I’ve received a lot of emails asking this question. Below I’ve compiled my answers, along with my husband’s answers (along with the opinions of an agent I know). Please note: this is not a post about whether or not you should quit your day job in Ohio and move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood. That’s another question entirely.
Breaking in is difficult at any age. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO TO LAND A WRITING JOB IS TO WRITE AN AMAZING SCRIPT. People hate hearing that; no one wants to believe that the reason they’re not being hired is because their writing sample isn’t strong enough. But the truth is, if you write an amazing script, no one cares how old (or young) you are.
That said, older writers do face obstacles that young writers do not.
Difficulty Finding Assistant Jobs
One of the most common ways (if not THE most common way) to break in as a writer is to start as an assistant. But many older aspiring writers have had successful careers in other industries and are not willing to spend years answering someone else’s phone for a mere $560 dollars a week. And even if they are willing, some 30-year-old production coordinators and producers are not comfortable hiring a 40-year-old or 50-year-old as an assistant.
Difficulty Finding Mentors
Finding a mentor can make or break you in Hollywood. Mentors give you notes on your script, recommend you to other writers/showrunners/agents/managers, advise you on your career path, etc. But many 30-year-olds aren’t comfortable mentoring 50-year-olds. And even if they are, many 50-year-olds don’t want to accept advice or script notes from someone 20 years younger.
Difficulty Finding Representation
If your script is amazing, this is a non-issue. But let’s say your script isn’t amazing. It’s just good. It has potential, but it needs work. The hard truth is, most agents and managers will be much more likely to spend the time needed to develop the career of a 20-year-old than a 40-year-old.
It’s never too late to break in but the older you are, the more difficult it becomes. And the more important the quality of your script becomes. So if you’re an older writer hoping to break in, focus on your writing. Write an amazing script. And then another. And another.