When I moved to Los Angeles in 2012, I knew it would be a long road to getting jobs as a screenwriter. I started off an an assistant, and I saw firsthand how many people come and go from this business.
By the time I had sold my first screenplay, I was still looking for ways to expand my career and take on new challenges. TV was something I was interested in, but which eluded me.
After a decade of polishing specs, opting TV pilots, and even writing some jokes for talk shows, I finally was able to parlay my hard work and networking into a job in television.
The role? Consulting producer.
But what does a consulting producer do, and how was I able to find this work?
Let's go through it all together.
What Is a Consulting Producer?
Before we jump into my story, we should define what a consulting producer does in TV. Basically, you're a writer in the room, helping to break story, and pitching other beats and dialogue. I can only speak to my experience, but I would help the showrunner create the outlines, pitch alternate paths, and do all the things any other in the room does.
If the WGA strike didn't happen, I would have also spent a significant time on set, working with the director and actors.
How I Got Hired
'The Holiday Shift'
I'll be perfectly up front with this story, I got hired because I knew the creator of the show. But let's rewind a bit.
In 2016, I worked on a TV show called Syfy Live From Comic Con, which had Will Arnet hosting. I was one of the writers, and I spent time writing the monologue, coming up with games, and working with the other writers to think of funny bits for the show.
After doing well in that endeavor, the executives of that show hired me to work on another talk show they had debuting called According to Chrisley. That show was hosted by Todd Chrisley (who is now in prison for tax evasion).
Working with Todd was brutal and involved a lot of late hours. But running the room was a guy named Tommy Johnagin, who is a TV writer and a comedian. That show forced us into the trenches together. If it hadn't been so hard, I'm not sure we would have gotten close, but we did. After that show ended, we started hanging out and reading each other's material.
Over the years, our friendship grew, and we even set up a TV show we wrote together at a studio, but COVID-19 set backs and executive changes sidelined it (it's coming back soon, mark my words).
But even with that bump, Tommy and I knew we worked well together, and we also saw what each other was capable of when it came to crafting a narrative.
While all that went on, Tommy was selling a pitch around town about interconnecting love stories in a mall around the holidays. When that sold to Roku, Tommy's plan was to write all the episodes himself and do a limited series. But with the strike looming in the summer of 2023, he knew he would need help.
I had read the pilot and given notes, plus just jammed with him on the possibilities of what the first season could bring. Tommy told Roku to get the show in before the upcoming strike, he would need someone he could rely on to help, and I was hired shortly after that.
Now, I know some of you may think it's not fair I didn't interview of this job, but in a way, our friendship and collaborations in the past were basically a multi-year interview. He had seen me on the page, seen me deal with execs, and seen what it was like to hang long hours with me in stressful situations. I guess I passed the test.
Lessons From The Writer's Room
'The Holiday Shift'
Tommy's show, The Holiday Shift, is going to debut on Roku on November 17. Roku is a free app, so you can watch it at home and let me know what you think.
I'm so proud of the work we put in, and also happy I was able to break into scripted TV. I had a blast working on the limited series, and I really learned a lot about the TV mechanisms and how to work in a room.
Perhaps the biggest thing I learned was just how to make a stringent outline.
In TV, your outlines for every episode are super detailed. you have scene headings with the locations, time, and then paragraphs that give specific story details. That would allow us to write first drafts fast, and then punch them up almost immediately after.
The other big lessons I learned was pitching fixes, not problems. Sure, if there's an issue in an episode or a plot hole, it's useful to put a pin in it, but I learned to always try to come with a fix, so you weren't just pulling at strings for no reason.
Since I usually am just alone writing features, I most valued being with fellow creative people all working to service the showrunner's vision and make something really funny and really sweet.
It was an experience I'll cherish, and I hope it's the first of many.
My tenure on The Holiday Shift has been a microcosm of my entire career, collaborating and working to play a small part in bringing something to the screen.
Hopefully, this cleared up what a consulting producer does in film and TV, and inspires some other people to keep writing and working to break into television.
Oh, and if you have a room opening up, feel free to reach out.
- Why Becoming a TV Writer Is Both Easier Than Ever and Harder Than Ever ›
- What's a Writers' Room and How Do They Work? ›
- What Does a Film and TV Producer do? ›
- PRODUCER Is The One Filmmaking Tool I've Been Waiting For ›