More great advice from the Big Kahuna of Writing Advisors – Ken Levine
by Ken Levine
Here’s one of those Friday Questions that thanks to long-winded me now becomes an entire post.
It’s from Sarah.
You’ve written about how to get that first TV writing gig (all of which has been tremendously helpful, thank you!) but I can’t seem to find anything you’ve written about what to do AFTER you’ve landed that first job. I’ll be starting my first staff writer job on a mid-season comedy really soon and I’m a bit nervous.
What did you expect from the baby writers on your staff?
What advice would you give a first time staff writer?
Great question and first off, congratulations on the new gig, Sarah.
The first piece of advice would be to LISTEN. Become a sponge. Soak up everything. How does the showrunner break stories? What are the actors’ strengths and weaknesses? What kind of jokes do or don’t work? How tolerant is the showrunner on arguing story points? How can you best contribute?
If there’s a lot of room writing, get a sense of the room dynamic. There will usually be a few writers who drive it. Study them. Get into their thought processes if you can. And don’t get in their way. Learn when to slide in with your own pitches.
Room etiquette is something else to learn and observe. Rule number one: Pitch something ONCE. If the showrunner rejects it for any reason move on. Do not keep lobbying for it. And don’t sulk or become resentful. I worked with a truly hilarious writer on a couple of shows; maybe one of the funniest room people I’ve ever met. There were times I was in awe. But he was very moody. If he pitched something he thought should go in and was rejected he would clam up the rest of the night. Eventually, he wasn’t asked back despite his brilliance. Play nice with others.
Don’t text in the room unless you’re on a break. Don’t check email unless you’re on a break.
And if others do it, don’t YOU. If others are breaking these rules, don’t YOU….