Want to Get Hired as a Staff Writer? The WGA Has Some Sage Advice

Want to be a TV writer? Well, staffing is your first step. 

While I'm sure many of you dream of selling your own TV show and becoming a TV mogul like Shonda Rhimes or Ryan Murphy, the first step in that process is getting staffed on a TV show. But once you're staffed, how do you know what to do, and what are some ways you can be valuable to the room? 

Well, the WGA just released a series of videos helping writers understand how to be staffed and what the position of staff writer holds. 

Let's check them out together and go through the process. 

What is a Staff Writer? 

A staff writer is an entry-level position in the "writers room." It's where most writers begin. While this title usually means they do not receive a credit, they are involved in breaking stories and episodes. This position trains emerging storytellers in the art of creating episodic television. Staff writers are paid a weekly salary and contracted for a designated period during the life of a series. 

Don't let this jargon fool you, it's an amazing place to learn and cut your teeth. You get to see the ins and outs of story creation and make contacts with producers and networks who might love to work with you in the future. 

These jobs are available in both comedy and drama rooms. Let's look at each. 

Comedy 

Recently, the WGA sat down with staff writers Aadip Desai (The Goldbergs), Yael Green (Space Force, Upload, Dickinson), and Sarah Naftalis (What We Do In The Shadows) in a panel moderated by WGF librarian Lauren O’Connor.

They talked about breaking in, working within the room, and tips of the trade. Check it out below and we will chat after. 

Writers Rooms for Comedy

Comedy is important, even though most people talk about drama as groundbreaking, the comedy people on this panel were working on shows that are innovative and genre-blending and sounded really fun. 

As you can see, there are many ways to break into a writers room. You can be a standup with an agent, an assistant that moves up the ranks, or just someone writing specs who gets found and staffed the old fashioned way. 

Regardless, once you get in the room, your job is to have fun, tell jokes, pitch story when needed, and support the staff. 

Some things you can expect are to be involved in joke punch-up sessions, to listen and educate yourself when it comes to how the stories and characters are meant to arc, and a lot of time spent with the other staffers getting stories ready. 

Drama 

Recently, the WGA sat down with staff writers Sarah Berry (Hightown) and Marcelena Campos Mayhorn (Selena: The Series), as well as story editors Daniel K. Hoh (Station 19) and Cameron Moore (All-American), in a panel, again moderated by O’Connor.

They talked about breaking in, working within the room, and tips of the trade. Check it out below and we will chat after. 

Writers Rooms for Drama

Much like the comedy room, there are many paths forward. One of the things about the drama writers that struck me is how the staffers in these rooms have such a similar function to the people in comedy. It's all about getting the story to the screen and building a season arc. 

Also, fellowships, assistants, being the writes assistant, and other straightforward ways that are valuable. 

With longer episodes, a lot of these staffers time is spent helping to break B and C stories for the narrative. 

But just like comedy, this is a time where friendships and connections are forged for whatever comes next. 

Sum it up...

These videos are very important for people trying to break into Hollywood. I think they offer some practical advice for everyone watching. These are people actually working in the rooms that you might be working in someday, so bookmark those episodes, take some notes, and hopefully, they inspire you to continue on your writing journey.  

Got your own tips? Put them in the comments!      

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