Thursday, October 30, 2008

But there are writers rooms in NY! I swear!

Mike writes, with much urgency: I have an urgent question: If a person is looking to get work on a show produced (written/shot) in NYC, e.g., Life on Mars, e.g., because one actually lives in New York (I'm a writer for 4KidsTV in NYC), is it really the case that one would have to move to LA to get an agent so that one could get work close to where one USED to live before one moved to LA??? Sorry for the three question marks, but it's starting to sound like the wicked-step-mother of all catch-22's. I'd appreciate some perspective, or better yet, some knock-my-socks-off/I-could-kiss-your-generously-sized-feet advice.

Ok dude, chill. Tonight's one of those nights when my allergies make me want to scratch my eyes out of my head, and too many question marks really exacerbate the situation. And is it really urgent? I mean, is California drifting off into the Pacific and you have to hurry up and jump on? And why did nobody tell me about this?? And how did I forget to DVR the premiere of 30 Rock??? And is it possible your question mark disease is contagious????

Okay, so here's the deal. There are writers in New York. There are agents in New York. I don't think the writers who work on 30 Rock or SNL or Monk or whatever show you're thinking of moved to LA to break in just to move back to NY. However, there are waaay more shows in LA and it's a case of odds. It's probably not super easy to get a staff gig in NY. And if you really want to be a writer, you might not realistically be able to tell your agent, "Only submit my work to these four shows instead of dozens more." It's like having a store but only keeping it open on Wednesdays and Fridays. You're gonna sell more if you're Clever, huh?

I can't really talk about how to make it as a TV writer in NY. I don't know how they do it. If I did, maybe I would have stayed there instead of moving here. There are definitely opportunities in late-night and variety. But for straight-up regular TV, it just seems to be way easier in LA. There are more writers, more agents, more shows, more people for you to meet with and impress. More entry-level jobs for you to get so you can work your way up.

Overall I just think it's too narrow minded to say, "I am going to write for a show based in NY." You gotta start somewhere. Walk dogs that belong to Important People. Be a writers assistant. Write for an obscure cable show. Whatever. I mean, sure, it would be nice to just walk into the writers room , tell Tina Fey you like her better than Sarah Palin and then write her next Emmy nomination vehicle. But very few people get that luxury.

I've blogged before about things you can do outside of LA...but I'm inclined to think that if you really wanted to be a TV writer, you'd move here. I did. And so did lotssss of other people.

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Mark Thomas said...

Thanks for your reply. It was a balanced one, esp. for someone who was close to tearing her eyes out. Didn't mean to cheese you off, and again, sorry for the hyper-emphatics. It was that kind of a day for me too. (And actually, though LA is not drifting away literally, there is indeed a window that is closing for me in this regard.)

You mentioned that there are indeed agents based in NY. Is there a representation directory for these agents (the Hollywood Representation Directory for NYC, in other words)? Because if so, it really seems that I ought to try striking out here first before going for broke...unless there really is no other gateway to anywhere than LA, practically speaking (e.g., because New York agents only take writers coming out of LA seriously)?

Bgirl said...

Also, I wouldn't assume that because "Life on Mars" films in NY that the writers are actually based there. For half hour multi-cam shows, the writers would be in NY. They need to be given how multi-cam comedies are written. But most one hour shows have their writers in L.A., regardless of where they shoot. Smallville films in Vancouver, but their writers are here. Same is/was true of Supernatural, Battlestar, Everwood.

The only exception I know of off the top of my head was "Homicide" where they all had to live in Baltimore because the execs felt the city was a character in and of itself and felt the writers needed to live there to understand it.

So if you want to do one hour, L.A. is still the place to be.

Amanda said...

Mark - don't worry you, you didn't cheese my off.

I don't know. is the Hollywood Creative Directory website. Also maybe look at the WGA East, .
As for NY agents taking only writers coming out of LA seriously, I don't see how that would be true at all. I mean, they take themselves seriously, don't they? Do some searching. See if you can find out how successful NY-based writers got their start. It's not what I'm doing, so I don't have much insight.

bgirl - "For half hour multi-cam shows, the writers would be in NY." This isn't true. BIG BANG THEORY, GARY UNMARRIED, TWO AND A HALF MEN - all in LA. You ARE right that just because shows are taped in NY doesn't mean the writers are in NY. Similarly, just because a show is set in NY doesn't mean it's even taped there, like SEINFELD.

Dan Williams said...

This is somewhat off topic, but it's an idea on how to get read more.

As a way of getting read, writers could start up a webpage and post a spec script on it, and then have business cards referring to it ready to give out when they are networking (since it might be awkward to try to hand out a spec script at a party or an event!) And using this method invites the reader to read the spec without much, if any, pressure from the writer.

The webpage with the spec on it could require a password (which is on the business card) if the writer doesn't want to post it for all to read.

Anyway, it's worth a try!

Anonymous said...

As someone working on a New York television show, I can tell you that while all the writers are in NYC, I'd say almost all of them relocated from LA. I myself want to work in the film industry but live in NY, and I know it's going to be hard but I understand that after a while, if no jobs come along, I will have to go to LA to have a career. It sucks, since I'm a born and raised New Yorker, but you gotta do what you gotta do if you want to make it!

Bgirl said...

"bgirl - "For half hour multi-cam shows, the writers would be in NY." This isn't true. BIG BANG THEORY, GARY UNMARRIED, TWO AND A HALF MEN - all in LA. You ARE right that just because shows are taped in NY doesn't mean the writers are in NY. Similarly, just because a show is set in NY doesn't mean it's even taped there, like SEINFELD."

Sorry, I didn't mean to be unclear. I meant that if a multi-camera show is SHOT in NY, then the writers would be there. Not that all multi-cam shows have their writers in NY; which I know to not be true since I work on two of the shows you listed above. :)

Amanda said...

annamaria - good to know! yeah, that's the thing - I feel like breaking in is just easier in LA.

bgirl - oh ok, gotcha! very cool!

Frankie said...

I have no idea how I found this, but I'm basically you, except a lit assistant at an agency in NY who pretends he wants to write plays as an excuse not to move to LA. I really needed to read this.