I received this email today:
Lee – as a fringe writer (some low rent success –
but definitely not made) and an avid reader of Successful Television Writing, a question…
When DOES staffing season officially kick off.
I’m always hearing about the "Start of Staffing Season" and you mention it in STW, but I’ve never seen a time when this is actually going… Late April?
This is how I replied:
It’s not really a staffing "season," more like a couple of staffing "weeks."
The networks announce their fall schedules — the new shows they are picking up and the old shows they are either renewing or cancelling — in late May. Staffing the new shows, and some positions on returning series, begins almost immediately (though some confident, or at least extremely optimistic, pilot producers actually start taking "get to know you" meetings with potential staffers in early May, before they know whether or not their shows will get picked up).
Because most series begin shooting episodes in early July, the staffing season is a very narrow window of opportunity, just about four or five weeks. If you don’t land a job during those short, competitive, anxiety-filled weeks, odds are you will be sitting out the season (though you may get a freelance gig or a pilot). That said, there’s another staffing with that opens up a crack around August, when it’s clear that some showrunners and staffers aren’t cut out for their jobs and a quick change needs to be made… and then the window opens a bit again around Thanksgiving, when producers may look to make staff changes for "the back nine" if it looks likely their shows will get a full season pick-up.