Thursday, February 19, 2015

5 Questions with a Writers' PA on a network drama

A Writers' Production Assistant on an upcoming drama on a three-letter network was kind enough to answer 5 questions about her job:

What's your background?

I grew up in the south and I didn't attend any film school. But I did go to college and my degree is actually on the other end of the spectrum from film: Health and Physical Education. It's funny looking back -- Google and trial-by-fire were my film education. For two years before I decided to pursue writing professionally and move to LA,  I was a coach and teacher. I looked around and told myself I didn't want to do this for the next thirty years of my life, so after my second year I packed up and moved to LA.

I did do an internship for a summer at a production company, but I got in right on the brink of that big intern lawsuit so I was lucky to be able to do that and not need it for college credit. I was already living in LA at the time. Funny enough, I had a staffing meeting at this company and made friends with the exec and when I saw the listing for an intern at that company I emailed her and was like, "So... what are the requirements?" And she told me to start the next week.

How did you get your current job as Writers' PA? 

This is actually my first industry related job. I kind of went about it backwards so I apologize to anyone leaning in to get all the good secrets to success. I actually went on a staffing meeting for this show and had made a good connection with the creator, so when I didn't get the writing position, I emailed to see if they needed any assistants since they were about to start up and they did, so he hired me. I originally got the staffing meeting because I had a manager and agents. I had reps when I moved out, but have since changed management companies and agencies. My team is really great and the get my material out there and really champion me. I know that's not the case for everyone (I've been on the opposite side) but I really give them credit where it's due.

What are the basic duties of your job?

My biggest duty of the day is definitely lunch. I collect orders every morning from the writers and get that put in as early as I can because it seems all the TV shows eat at the same dozen places around this area every week. One day I showed up to pick up an order and there were five of us PAs from various shows waiting on food, ha.

Aside from lunch I do a lot of office work -- answering phones, ordering supplies, getting groceries, keeping the kitchen clean and stocked. When the writers' assistant is gone, sometimes I get to pop in the room to take notes or when the showrunner's assistant is away, I take over phone and email duties -- so I get to mix it up every now and then.

How long is your typical work day? When do you write?

I consistently work 10-12 hours a day. There's that saying you always hear about PAs -- first to arrive, last to leave -- and that's pretty accurate. Finding writing time and the energy can definitely be tough because at the end of the day you're exhausted mentally and physically and weekends become about recuperation. When I have some down time at work (like I do at the moment), I will sneak in some writing at my desk. Otherwise, I'm taking full advantage of three day weekends or long holidays to binge write and then I'll rewrite in the office. Every blue moon, I'll get up early enough to get in the office early and do some writing, but I've found I'm not a morning writing at all, so sometimes I'll stay after everyone leaves and get a couple pages in.

What's something you've learned from your job?

How much being a great writer can become secondary when working on a television show...because when you're breaking as a group and getting constant feedback on outlines and scripts from ten or more people, it's like they help rewrite you over and over. Which leads me to say, it's very important to have a great personality because you're hanging around the same 12-14 people all day. I think I heard a showrunner say something like, "I'll hire a good writer with a great personality over a great writer who is an asshole...I can always rewrite them but I can't change them if they're an asshole..."

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