To Be Or Not To Be A Writer’s Assistant

I got this email the other day:

I realize that I don’t have the
experience or knowledge to land a job in the industry.  Therefore, it seems
reasonable to me that I should try to break in as a writer’s assistant. I  know it is an unglamorous job, but I also know it will expose me to the production process by allowing me to observe the daily workings of whatever show I’m working on.   So the question is, obviously, how do I do it? How do I break in, and whom do I contact?

Here’s what I told him. The best advice I can offer you isn’t that revolutionary….you need
to send your resume to the personnel offices at the various studios and
production companies, big and small. You can start by getting getting
copies of VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, the weekly issues with
the TV and Movie Production reports,  jot down the names of every production company you see
and send them your resume.  Familiarity
with Microsoft Word, Excel, and the various screenwriting programs
(Movie Magic and Final Draft) will be essential.  You might also try Variety Careers and searching for openings for writer’s assistants.

He wrote back to me right away:

If my long-term goal is
to direct, is writer’s assistant the best path, in your opinion?  Or should
I be focusing on a Production Assistant position?  I ask because I want to
take the best approach, before I go around papering the town with my resume as a
Writer’s Assistant.  Someone made an interesting point in a book that I
read, that it’s very easy to become pigeonholed as a "PA" or as an "Assistant"
if you don’t map out your plan for your long-term career ahead of

I don’t know much about becoming a director, but being a PA would give you more "on the set" experience, even if you are just fetching bottled water for people. That said, I’d recommend taking some directing classes and learning the essentials of the craft.

3 thoughts on “To Be Or Not To Be A Writer’s Assistant”

  1. My directing experience is limited to short films (so far). They’ve done well on the festival circuit, but I’m not a working director yet.
    That said, I agree with Stephen Gallagher. Post starts in pre, and you can’t know what to shoot until you know how it cuts together.
    I’d also recommend picking up a camera and starting, viewing as many directors’ and cinematographers’ commentaries as possible, and reading a lot. Obsess. The book that helped me the most was THE FIVE Cs OF CINEMATOGRAPHY by Joseph V. Mascelli.
    Last, I recommend the message boards (, which are populated by working film people, film students, festival coordinators, and weirdos like me who think they can do it without film school or industry connections.
    Good luck.

  2. I’ve thought about getting a job as an assistant or a script reader or something, but I made the unfortunate mistake of getting a halfway-decent “regular job” and then buying things and getting an apartment that requires I continue to have a steady income. D’oh! Now I’m stuck…


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