I think I can effectively discuss this issue as both of my daughters are writers for Television and live in Hollywoodland in a condo they share in Middle Earth Hollywood style. In the next few paragraphs I will tell you the ups and downs of being the person who gave birth to two amazing women who strive continually to have a female voice in a very male dominated industry.
From the time both daughters could write, they DID write. They were creative, funny, and always drew the attention of each teacher with their whimsical and sometimes insightful words on paper. I saved many of their works from about third grade to adulthood to chronicle what I knew even then would be their pursuit in life.
I guess they come by their passion for writing through the storytelling of early literature that was read to them, and then in their adolescence, their thirst for adventure through storytelling via their own scripts and role play that gave rise to their passions today. I watched unending plays and videos, and joined in the editing of some of their works on paper, amazed with each new glimpse into the psyche of my daughters.
While Daughter#1 attended a Large University and pursued (grudgingly) the classes of computer science and business while she hung out with fellow nerds, Daughter #2 blossomed into an above average student excelling in putting forth her own opinions and points of view through her high school and then community college classes.
Daughter #2 opted to go to community college and then transferred to Colombia College at Chicago to “own the cameras, not be in front of them,” while Daughter #1 went to work for a company in Orlando in an IT department. Daughter #2 graduated from Columbia College, went to work for a well known entertainment company in Chicago. She came home one day to announce that it was all well and good to be working for them, but if she wanted to pursue her career, she must move to Los Angeles and find work in the industry she felt destined to be a force in.
As a parent, I felt the trepidation of releasing my blonde-haired blue-eyed waif into the waiting arms of the beast that is Hollywood… Hollywood, where careers are sought but seldom accomplished no matter how much work is done towards the goal of being one of the “chosen ones.”
Daughter#2 went to Hollywood and stayed with a friend/colleague from her college days. While there, she enlisted a headhunter to help secure a position. That position was a stint as an office manager and then personal assistant to an A-List celebrity. Well, the girl had to start somewhere, why not near the top? Upon leaving this star’s employment, she began work with a production company, learning the fine points of moviemaking from the inside. She took several positions to learn as much about the industry from the inside as possible, and became a highly sought-after expert on many aspects of the industry.
Daughter #1, after seeing Daughter#2 make the move to LA, decided to attempt a transfer via her employer to offices in Burbank. After what seemed an eternity, albeit only a few months, Daughter#1 moved to LA and the two joined forces to overtake Hollywood. An amazing writing team was born!
Daughter #1 left her company and went to work for a very successful writer of well-known films in Los Angeles, through which she scooped up every nuance and word of advice he could muster. He became a mentor to her and she and he remain friends to this day.
Together the Sisters hit LA and their first script together caught the attention of an A-Lister who flew them to Albuquerque (where he was shooting a film) to meet with him about joining together for a project. Then they were stopped cold due to a writers’ strike which tabled their project indefinitely.
Over the next few years, they gained representation through a terrific agency & an agent who truly believes in their work. Daughter #2 became an assistant on a short-lived but popular tv show and has joint credit on one episode of that series, and together they have pitched their stories with great enthusiasm and always met with great support by those companies they’ve pitched to. One project is in the works with a major TV company as I type this. They have been a ten-year overnight success story, with much promise ahead of them.
So what advice do I have for those people who are yearning to be screen or TV writers? I’d like to impart what I have learned from both of my daughters during this tumultuous & rewarding time. This information is through personal observance of their trials and tribulations:
1. If it’s your Dream, make it your reality by networking with fellow writers, successful ones if possible, but anyone pursuing a dream like yours.
2. READ the successful scripts of writers. Let the words and actions that preceded you inspire you and instruct you on what works and what doesn’t.
3. Read the writings of fellow writers, however, guard against plagiarism, accidental or on purpose! Sometimes a good idea comes from the memory (consciously or unconsciously) of those whose works you’ve read. Make sure your good idea is protected at all times!
4. Learn ALL aspects of the industry. Why it runs the way it does, who does what, what is the process that your script will go through all the way to the end. Keep in mind the first “perfect” script you present will likely be torn apart and put together again by a team of writers who will refine it. Sometimes your work will hardly look like your work when a professional team gets ahold of it, so learn how this process works so you won’t be blindsided by it!
5. WRITE. Write as much as possible, but also, be prepared to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” when people who read your work come back at you with hard, but constructive criticisms.
6. Look into partnering with someone. Sometimes a good collaboration will help refine your work. Trust your own gut when you write, but be prepared to share the story in order to make the story stronger.
7. Read your work with new eyes. You wrote it, so you think you know it. Put the work away for a week or two, then go back and read it as if it were someone else’s work. Check the structure, the flow, the action and see if it is cohesive.
8. Remember, in order to do what you love sometimes you’ll have to do something you don’t love in able to afford the luxury of pursuing your dream position! Take any position that puts you in contact with people who are doing the very thing you want to do. This will give you an opportunity to watch the process from a quiet position. You can see the pain of creativity up close and personal!
9. TWITTER! Keep yourself active on all forms of Social Media. This again goes to the Networking. Remember to keep your accounts professional, non-biased and informative. People do search Social Media to see what you do/say, so WATCH OUT WHAT/HOW YOU SAY THINGS ON SOCIAL MEDIA!
10. Use your OWN voice when writing. You can fall into the trap of sounding like every staid commentary from every sitcom or procedural ever written. Find a NEW way to approach what’s already been done — difficult to do but yes, possible!
11. Make sure you have RELIABLE Transportation. This doesn’t mean a Lexus for your first good car, but there will be a LOT of travel time associated with any job in LA.
12. Be prepared to work LONG hours, be underappreciated, underutilized and generally miserable at any time during the process of pursuing your dream. But remember, Never Complain!
13. Never, Never, Never, give up. Even when your parents say, don’t you want to earn money and get a real job, the answer should be, I am working on obtaining a real job, and I work to support myself in a way that will allow me to do that. Remember to put aside a small savings as you work, because time may come when you’ll need that backup money. Remember that obtaining one writing job does NOT ensure others will follow. However, your opportunities of making that goal happen are largely increased!
If you can’t tell I support my daughters 1M% on their job choices. I had a vision once of watching one of my daughters on stage accepting an award for one of their endeavors. I pray that day comes soon for BOTH of them!
Now get out there and WRITE SOMETHING!