Tuesday, July 17, 2012

5 Questions with a Writer's Assistant and Script Coordinator

For most of 2007-2011, Caleb Bacon was David Milch’s Writer’s Assistant/Script Coordinator. He says: "During that time we did John From Cincinnati, a pilot in NYC called Last of the Ninth, two years of development of Luck, and then Luck. During periods of hiatus I would do some freelance Writer’s Assistant work for a variety of writers including former Cheers Executive Producer Rob Long. Last Fall, I did the Sullivan & Son multi-cam pilot with him and Vince Vaughn for TBS. And this year I basically did both gigs -- Script Coordinator and Writers Assistant -- on the comedy’s first season. Sullivan & Son debuts this Thursday, 7/19, at 10pm on TBS."

You can also follow Caleb on Twitter: @CalebEatsBacon.

1. How did you get your job as writer's assistant?

I had two different crew jobs on Deadwood and over two seasons I developed a relationship with the show’s creator, David Milch. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life but David had a sense that I was a writer even before I fully came to that myself.

After Deadwood’s third season, he brought me into the Writers Room as a writing intern. I even received a weekly paycheck. Unfortunately, Deadwood was cancelled but we instantly started work on John From Cincinnati. And when there was an opening, I became Script Coordinator. I was a mid-season replacement.

2. What are all the duties of your job/what are your usual hours?

All of the shows I’ve worked on have had their own sort of hours and duties. Back on John From Cincinnati I had to be on set for first rehearsal every morning. David Milch would often rewrite scenes on set so I’d need to be there for those changes. That’d often be as early as 6 a.m. My recent transition to comedy rooms has been more friendly for sleeping-in as I typically don’t need to be in until 10 a.m. And I’ve occasionally had to be in Writers Rooms after midnight.
Every show is also different in terms of how the Writers’ Assistant and Script Coordinator and Writers PA split responsibilities. I’ve done everything from taken notes in The Writers’ Room, to typing on the large monitor in The Room for rewrites, to issuing scripts for production, to dealing with the lawyers on clearances issues, to cleaning up all of the half-consumed water bottles in The Room, to making sure that all of my superiors are appropriately caffeinated.

3. Do you have time to write?

Honestly, it’s hard while I’m on a show. After staring at Final Draft all day it’s hard to stare at Final Draft all night. Plus, the stress, the hours, and all of the carbohydrates, can be exhausting. Then there’s trying to have some kind of personal life. So, thankfully I don’t have to work 50 weeks/year.

But because of all of that I’ve discovered some fun and unexpected creative outlets. I’ve written essays, articles, produced and hosted almost 150 episodes of a podcast, taken improv classes, and done some sketch comedy.

I’ve scaled back on a lot of that stuff these days so that I can better focus on my writing. I’m 31 and would like to one day have “Assistant” gone from my title. I believe I have to write my way to the next step.

4. How is being a writer's assistant on a comedy different from being a writer's assistant on a drama? 

The laughter is the main thing. And for me, I love showing up to a job where I know we’re going to be cracking up all day.

5. What have you learned from your job - writing or otherwise?

I’ve learned that I’m the happiest when I’m doing the best that I can at the job that I have -- while not worrying about the job that I don’t yet have. I’ve became someone who can type over 100 words-per-minute and is a Final Draft Ninja. While these aren’t things I tell women at bars, I’ve became a really good Script Coordinator/Writers Assistant. Even though I want to write full-time, I take pride in the job I have now. Because of that I often get television work, and don’t have to take “civilian” jobs. Over the years, writers that I admire have been willing to read my stuff, and even let me pitch in The Room. And once I find my way into a staff job, I plan on being extra kind to the Writers’ Assistant. (So long as he or she doesn’t screw up my lunch order!)


Unknown said...

This can be a difficult industry to break into, loved the helpful insight. For those looking to get into this industry as screenwriters I would suggest Screenplay Form & Structure. Sounds like a textbook, but acctually a narrative of ideas from over 30 professionals in the industry.

DBNYC said...

Thank You so much for keeping this blog updated!! I'm currently working a full-time tech job at an Ad agency while still trying to keep my creative dreams alive.. This site instills hope..much appreciated. 

Jessica Butler said...

Great post!