Should I apply to be a “PA” or “Assistant?”

Thank you so much for all the info on your blog.  My main question is whether I should submit myself as a PA or an assistant when I start calling production offices.  My career goal is to be a comedy writer and ideally, I’d like to land a job as a writer’s assistant.  But most of my industry experience derives from internships on web productions.  However, I have worked as a manager’s assistant outside of the industry so I feel I have the skills to be a writer or producer’s assistant.  I’d really appreciate your advice on this matter.  

Also, in my cover letter, should I focus mainly on my industry experience? In an effort to compensate for my lack of paid industry positions, I detail applicable skills I picked up as an assistant outside of the industry.  Is this a good idea?  Or should I just stick to detailing what I learned from my internships?

I recommend applying for “assistant” openings, which allows the coordinator to consider you for any and all assistant positions he has open.  Given that you’ve worked as a manager outside the industry, you may be able to land a job as a producer’s assistant (a step up from PA).  But don’t expect to start as a writer’s assistant. WA is not an entry-level gig. It requires a very specific skill set that most people learn on the job. Below is a link to a post I wrote on the topic .


Regarding your cover letter, it’s absolutely fine to mention skills you learned outside the industry, as long as you explain how they’re relevant to the job your applying for. Ex: “Working as a receptionist in a doctor’s office taught me how to manage several calendars, roll calls, and communicate with a variety of personalities.”

Best of luck to everyone this staffing season!

P.S. Are you all watching FARGO?! It just keeps getting better.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones.  Photo by Sundel Perry.

myTunes: St. Paul and The Broken Bones

A person can only write so many posts about resumes and cover letters, so over the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing a number of new features. First up: myTunes, where I’ll share my current favorites in music, podcasts, and audiobooks. My commute is at least fifty minutes each way, and my radio is the only thing that keeps me from killing myself on the 405. True story: I had my first panic attack in L.A. traffic. But here’s a band that lessens the pain of my drive time.

“Call Me”, from their latest album, Half The City.

St. Paul and The Broken Bones will be in L.A. at the El Rey Theatre next month. Tickets go on sale May 24th at 10 AM. See you there.


Apply Now for the 2014 Women In Film Foundation’s Film Finishing Fund


The Women In Film Foundation’s Film Finishing Fund (WIFF FFF) supports films by, for or about women by providing cash grants of up to $15,000 and in-kind services. Since the inception of the Fund in 1985, the Foundation has awarded more than $2 million in cash and in-kind services to 170 films ensuring that innovative films can be completed and seen by audiences worldwide. Cash awards range from $1,000 to $15,000, with the number of grants varying from year to year. In-kind services may be available upon request.

Among the many FFF success stories is OSCAR® winning Short Documentary FREEHELD, directed by Cynthia Wade and produced by Vanessa Roth, which was a 2007 grant winner. Says Wade, “Women In Film came in at a critical point. The Film Finishing grant was a vote of confidence – it’s lonely as an independent filmmaker. Unless you have the resources, the film is only as effective as the audience you can reach. I’m grateful to have the understanding that women filmmakers need to be supported.”

Film Finishing Fund recipients’ films have won many major awards including Emmy and Academy Awards, and have screened at festivals worldwide including Sundance, Toronto, South by Southwest, LA Film Festival, Vancouver, AFI Fest, Tribeca, San Francisco, Montreal, Berlin, Avignon, Dubai, and Chicago. They have aired nationally on HBO, PBS (“Frontline” and “POV”), OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network), Showtime, and internationally on various European, Asian, and Australian television channels.

In order to apply for a FFF grant, a filmmaker must have completed at least 90% of principal photography and a have a rough cut at the time of application. For specific application requirements, please follow the link and refer to the application. The program funds filmmakers working in both short and long formats in all genres—narrative, documentary, educational, animated and experimental. You do not have to be a Women In Film member to apply for the FFF, and we encourage applications from around the world. Please note that student projects are not eligible to receive Film Finishing Funds.

The FFF is run by experienced industry professionals who have an eye for spotting talent and potential. For more information, contact the Women In Film Foundation coordinator at foundation@wif.org.

c/o wif.org.


My Adorable Bosses

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My Writing Process

I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site! I really appreciate all of the insight and resources you’ve shared.

As an aspiring filmmaker, I’m really trying to get into the habit of writing every day. But what halts me is how to go about it (jotting ideas? writing in script format? writing scenes/dialogue?). I was wondering if/how you go about it, or tricks/tips you may know of as to how to get started.

Thank you in advance!

Every writer’s process is different. I keep a list of ideas on my computer. I pick which one to develop, and then I begin my research stage — reading books and articles, watching videos, interviewing professionals. As I go along, I keep a list of possible characters and plot points inspired by what I‘ve learned. This stage takes me anywhere from a few days to a month (if I’m reading a number of books on the subject).

Next, I brainstorm by expanding my research notes to include additional ideas on character, plot, and themes. This usually comes out as several pages of disorganized notes including anything and everything I might want to include in my script.

After a few days of brainstorming, I organize the above ideas into a beat sheet — a list of plot points. A beat sheet gives me a good idea of how much story I actually have and how much brainstorming I still need to do.

Once I’m confident that I have the basic plot figured out, I break the episode using notecards — one notecard for each scene with one or two sentences describing the scene. I hang the notecards on the wall, move them around, move them around again, become convinced this is going to be the best pilot I’ve ever written, then panic that it’s going to be the worst pilot I’ve ever written… until I finally dive into the outline.

Some people don’t do outlines, but for me, it’s an important part of the process. It’s where I work out the details of each scene. Sometimes I even come up with sections of dialogue. This stage usually takes me a week or two, assuming I write a three to four hours five days a week.

Once my outline is finished, I write the script. And then rewrite it. And rewrite it again.

Usually a first draft takes me anywhere from two to four weeks to complete (again, assuming I’m working on it every day).

*Obviously, if I’m working on staff, my timeline is much different. For my last outline, I was given five days. Followed by a week for the script. When I’m on hiatus, I take my time.

My friend and fellow writer added: It’s important to remember that the actual writing is just one part of the process. Don’t feel like you’ve wasted a day if you spend it brainstorming, or researching, or working on your outline. Each of these steps is just as important as the actual writing. In fact, if you’re thorough during the early portions of the process, it will make it that much easier when it comes time to put words on the page.

P.S. Are you watching FARGO? My new favorite show!


Do Writing Programs Actually Help You Get A Job?

A question about writing programs and contests:

Do you feel that these programs are worth it? This will be my second year attempting many of these, but staffed writer friends are fairly lukewarm to dismissive on them. What’s your take? Thank you so incredibly much for offering yourself and your time as a resource!

I consider these programs to be great networking opportunities. But being accepted into a workshop DOES NOT guarantee you a job, and NOT getting into a program doesn’t negatively impact your future career as a writer. Some writers and showrunners are impressed to learn you were selected, others are not. I know graduates of the Warner Bros. Workshop who are wonderful writers, and I know ones who are terrible. The experience is what you make of it, just like college.

I encourage you to apply because you have nothing to lose. It could lead to some wonderful connections. But please, PLEASE don’t give it too much weight. I was rejected by the Warner Bros. Workshop two weeks before I landed my first staff job, and I know a guy who graduated from the program several years ago and can’t get a job anywhere. Don’t judge your writing skills based on how many contests you win.

P.S. If you’re into documentaries, I highly recommend Muscle Shoals and 20 Feet From Stardom. Obsessed!


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