then I finally got a desk and the year started over. Finally Day 365 on the desk came, and I announced I'd be looking for jobs. Then Day 366, and 367, and 368...

Cut to July of 2008, day 4-something-but-I-stopped-counting-a-while-ago. I was still in the same job. I was lucky enough to score some good interviews through friends, but none of them panned out. I got a lot of "We love you, but"s. We love you, but we're hiring the showrunner's friend. We love you, but we're promoting from within. We love you, but we're cutting the budget and not hiring anymore. Then staffing season ended, and my prospects started to dry up. I started considering development jobs, feature jobs, whatever, at least they pay more - but those are pretty scarce. Problem is, nobody's getting promoted right now - which means no assistants are leaving their posts. Most of the people I know who work at production companies and studios have been in their positions for two or more years.

But I couldn't stay at the agency forever. I had learned what I was going to learn, and I had made the connections I was going to make. There really was no point to staying there any longer, especially since the salary didn't allow me to save any money. So I started looking for other things. I had heard about other writers finding well-paying work as tutors, so I started applying for tutoring jobs. And I think because I have some experience from college and some experience from volunteering with WriteGirl, I was able to find one with a reputable company. It's not a full-time thing (although 16.5 hours a week of tutoring would pay the same as 40 hours of my old job), but with a little blogging and possibly other occasional part-time gigs, I think I should be able to make ends meet. It helps that I'm not used to making much.

I kind of expected all my assistant friends to gasp and say WHAT? YOU'RE LEAVING THE INDUSTRY? - but everyone has actually been really supportive. I've been congratulated a lot, which is pretty funny, the concept of being congratulated on quitting my job during a recession when I don't have a full-time job to replace it. Still, I'm really happy about it. I do realize that most people get staffed on TV shows as a result of being a writer's assistant or showrunner assistant - and I'm certainly not ruling out the idea of finding that kind of job in the future - but for right now, I'm gonna focus on writing while I pay my bills with non-industry stuff. I think it's also worth noting that in features, nobody really cares what showrunner loves you. You do need to get your script inside the iron walls of Hollywood somehow, but it seems that beyond that, it really is about the script. (As opposed to TV, where I've heard instances of assistants getting to write scripts even if nobody's read a word of their stuff.) Everybody loves the story of the guy who's living in his grandma's basement in Jersey and then he wins the Nicholls or whatever and gets plucked from obscurity. I started out being all ra-ra-ra TV, but since I've worked in features, and since I'm feeling good about my romcom, I've started to think maybe I could pursue that route. (Go ahead, make your joke about how I'll have to change the name of this blog.)

I still recommend getting a job in the industry for the learning experience, but I don't know if you necessarily have to stay there forever. There was an interesting interview with TV writer Scott Rosenberg on the Hollywood Writer's Office Assistants blog in which Scott recommended working in the industry for a couple years and then getting the eff out - he said he even became a truck driver. Because you don't want to get burned out, and you don't want your job to prevent you from writing. I think a lot of aspiring writers find themselves in one of two situations: 1. they have a grueling industry job and when an Important Person says "send me your script," they have nothing to show; or 2. they have a bunch of scripts sitting on their hard drive and nobody to send them to. You do have to gain connections somehow - but you also have to write. I'm hoping the connections I have will come through for me...and for right now it's writing time.

Bleh, okay, enough of that. If you have any questions about my agency experience, please do comment or email. I'm not going to reveal and juicy secrets, but I can certainly advise and reflect.

And as for this blog, expect more posts. And perhaps some weekly features - I've already decided that I'll be doing Thrifty Thursdays, where I feature cheap drinks, lunch specials, etc. for all my fellow economically challenged Angelenos. W00t!

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14 comments:

Dzof said...

I find your post interesting, because I am currently a full-time TV writer, but I'm thinking of quitting within the next year to move on.

The difference is that my job is now in Malaysia and I'm wondering if I should step out and go to Hollywood.

There are several reasons why I want to do this, but it's mainly because a really good show here can only get one or two million viewers, whereas an okay show in the US can get more. (Trying to reach out to as many people as possible is important to me.)

The irony is that I'm working so hard at my current job that I don't have time to write specs for Hollywood. Looking for a job _there_ while I'm _here_ is maybe not so practical. (I do wonder about how much time I should I put aside to try and 'make it big' in Hollywood, which scares me a little.)

I think doing a part-time job is not a bad idea. I used to do part-time training before my full-time gig, and the good thing is that you do get time to write.

Anyway, good luck, and don't stop writing.

Mike said...

Good luck! And (I'll say it, too) congratulations. It does take a lot of nerve to quit, knowing that you've done what you set out to accomplish.

Looking forward to more blogging...

Lisa said...

Good luck. And Congrats! Brave. And you're right. You need time to write. That's what's important!

Kristan said...

WOWZA, what a move! Congrats. I'm an aspiring novelist working part-time, after quitting a full-time job as well, and it's done wonders for my writing. I hope the same for you!

Dan Williams said...

It sounds like you've really thought it out and know what you need and are going for it. So you have my full support, for what it's worth! After university, I taught English for a year and then went into a non-writing related job in an insurance company to get some 'real world experience.' It worked out that I did get it, but I think I should have kept a daily diary to improve my writing skills that way and pile up the stories to tell. Tutoring can be a great job as you can always get the students to do the talking (which is the best way for them to learn). I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your writing to land you a job as a writer's assistant or better, and for your romcom to open doors for you!

E Dot said...

I think it's great your moving on from a job you're not happy with. I did that 4 months ago and couldn't be more content.

Are you completely abandoning TV? Or are you dabbling in both feature and television? I began in feature, then decided to spend this year writing specs and a pilot. Then, 2010 will be my feature writing year. Otherwise, I'll get caught in a rut and I love both mediums.

The Bitter Script Reader said...

Congrats on quitting... as several of my friends can attest, agency life isn't for everyone and two years on a desk does seem to be the point where one says, "I've got what I needed - no reason to stay and stagnate."

And now you've got me thinking I should investigate getting work as a tutor. Best of luck with the feature script.

japhy99 said...

Bravo Amanda for following your gut instinct. Not enough people do that. Rock on~~

odocoileus said...

Filmmakers and their Day Jobs

Detroit Girl said...

OMG! Love your blog! I feel we are kind of on the same journey. I too am an aspiring writer. I am currently at an internship where I feel like I have learned everything I am going to learn and it is in the hospice industry-not where I see myself at all. If you care you can check out my blog at www.vivalassam.blogspot.com sometimes. Kudos on having the courage to follow your gut! I am all for that! Keep pushing! I really like your writing style. It's captivating. NO BS. You will find your light!

Cheers to all of us who have the courage and heart to chase our dreams!

Sam W.

Johnny Hugel said...

Wow, to echo everyone's sentiments, congrats! I can only imagine it will lead to better things.

danny said...

Good luck, Amanda.

I really enjoy reading your thoughts on current TV shows and movies, so please do keep that up.

Erin said...

Bravo and best wishes! It's a tough call to make sometimes, but it's one I'm sure you won't regret.

Erin said...
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