BREAKING IN — with Meredith Jacobson
Meredith graduated from Boston University and got her first job in scripted TV on the Disney XD show, “Pair of Kings.” She has since worked on the Nick at Nite pilot, “Instant Mom” and the Disney pilot, “I Didn’t Do It.” Next, she aims to find a job as a writers’ assistant.
Tell me about moving to L.A.
I graduated in May, and originally wanted to move out right away. However, I realized that it made more sense to save up some money first, so I lived at home for a few months, to work and spend some time with my family. I figured that three months wouldn’t delay my career at all. I moved to LA in August with my college roommate. We expected to be unemployed for at least a month, and didn’t want to commit to an apartment lease until we had jobs.
Luckily, her aunt, uncle, and cousins, live in Burbank, and let us move into the shed in their backyard. Okay, it was a little nicer than a shed (it had insulation and its own bathroom) but it was really tight quarters. Also, it was lined wall to wall with her uncle’s Star Wars Memorabilia (I included a pic, because it’s pretty unbelievable).
When we got jobs and moved out, we used Westside Rentals. We wanted to live in the Miracle Mile or West LA and looked at thirteen apartments over the course of two days. For a two bedroom, one or two bathrooms, they were all in the price range of $1500-1900 per month. For what we could find in that range – there was only one apartment that we could see ourselves living in, so luckily we quickly put down a deposit and moved in about ten days later. Note: the apartment that we found was cheaper, better quality, and in a safer neighborhood than most of the other apartments out there. I feel like there are a lot of overpriced apartments here, but there are also a lot of steals. You just have to be patient and not afraid of being picky!
What was your first industry job?
It was at a small production company called MRB Productions. They are primarily known for producing the ESPY Awards for ESPN every year but when they hired me, they were starting production on their second feature film.
I got the job because one of my friends invited me to a networking group called “The CS Network” (Formerly Career Synergy). They have a Facebook page and Linkedin profile with more information. They have open meetings once a month that usually includes a speaker, free snacks, and time to network/talk with other group members. I went to a meeting for the group and met someone who’s roommate worked for MRB. It just so happened that they were in pre-production for the feature at that time and hiring PAs. They originally called me in for a Set PA position but during my interview, they realized that I would be stronger as an Office PA, and let me help me out in their development department, which was so much better than I was hoping for! Lesson out of that: take every meeting/interview, even if it’s not necessarily for your ideal job. You never know what will come of it.
How many scripts did you have written before you moved to L.A.?
I majored in Writing for TV, so I think I had more scripts written than the average person when I moved out here. I wrote four pilots, two spec scripts, and a feature before getting to LA. All but two of those were for class though, so it’s a little different. I don’t think that having a ton of scripts written is necessary because a lot of people come here thinking they want to be a writer, but fall into a different track and realize they love that more. But if someone really wants to be a writer, it’s best if they’ve already written at least one spec and one pilot. I think it’s good to write as much as you can AND get your work critiqued, often, because that’s how you become a better writer. Also, I suggest having at least one solid script (that other people have critiqued and said were strong), because then you can show it to people when they ask to see an example of your work. Make sure it’s the best you can do before you show it to those people. I have different levels of people; after my first draft I show it to my writer friends who give me a ton of honest notes, and then I show it to more people. When I feel that it’s my absolute best effort, I show it to people who could potentially help pave the way and make advances in my writing career.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
My biggest piece of advice for people living in LA is to be involved with as much as you can. There are so many events (many of them free), networking opportunities, clubs, etc. to join. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. Applying for jobs online is so much less effective than going out and meeting people. Push yourself as much as you can, especially in the first few months, because as my mom always said, “You don’t meet anyone sitting at home on the couch.” I had a meeting with a manager within my first month here because I randomly met her at a bar. It happens!
On a related note, be sure you have a core group of people who you can genuinely be yourself with. It’s important to have a LA “family” – whether it’s friends or family members outside of work. It’s also a plus and sometimes refreshing if you know some people who aren’t in the entertainment industry (even though that’s pretty hard to find).