Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Even more advice if you can stand it

More questions:

HIM: If I can’t get an entry level job in the industry what are the best jobs to get?

ME: Assuming that while you work you’re going to continue writing specs you need a job that pays enough to live on (duh) and you don’t take home with you after your shift. If you’re writing with a partner you obviously have to coordinate your schedules. Work at Starbucks so you can walk around and see what everyone else is writing. Work at an LAX parking toll booth. That way you only have to use .000001% of your brain. I taught idiots how to be disc jockeys at a Broadcasting School. What a jerk-off job that was. But I was done everyday at 6. And no weekends. The students needed that time to memorize how to announce weather forecasts.

HIM: There are sometimes ads looking for screenwriters. Is that something worth pursuing?

ME: I say beware. Usually these are not WGA signatories which means you get screwed. The pay is crap, you have no rights or protection, you’ll work like a galley slave, and chances are the movie will never get made. I know it’s tempting and you’d rather get a job using your skills than putting on a straw hat and serving "cups of dirt" at TGI Fridays, but trust me, your writing time will be better spent crafting a spec, which, if it sells, will pay infinitely more than some laundry magnate’s pet project on the man who invented Sanforizing.

*****

We all have to start somewhere. At times it’s confusing, exasperating, demeaning, and depressing. But when you make it you will look back nostalgically at that period as one of the best of your lives. And for me there’s the added glow that I contributed so much to radio.

13 comments:

SkookumJoe said...

try doing 2 years of voice-over for the real estate channel. Main skill: say 12 paragraphs of crap clearly in exactly 10 seconds.

Jon Sherman said...

PA and Writer's Assistant jobs can be useful, but can also completely take over your life -- because once the writers are done (sometimes well after midnight) you're the one stuck hosing down the writers' room and distributing scrips (i.e. driving all over town at 4am) to the actors and production department heads.

I spent 2 years as an assistant to an executive in a TV production company based at Paramount before getting my first writing job. I tell people it was a huge help because it allowed me to read hundreds of spec scripts. The more I read the more I realized I could do this, too, and maybe better. It gave me contact with agents (who had to be nice to me because I was the gatekeeper to meetings with the company), and that helped me get my own agent. And, most importantly, it kept me at a desk all day, where, when I wasn't making fresh coffee or answering a phone, I could write.

P.S. Hi, Ken. I'm enjoying your blog!

Ken Levine said...

Thanks, Jon.

For those who don't know, Jon is one of the best comedy writers in town. I'm sure you've seen his name on Frasier.

Warren said...

When I first got to L.A., I turned down a job as an agent's assistant at a major agency to be a page at a library for $10 an hour. The upside: it was the Motion Picture Academy's library. Turns out it was the perfect job for an aspiring screenwriter - access to the Academy's script library, peace, quiet, early nights, AND tickets to the Oscars.

And I've actually worked in a parking garage. Sat in a booth and read the complete works of Shakespeare for a year. No joke. Great job for a writer, though the exhaust fumes likely caused at least some irreversible brain damage. At any rate, I highly recommend the low-paying, simple day jobs for writers.

Of course, sometimes I wonder if I'd be a big fancy agent by now if I'd taken that other job, but the downside of that, of course, would be that I'd be ... an agent.

Jon Sherman said...

Ken, you're as kind as you are funny. Keep up the good work!

Andres said...

so what you're saying is that if i send you one of my scripts, you can make sure that it gets picked up?

Jon Sherman said...

Oh, and incidentally, by "delivering scrips" all over town I meant 'scripts' not 'prescriptions'.

Although, that may have happened, too. Probably on "Taxi."

Jon Sherman said...

Oh, and incidentally, by "delivering scrips" all over town I meant 'scripts' not 'prescriptions'.

Although, that may have happened, too. Probably on "Taxi."

Tom Quigley said...

Ken, I don't know how you feel about this advice, but the aspiring writer also might want to try and get involved in some comedy or improv workshops or groups such as The Groundlings or others. (I know several of the CHEERS writers/producers had been involved with The Groundlings)The point is, if sitcoms are your thing, try to hang with people who (a) are also in or trying to break into the business and (b) are funny! I once took a comedy writing class from Danny Simon (God rest his soul), Neil's older brother, where eight of the 12 people in the class had no sense of humor. Finally, after about the third week, one of the eight meekly asked "How do you be funny?" Danny threw up his hands and said "Oh, Lord! If you don't know how to be funny already, I can't help you!" Eight people walked out of that class at the end of six weeks no better off (and no funnier) than they were when it started, and the other four of us walked out convinced we were going to write the next “Odd Couple.” Oh, and once you do get there, try to hang on the memory of the rush you got the first time you drove through the gates of a major studio… the first time you stood on the set of a hit sitcom…the first time you met Ryan Seacrest…

Bill Cunningham said...

"Oh, and once you do get there, try to hang on the memory of the rush you got the first time you...the first time you met Ryan Seacrest..."

I tried that. Then I broke wind and the memory was gone forever.

Ken Levine said...

Tom,

That's GREAT advice to hang out with other aspiring writers who are funny. It's great to have a support group, you could be developing lifelong friends, and you'll laugh a lot. What could be better?

Al said...

Sex?

Gary said...

Great, honest advice, and funny too! Thanks, Ken. Your blog is a delight.
Gary