Wednesday, January 14, 2015

5 Questions with a Writers' PA on a network drama

I interviewed a Writers' PA on a network drama (who wishes to stay anonymous). I can relate to her story of a winding path: a career is more than just one job or one opportunity!

1. What's your background?

I went to film school at USC, majored in Critical Studies (Film Studies). I did a wide variety of internships from production companies to TV shows and even in TV I dabbled...I worked in the art department on Mad Men but then also worked in writers' offices on shows like Smallville and Brothers and Sisters. I also at one point worked with an executive coordinating animation events which was interesting. And then if I don't sound career ADD enough, on weekends, I was doing film makeup and working as a production designer on music videos and student projects. I was all over the place, but honestly I think a lot of the moving around came from fear. I knew I wanted to write and was trying to find everything and anything to replace what seemed like a far-fetched dream but then a few years later decided to actually take a chance on myself.

2. How did you finally get the writers' PA job?

Oh god. I honestly thought after school I was golden, I had done so many internships, I thought I'd easily land back on a show after graduation but it didn't happen that way, not for 3 more years. I sort of had to take every step possible to get there which frustrated me beyond belief. I ended up temping / PAing at a studio which then got me assistant experience. With that assistant experience I was able to land a desk at a management company where I also worked for a film / tv producer in development. While I was there, I was trying to take advantage of building up my network which ultimately helped me finally move back into TV where I landed a gig as a production PA. I was on a few Showtime shows as a production PA before I was able to finally hop over into the writers' office as a writers' PA on a network drama.  My friend worked on the sister show and let me know about the opening.

3. What are the typical duties and hours of your job, and how long did the job last?

I was pretty lucky that this writers' PA gig lasted from March to the holidays -- but the catch is that because it's a new show and wouldn't air until a couple months after, if we did get picked up, we wouldn't work until June so then you're on the search all over again. While on the show, the hours depended on where the writers were on the deadlines. Sometimes a couple writers would work late and you'd stay an extra hour or two but I definitely didn't work the hours I did in production. I can safely say I worked 9-10 hour days, sometimes less, sometimes more. As for tasks, my gig was a little more unique in the sense that our production was in Vancouver so I ended up also being a production coordinator type role for LA so I ended up setting up the entire office. It was surprise on my first day when I came and there were no office supplies, no internet, nothing. It was like OK, we have a lot to take care of and you sort of just dive in. Luckily, I just came from production so had an idea of what to do. In addition to those tasks, I did the lunch runs, grocery runs, handled office supply orders, any sort of distribution to the writers and logistics I took care of.

The journey never looks anything like you expect it to.

4. What's something you've learned from your experiences in Hollywood?

That even when you "make it" and are consistently working, there is always going to be a new writing struggle. You're constantly proving yourself even if you have a multi-million dollar deal with a studio. It was eye-opening. It made me realize to try to have fun even while going through the sludge and misery -- being miserable the 90% of the time you're not feeling accomplished or successful is no way to live.

5. What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writers' PA or wants to get closer to TV writers?

The funny thing is there's never just one way. I know people who literally ran into a producer or UPM who then put them on a show and it's history after that then there are others who have had to really climb through different facets of the industry or TV departments to get on a show. It really comes down to meeting that person who can hire you so yeah, just bumping into someone isn't a sure thing but gaining exposure certainly will help those chances of getting to know the right people. I'd look at where you are now and think of ways to meet people. The agency route tends to be great for networking but I don't think is necessarily good for everyone. A TV production company could be a good way to go and I know working in the digital space you meet a good chunk of people who have access to writers. I don't know, the list could go on, there's literally ten thousand different ways to get there so if you're carving any sort of path, I'd say throw it out now because if I've learned anything, the journey never looks anything like you expect it to. Just make sure to keep meeting people, thinking of outside of the box in your approach and of course, writing as much as you can.

No comments: