What Does a Writers Assistant Do?

That was the question posed on screenwriter John August’s lively blog today. He’s got a good answer, and so does his former assistant Rawson Thurber, who went on to write DODGEBALL.

It’ s a smart question to ask, since being a writer’s assistant is a good way to break into the business…which is probably why there is so much competition for the jobs (and why so many applicants are WAY over-qualified).  The pay is crap ($500-a-week), the hours are hell (9 am to as late as, well 9 am), and the work is menial (answering phones, running errands, typing scripts, printing revisions, organizing files, putting revision pages into scripts, etc.)… but the experience is priceless. You learn how a TV show works from the inside. You see how stories are broken. You read lots of scripts… not just the one that are written, and endlessly rewritten, for the show… but the specs that come in clamoring for the showrunner’s attention. You see how freelancers succeed… and how they fail. You see how the producers deal with writers, studio executives, network executives, managers, actors, and everybody else associated with making a show. You make lots of contacts…not just with the writer/producers on the show and the freelancers who come in but, if you are any good at what you do, with the network and studio executives who call the office 178 times a day. If you’re smart, you’ll also hang out with the editors, line producers, script supervisors, directors, assistant directors… hell, everyone… and learn whatever you can about production. A job as a writer’s assistant is a graduate school education in the television… and, in your down time (on the rare occasions when there is some), you can write.  And I know it works. Not only have a lot of showrunners I know started out as writers assistants, most of the our assistants have gone on to become professional screenwriters themselves… one even became a development executive (though I lost track of her years ago).

4 thoughts on “What Does a Writers Assistant Do?”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I was googling a simple apostrophe question and, as fate would have it, this was my first “result”. It answered SO many of the questions I’ve had forever. Now I’m just gonna pray for a little luck with my next batch of resumes. Thank you again!


    Getting work as a writer’s assistant is an excellent way in. You can observe a lot by looking, as Yogi Berra said, and nothing will give you more to observe than assisting someone who’s doing. Being a TV writing assistant is practically the back door…


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