Monday, September 23, 2013

5 Questions with a Comedy Showrunner's Assistant/Writers' Assistant

Jessica is the showrunner's assistant and writers' assistant for NBC's Sean Saves the World, which premieres on October 3. She was kind enough to answer 5 questions about her job:

How did you get your job?
I started working with Victor Fresco as a writers' PA on ABC's Better Off Ted. Over the course of the show, the other writers' office assistants were nice enough to train me in their respective jobs, so by the end of the second season, I'd had experience helping out as an Executive Producer assistant as well as in-room writers' assistant.  When Victor's assistant got staffed and moved on, Victor hired me as his assistant through his deal at ABC Studios.  From there, I took on the additional responsibility of script coordinator for the pilot of ABC's Man Up! and served as in-room writers' assistant when it went to series. And then when Victor made a deal with UTV, I went with him, which led to my position on Sean Saves the World.

What are the duties of your job/what is a usual day like? 
Victor's a pretty low-maintenance guy, so it's mostly just scheduling, communicating with other departments, and taking notes on calls for him. As writers' assistant, I'm in the writers' room typing the script or notes on a computer hooked up to two big monitors, trying not to make any real-time mistakes. I also help with proofreading and script distribution in my downtime. Annnd judiciously pitch jokes.  Since SSTW is a multi cam, part of my day involves going to set and seeing run-thrus or a shoot, which is always fun and allows time to socialize - something you don't get on single cam as much.

Do you have time to write at your job? 
Haha. No. While my boss was in development, I had plenty of time to make progress on my own samples, write for my sketch group, and freelance blog for two different comedy sites, but all that has fallen by the wayside for the time being. Every show I've worked on has been like this - you kind of have to give yourself over to the job and not look back, or you'll go nuts with guilt.

What kinds of things have you learned about writing or the industry from your job? 
Oh my gosh - it's like paid grad school. Watching the writers go through the writing (and rewriting and rewriting) process, I've learned that it's worth it to rethink every single joke...the best stuff doesn't come from the most obvious thought pattern.  And you want your main character to drive the story - that's a big one. Oh, and just say nice things about everyone all the time, even when shit-talking is justified.

Have you asked your boss to read your writing? How have you gone about navigating that?
Yes - it took me a long time to work up the courage to show my boss my writing, and he was very encouraging and gave me great feedback. I've also gotten to develop with an executive I met. I think most people want to help you to the extent that you enable them to do so, but you can't expect anyone to be your savior. It's important to be really, really confident that what you're showing them is your absolute best work, as first impressions can shape the way a person perceives your talent. But don't be such a perfectionist that you never show anyone anything. It's...hard, but worth it!

3 comments:

Waves of Gray said...

It's amazing that such great insight can be related in just five questions! Thank you!

Jonathan Hardesty said...

That was a great interview. Makes me think I should have started out looking into the writing assistant aspect instead of what I'm doing right now. I've been ridiculously bad at progressing with the networking aspect. =/

Unknown said...

Great questions and great answers. Thanks for sharing.