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!