Every writer dreams of writing for a hit television show, but what's the best way to break into the business? There is no easy answer, but with the right education and background, you'll possess the right tools to pursue a career writing for television.
The job of a television writer is a high profile and well paid career, but it isn't always glitz and glamour. Most writers struggle for work, and many jobs are part-time or on a contract basis. Although being a successful television writer takes a lot of creativity, it also takes a lot of patience for criticism. More often that not, your script is at the mercy of the producer, director, and studio executives who have the final say. Sometimes, you have to be willing to compromise your work, but the overall outcome can definitely be worth it.
Working for a television show can also be high-pressured, since you have to come up with new scripts week after week. With all the revisions of scripts and collaboration, a screenwriter can end up putting in a large number of hours each week.
Required Training and Degrees
Although an education isn’t required to be a television writer, it is highly encouraged. The University of Southern California, known for its stellar entertainment programs, has a bachelors degree in writing for screen and television. And Full Sail University focuses on the entertainment industry, and offers an online course for creative writing for entertainment.
After you get the education, it’s all up to you! Landing a job as a writer/producer's assistant on a television show can give you the best "behind the scenes" look at how a television show operates. As a writers/ producer's assistant, you will have the opportunity to read scripts, and more importantly, establish relationships with the writers and producers on the show. Many of today's top show runners and writers were once assistants. From logline to rewrite, learn the business from the ground up!
Experience, talent, creativity, and professionalism are the most important factors in getting many jobs in the film and television industry. In television and movies, you don't attempt to write the great American screenplay and then shop it around. It's virtually impossible to succeed that way!
Instead, writers will write a "spec" or sample script. How do you pick a show to write for? Easy! It should be a show that you are familiar with and watch on a regular basis. A "spec" script should showcase your skills and strengths as a writer and show that you know how to write and in the proper format. Your spec should also be a popular show that agents and show runners will recognize. Try to stay away from syndicated shows or shows that are in their first season.
A spec script is also essential in obtaining an agent. Once you have an agent, your agent will then send your script around to various producers and, if they like it, will meet with you, hear your ideas for other scripts, and possibly hire you to write for them.
It's also key to be where the "action" is. Television and film are both businesses based on personal relationships, and Los Angeles is where the "power players" are. So, if you want to be in the biz, it's a good idea to reside in Los Angeles.