Thursday, March 3, 2011

TV writing - Do you know what a Script Coordinator is?

Do you know what a Script Coordinator is? When I heard about the TV writing job the first time I had to google it. And when I started asking around I found that most others had never heard of it either. So I was very happy when Alison Flierl tweeted me to let me know she'd been a script coordinator in the past.
Alie was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule as a writers' coordinator on Conan, yes THAT Conan, to answer my questions. 

It's a long interview, but I decided to give it to you in one part. I hope you enjoy. 

Wikipedia also has a wonderful description to back up this blog interview.

1. Can you explain what a script coordinator (SC) is, and what they do? I’ve found that many people have never even hear of the job.

Every show is different, depending on the type of show and how it's run. But in my experience, the script coordinator is in charge of communicating any changes that come from writers' meetings. Their job is to get new pages or drafts of scripts out to everyone in the production and also makes sure to let department heads know what's coming down the line (for example, a new set or prop, etc). They usually also oversee any writers' assistants on the show.

2. What was your first SC job? And how did you find out about the job?
I first had the title of script coordinator on a pilot for Lifetime. I heard about the job opening through a friend of a friend. I had a lot of writers room experience as a writers' assistant, and that was what they were looking for. I interviewed with both the line producer and the creators of the show and they must have liked me, because I was hired.  

3. Are there many SC jobs available in the TV industry?
It depends on what you would define as many. There's obviously lots of different TV shows out there, and for the most part, I would assume there's a script coordinator on every scripted show. But they're not easy to come by and usually you hear about openings through contacts whom you've already worked with. 

4. How tough is the learning curve, or do you need to know it all before starting the job?
Every show is different and every writers' room is different. But it can be tough to keep up with a staff of 14 different writers pitching jokes and script changes. You have to be able to type fast, be able to read the rhythm of the room and know what to write down and what not to. And when proofing scripts, you need to understand proper formatting and really pay attention to details. I think it'd be really difficult to learn on the job. TV production is fast paced and people don't have much time to wait for you to learn. And as the script coordinator, you have a major responsibility. I started off first as a writers' assistant, and it helped to be able to learn how a writers' room works.

5. I’ve heard an inside out, and backward knowledge of Final Draft is a plus if applying for SC job. True?
Yes, definitely. And/or Movie Magic. I've used both programs on shows. 

6. What kind of hours are you expected to work? And is the work seasonal?
You are expected to work whatever hours they need. I worked on one show as a writers' assistant where I literally had 21 hour days on a regular basis. The show was under a lot of pressure, so we were having rewrites till all hours of the day. Not every show is like that. Some are a regular 9 to 7 kind of deal, but each show is different. In general, entertainment is not known for having an easy schedule. You have to really want it and love it, even when you're working till 2am. 

7. Did you take the SC position to get a chance at writing for TV?

Yes, I wanted to get writers room experience.

8. Is the SC position a good way to get your foot in the door for TV?
It can be, but there is no direct path with entertainment. There are SC's who get the chance to write a script for the show they're on and turn that into a writing career, but some people can end up having a career as a SC instead of a writer. 

9. How long did you work at the SC job?
I worked on several different shows as both a writers' assistant and as a script coordinator. I now work as a writers' coordinator on Conan. 

10. Would you recommend it as a way into the TV industry? Or are there better ways?
Once again, there is no direct path. I know some writers who started off as SC's or writers' assistants. And then others who wrote a spec script and got hired right off the bat. And then some who did stand-up for many years and got into comedy writing that way. I think it's a good way to learn about a writers' room and how to re-write and work to the demands of a network.  

11. Did the SC job lead you to your first writing assignment?
My first job as a writers' assistant did lead to me getting a writing credit on a show.  

12. How did you find out about the SC position you were hired for?
Currently I am working as a writers' coordinator. I found out about the job from an old boss. 

13. How would someone with little or no contacts in the TV industry find out about a SC position that needs filling?
I'm not sure. I've always heard about jobs through word of mouth. And in terms of getting hired, they always want someone who already has the experience of having done that job. 

14. Without telling us how much the position pays (as that’d be a rude question), can you tell us if the job could pay the rent and put food on the table of an aspiring writer?
Yes, but it would be tough to raise a family on. The beginnings rungs of the ladder of Hollywood do not pay that great, and there's a lot of instability in entertainment, so you need to learn to save in case of emergency and be thrifty. Same thing even if you're at higher levels, cause even if you're a writer on a big show, that show can always be canceled. Stay within your means, and try to live below your means so you have money for a rainy day (or a bad TV season). 

15. Working as a SC, are there other duties and responsibilities you can pick up to make yourself more valuable? Or is the job so time consuming it’s enough?
Do everything with a smile so people want to hire you again. And learn to type as fast as possible, so you can keep up with a room full of writers firing jokes at you. 

16. From your insider perspective, is it more difficult for writers over 40 to break into the comedy genre?
I don't know. I moved to LA right after college, so it wasn't something that's been part of my experience. I have heard some women in Hollywood say there's an age bias, but I do know of plenty of people over 40 working in comedy.  

17. Also, would there be an age barrier in applying for the SC position?
I think it's harder for someone who has kids and a mortgage to live off a SC salary, so someone who is older might have that personal barrier. But in terms of getting an SC position, the most important things are contacts, work ethic and experience. 

18. If you had one piece of advice for someone looking for a SC job, what would it be?
First get a job as a writers assistant, so you learn how a writers' room works and then work your way up. And never take a job for granted. You never know what each job will lead to next.

Thanks so much Alie for taking the time to enlighten us on this interesting TV job.

Follow Alie on Twitter!/2degreesofalie

No comments:

Post a Comment