Michael & Phil tackle the subject of writer’s rooms, how writer’s staffs are organized, and the responsibilities of individual writers at each level. Learn more about the different jobs in a TV writer’s room and some interesting ways to break-in.

Show Notes

Michael’s Screenwriting Course –

Free Screenwriting Lesson

Jim Serpico, EP of Maron

Tom Sellitti, EP of Maron

Javier Grillo-Marxuach Website

Netflix in Albuquerque

“Shit My Dad Says” Twitter Show

Autogenerated Transcript

Michael: (00:00)
The next step below, that would be writer’s PA and that stands for a production assistant. So the writer’s PA usually, usually writers are veal. We are kept hostage in a, in a writer’s room like for hours and hours and hours, you don’t leave, but they bring you lunch. And when they bring you lunch, that person who is bringing you lunch is a hero because they’re feeding you and you, you know, so that the writer’s PAs is usually the one who goes out. On a running brings you lunch.

Michael: (00:32)
Welcome back everybody today. We’re going to be talking about various creative jobs in Hollywood, and we’re going to probably start, I think, with, with the writer’s room. Cause there’s a lot of myths that we’re going to expose. I think it’s a lot of people have misconceptions about how writer’s rooms, um, you know, how they actually work. I fell.

Phil: (00:48)
Yeah. And, and, you know, to, to your point, I think there are a lot of people who don’t even understand things like what a showrunner is or what the difference between a co-producer, producer, a story editor, all these different writer’s terms. I once had a friend mentioned to me, she’s a nurse. She wanted to be an actress. And she’s just like, you know, when you watch a TV show and you see all the credits that they’re getting that say producer, they’re all just writers. And she said it like, it was condescending a little, this is like just writers, like, Okay.

Michael: (01:13)
She’s right, unfortunately. Um, but yeah, so a showrunner is the boss and a TV show in a movie. Uh, the director is Boston. A TV show that the showrunner is the boss. The showrunner is the head writer. Usually the showrunners, the creator of the show, the person who sold it, but not always and often not always the case. So, um, a number of times my partner would have been showrunners and we didn’t create that show where the hired hands, because we have experience and were brought on to run the writer’s room and the writer’s room can consist of, we’ve been on show, usually around eight writers, let’s say, but we’ve been on shows where we’ve had as few as four writers. And when we were on King of the Hill, that was Maron. When we were on King of the Hill, uh, there were about 20, at least 20 writers it was a huge writing staff.

Michael: (02:00)
So there’s, there’s that. And then all the writers in the writer’s room compose the writing staff, but there certainly there are different levels to, to writers. So the showrunner again is the boss, the showrunner decides what kind of stories to tell and how to tell them. And some people, I guess I can maybe I’ll get to the misconceptions first. Some people think that well, so where do you get these ideas from? Does the network just tell you what stories they want to have? And no, cause there’s no one at the network who knows how to do that. If they did, they’d be writers there, that’s not their job. Right. They, you know, so we pitched them our ideas, but we come up with the ideas. We say, we’re going to do an episode about X, blah, blah, blah. And then that works. Does that sounds good?

Michael: (02:39)
Go ahead and do it. And so we have to come up with the ideas and usually it’s the writing staff that will pitch the ideas to the showrunner and the showrunner and say, okay, I like that one. Let’s talk about that one. Let’s turn that. Let’s see if we can turn that into an episode or I like the beginning, but not the middle, you know? And so let’s stretch it out. Is that that’s how do we break that into a story? And another myth I heard all the time, well, years ago it was like, oh, what character? I was around. It came when I was on King of the Hill. They’d say, what character do you write for as if like every writer was responsible for one character’s voice. And there are 20 of us and king of the hill. I don’t know how many, there were like five characters or whatever, or maybe more there’s cause there’s periphery characters.

Michael: (03:16)
But so no. And I used to tell people, I used to write for the dog, the dog, obviously didn’t talk or have any lines, but that’s when I said, but you write for all the cat, your job is to you get an episode and you write all the characters and that episode. And that’s how, that’s how it works. And they’re so the staff, the writing staff is composed of one or two showrunners usually. And then there’s certain levels of writers. So the newest baby writer is called a staff writer. That’s the person with no experience. They just broke into Hollywood. Usually, usually they’re a staff writer then above them. They, they say they work for a year. They get a promotion. Now they’re called a Story Editor. And you’ll see that at the end of the credits off. And you see the story that, or it gets a credit.

Phil: (03:57)
Let me ask this question, because this is something that came up on another podcast. We did, you made a reference that all of these titles that you’re probably going to go through right here, that the next year. So are you a staff writer, your first year writing and then you bump a story editor usually, or you’re so bad that you could stay staff writer. Is that a chance or do you just lose your job at that point?

Michael: (04:20)
Sometimes? Yeah. You could lose your job if you’re no good. Sometimes you’ll be a staff writer on the on one year and then the show gets canceled and then you get another job in a different show and they make you repeat your staff writer. They say, yeah, you’re not getting the bump because we don’t have a budget.

Phil: (04:34)
The bump budget-based. I imagine usually.

Michael: (04:37)
Yeah. I don’t know if too many people who had a repeat staff it’s like repeating your first year of college, I guess. Right.

Phil: (04:45)
I got held back in preschool by the way. So

Michael: (04:47)
Yeah. Well, I can tell it’s obvious when I talk to you.

Phil: (04:49)
Yeah. The adults don’t set your kids in preschool in the middle of the year, guys. They just look stupid when all their friends move on.

Michael: (04:55)
For the rest of the let’s talk about it. Um, so then after a story editor to become Executive Story Editor back in the sixties, the Executive Story Editor, or was they, that was the boss I’m executive story editor mean that was basically being called the showrunner, but these titles have changed over the years. And so executive story at a restorator is at one point it was like the most important person. And now it’s one of the least important people on the staff. Um, I remember when I, well, I remember when I had, I had a writing teacher and he was, he like, he wrote on, uh, uh, Get Smart and Andy Griffith Show and all those great shows and Twilight Zone, the original Twilight Zone and all that. And he used to say that you just need to, you got to impress the story. It, the story editors that want to makes all the decisions. And, and this is back in like, you know, the nineties, I was like my old man, what are you talking about? The Story Editors at title has long since changed.

Phil: (05:47)
Uh, so I was going to ask, so my understanding here is that this changed because cause you’re about to get into the producer titles, right? Yeah. So my understanding is that this changed because the story, the writing credit positions pay specific portions of their money into the WGA funds, but the producorial fees you get do not.

Michael: (06:10)
Yeah separately.

Phil: (06:10)
And the benefit to the, to the network and the studios is they don’t have to match percentages of those funds, to the Writers Guild stuff .

Michael: (06:19)
To your health and pension. Right. It’s separate. Exactly.

Phil: (06:23)
Where it changes, like how do we get these people and entice them to do this thing with us without having all the other expensive paying percentages of their, their fees?

Michael: (06:31)
Yeah. We’ll give them a fancy title. Yeah. That’ll tide them over there. Stupid. Um, so yeah, so there’s executives. So is it okay to repeat Staff Writer, Story Editor, Executive Story Editor, then you get Co-Producer and then you become Producer and then you’re like, wow, Producer, it’s really just another level for a writer. Then you get, uh, after Producer becomes Supervising Producer, then Co-Executive Producer, which often means the number two, the number two writer, the like the number two in command and then Executive Producer. And so in sometimes there’s also another title of Consulting Producer, which is just a fancy way of paying you even less money. Got it. So, but those are all just writers and there’s very, you know, the producer aspect of those jobs are very limited. So when you’re executive producer, you have, you do have many other Producer titles, like your responsibilities, you’ll be responsible for casting or post-production… Supervising post production, or maybe editing stuff like that. The Co-Executive Producer doesn’t often do those things, but is capable of doing those things.

Phil: (07:33)
And that’s what you currently are on the show.

Michael: (07:36)
On Tacoma FD I’m a Co-Executive Producer. Right. But, but you know, in the past I’ve been Executive Producer on other shows. So, uh, you know, the difference in money there’s a lot its not that much. Well, the Co-Exec… Co-Executive Producer that gets a good salary without all the stress of being executive producer. It’s a good job to it’s really the best job to have is a co-executive producer because he made good money, but you don’t have all the stress of the boss.

Phil: (07:59)
Got it. So that’s what to aspire to is not be the showrunner, but just be a co you’d be.

Michael: (08:03)
I remember years ago when I was, you know, thinking before I became a Showrunner, I was like, man, if I were a show runner, I’d do things different, do things better. And then, you know, cause you always think your bosses know what you’re doing, they’re they’re doing. And then, then you become the boss and you’re like, Ugh, I just wish I was a Co-Executive Producer.

Phil: (08:21)
Yeah. You always wish you had the less responsibility, the more, you know, the more, you know, you don’t know. Right? Yeah.

Michael: (08:26)
So, but then, you know, those jobs basically at my level, like those, the two jobs I get, you need to be the boss or the second in command. So there’s, I have to take whatever, whatever comes.

Phil: (08:36)
Now there is another executive producer on the show and that’s typically the, basically the guy in charge of, or the woman, the person in charge of making sure that the show is happening from an actual producorial perspective. Right? So not always. So the production. So for example, to come at di we had a production company running things and the owner of that company had the title of EP as well. And that shows up in the credits and that person can be not a writer.

Michael: (09:03)
And I believe, I believe one of the, uh, managers, David Miner, I believe he’s also executive to

Phil: (09:09)
Both of, both of the guys managers are on our show. They have EP credits because they brought the show to the network and said, we think you should buy this show.

Michael: (09:19)
Yeah. They help make it. They help sell it. They help make it possible. Yeah. But on other shows, I’ve worked on this. There’s really only there aren’t too many co uh, Executive Producers is their Showrunner and maybe no other executive producers, or maybe there’s an actor who is so powerful to help got the show me, they might be Executive Producer or maybe often if the show is, is sold through a pod, you have a production company, then they’ll get, you know, like you’re saying, they’ll have a Executive Producer title. Uh, yeah. So some actually that’s not really no. And I say that now that I think about it. Yeah. I’ve always, I’ve been on other shows where there, there are other executive not they’re called non-writing Executive Producers. So when I was on Maron, for example, uh, Jim Serpico, Tom Silletti, they were non-writing Executive Producers. They helps sell the show and their creative involvement in the show. It really depends on what their, what they have time for. Sometimes they’re very involved in, sometimes they’re not very involved at all.

Phil: (10:12)
Yeah. Okay. So that’s an interesting note. I think, so those people have the same way now from an Office PA perspective. So during production, we still saved those people parking spots, and we understood who they were. And we made sure that they were included on every single email, every single notice that went out, anything that involved creative decisions, they were invited to all meetings. And it was always an understanding they could show up at any time, but also an expectation that they probably weren’t going to show up. And so it’s an interesting thing like, or, you know, one season of a show, I worked on the, one of these non writing Executive Producers showed up and our Office Production Coordinator didn’t know who they were and it, but the secretary did luckily. So they were able to save that situation or it probably would have been a really, you know, egg on the face situation.

Michael: (11:00)
Yeah. Because sometimes they don’t show up. Right. The homes that parking spot is empty all year. Yeah. But you know, sometimes they do show up cause they, yeah. So those are all, those are all creative jobs. So when you see at the front of a TV show, all those producers, like what are all these producers? Most of them are writers. And then some producers, there was always a couple of, there’s a Line Producer, he’ll get he, or she will get a producer title. And they’re in charge of kind of, uh, they’re in charge of the, the money and the budget. If, for example, the show runner says, Hey, I want to shoot a show, um, in a submarine. And like, I bet, you know, how do you make that happen? Well, the line producer, their job is to figure out how to make that happen to either rent a submarine or get a soundstage that looks like a submarine or tell you what, that’s just too expensive. You can have to shoot it in a rowboat.

Phil: (11:43)
Right. Right. Yeah. And then, so there’s a Line Producer and then a Unit Production Manager or UPM. Yeah. But there are different jobs or they are, or they’re at the same job because I see it both ways I’ve seen it separated or they’re the same person does both. Yeah,

Michael: (11:57)
Yeah. Yeah. And I, yeah, that’s exactly right. And I don’t, I don’t really know what the difference is. Job responses, uh, job responsibilities are between the two, because on the shows that I’ve worked on, they’ve mostly been the same person. So.

Phil: (12:09)
Yeah. It’s, I think it’s just a level of authority and responsibility. So UPM is typically making the decisions to make sure everything happens in the line producer. My understanding is basically in charge of the budget and making sure you’re not blowing the budget every episode and you can get to the end of the road and they’re like your accountant almost, I guess you could say as the showrunner. Right.

Michael: (12:27)
Um, but we still have accountants.

Phil: (12:28)
We all see cameras like a CPA. Like they’re like the CPA who says, we’re a business manager, Hey, you need to cut your expenses here because yeah. This thing coming down the road.

Michael: (12:36)
Yeah. Often they’ll negotiate, they’ll, there’ll be dealing with the unions and they, they, uh, they make sure that the show, they make sure that the physical production of the show actually happens. Yeah.

Phil: (12:46)
So, so, so this brings up what we’re discussing here might be considered “above the line”. Yeah. Goes right. Yeah. And, um, you know, we recently had an interesting conversation with someone who did not like the title above the line and also

Michael: (12:59)
A derogatory

Phil: (13:01)
It’s like, you know, the union negotiates those things. So your union is responsible for earning you those credits and signing what goes where yeah,

Michael: (13:10)
I think it’s, I think actually it’s just like where you appear on the call sheet. It’s like, are you above this line or below this line? That was my understanding. It’s like, and it’s just, it’s just the line, relax everybody you’re on. It doesn’t mean, you know, you deserve to die, you know? Right. It’s just an, it’s a, basically an accounting formality. Yeah. Right.

Phil: (13:29)
Yeah. Okay. But, but you do not have control over who does that? Just to clarify, because this person seemed to think that you, in your role as an Executive Producer, Showrunner have the ability to dictate through your use of language who gets called what? So people aren’t offended.

Michael: (13:44)
Yeah, yeah. No, I, I walked into, you know, it’s so strange. It’s like I walk into these terminologies, these, these, the terminologies were decided before me. And, uh, and somebody has someone thought that they were just very offended by that. And I’m perpetuating some kind of, I don’t know, egregious, uh, you know, offense in Hollywood.

Phil: (14:01)
And not to get like super into the weeds on this subject. But I do know, um, this season on Tacoma FD, either production company did require us to use gender neutral terminology for things. So this is like a term for like the Best Boy or Best Boy Grip or Best Boy Lighting. And now that’s like Key Lighting Person and it’s like a term, um, different things instead of form. And it was for a person. And so I understand those things, but when we’re talking about literally anyone below the line is garbage and trash and we stop and use it, that’s not exactly what’s going on in this space.

Michael: (14:31)
No, those people are kind of important because they’re writers the above the line. People like maybe we were the dreamers that, Hey, what if, and the other people, the ones who are doing it, so you can’t just have dreamers on set. They don’t that nothing will get done.

Phil: (14:43)
Yeah. Right. It’s like, uh, I, I did hear an example on another show I worked on where they’re like, they want us to have 50 people with the exact same haircut sitting in a restaurant. It’s like, you don’t understand the complexity of, of casting that the complexity of finding those people, the hair and makeup, the costs for extra pay. Like we got you 10 of those people not 50. Right, right. Yeah. So, so those are all the, so those are all the jobs that are just the ones that you’ve talked about. And those that basically to get into Hollywood, you have to start as a Staff Writer.

Michael: (15:16)
Hi guys, it’s Michael Jamin. I wanted to take a break from talking and talk just a little bit more. I think a lot of you, people are getting bad advice on the internet. Many, you want to break into the industry as writers or directors or actors, and some of you are paying for this advice on the internet. It’s just bad. And as a working TV writer and showrunner, this burns my butt. So my goal is to flush a lot of this bad stuff out of your head and replace it with stuff that’s actually going to help you. So I post daily tips on social media, go follow me @MichaelJaminWriter. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook and TikToK. And let’s be honest, if you don’t have time, like just two minutes a day towards improving your craft, it’s not going to happen. So go make it happen for you @MichaelJaminWriter. Okay. Now back to my previous rant.

Michael: (16:02)
And yes, then how do you start as a staff writer? There are entry-level jobs. So there’s no assistant writers. People often say, well, I want to be an assistant writer on your show. It’s like that doesn’t exist. There are Writers Assistance. And those are the people who will sit in the writer’s room and they sit at the keyboard and they literally, they usually either take notes or they type, as we, as the words go up on the, on a monitor, we’re watching a screen. And so they actually type the script as we pitch lines. And so that’s, um, it’s, it’s a kind of a high pressure job because you have to know the pro word processing program, like the back of your hand, but also you have to be a good speller because if you are not, people will make fun of you. And you know, everyone’s staring at you while you do your job and like busting your balls.

Michael: (16:46)
Uh, you know, so it’s a, it’s a high pressure job. You have to have a good sense of humor about it. And so, but it’s a great job to have because once you’re in the writer’s room and like, you will learn more as a Writer’s Assistant than you would the tenures in film school because you’re watching professional writers do their craft. So it’s a wonderful, it’s a great learning experience. And how do you get a Writer’s Assistant job? Well, the next step below that would be Writers PA and essentially a production assistant. So the Writer’s PA usually, usually writers are veal. We are kept hostage in a, in a writer’s room like for hours and hours and hours. And you don’t leave, but they bring you lunch. And when they bring you lunch, that person who’s bringing you lunch is a hero because they’re feeding you and you, you know, so that the Writer’s PA is usually the one who goes out on a run and brings you lunch. This is before COVID of course, I don’t know what goes, no one brings me food anymore. No one gives within six feet of me.

Phil: (17:39)
That’s right. That’s not in your family. Right.

Michael: (17:43)
Keep an arm, social distance kids. Um, so that’s, Writer’s PA and then kind of not, I wouldn’t say below it, but Jason too, it would be regular PA or Set PA, which that PA works on the set. Another job would be Office PA. And that PA you know, the set PA might run errands, or it might block off the set when like, you know, when they’re shooting an episode, the set PA will be on the perimeter. And you had, I’m telling you, you had this job for a while. And they’re the ones who are, let’s say you’re shooting on New York City street. They’re on the perimeter stopping traffic and people, you can’t walk here. We’re shooting.

Phil: (18:14)
Yeah, no. And let me point out here, the, our Locations Guy, when I said that I was locking down traffic interjecting and said, you are not allowed to do that. That is illegal. The police lock down traffic. You were there to wrangle pedestrians.

Michael: (18:29)

Phil: (18:29)
Interesting. Right. Because we do not have the legal authority to stop traffic, but on a closed set, that was my first day of PA work was literally standing in the hot sun out in the middle of Southern California telling cars when to drive into the scene. Yeah. But it was a closed set. And I was, I was literally doing that. And you

Michael: (18:50)
Had, you had your piece in a headsets

Phil: (18:54)
[inaudible] or there, they literally call it background and you tell them to move. Yeah. Right. You

Michael: (18:58)
Tell them that would be a set. That’s one of the responsibilities of a set PA.

Phil: (19:02)
Yeah. They’re responsible for getting information to everyone. Um, locking down, set for a sound. It’s another very common thing where you literally post up in a doorway and you hold stop people from coming in and out because they’re shooting that direction and you don’t want to walk through set, like one of the first days of shooting of season two of Tacoma FD I walked onto a set and I looked right at the set PA and she didn’t say anything. So I walked toward her and ended up walking right through the shot, like, yeah. And they showed it to me. They showed me a post me Sasquatching and through the background of the firehouse.

Michael: (19:36)
And that’s the job of the PA supposed to stop. You I’ve walked on sets before to have my own show where I was Executive Producer. And I guess some PA was too nervous to tell me not to walk on set. And I walk into the shot and I ruined the shot. And I’m like, dude, you got to tell me not to walk into the shot. It’s okay. You can tell, don’t be afraid of me. Tell me I’m not, not tell me not to ruin the shot.

Phil: (19:53)
Didn’t you tell me that there was a, uh, you had to spend like a significant amount of money and post cutting a PA out of the background and standing behind a tree or something.

Michael: (20:01)
Um, I’m sure that, yeah. I’m not sure if the PA, but I remember sometimes you have to do that we’re or you cut a reflection. Sometimes you see a PA or something, or somebody is a reflection in a window. You have to take that out. Yeah. Yeah.

Phil: (20:14)
Um, so, so I’ve had most of these PA jobs, so that’s a Set PA and then Office PA, you’re the one making copies. You’re the one making the signs. You’re laminating things and go, go runs. You’re coming on, runs and picking up stuff. You’re going to Home Depot to buy specific daylight, luminescent, light bulbs for the Makeup Department, because they need specific lights in the trailer. You’re getting water, you’re moving things around set. You’re going out on a run to Burbank to pick up Audio Equipment for the audio team. Cause they always need something. Yeah. You know,

Michael: (20:48)
It’s interest. Cause I posted a little bit about that on social media. I do like these little clips and uh, and, and someone said, you have to, you, you know, I said, it’s an entry-level job. It’s not too hard to get. And someone said, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You have to have a Harvard Degree. You have to degree a degree from Harvard or an MBA. And like you already your mind, like, I can tell you need a car.

Phil: (21:07)
That’s it. You need a car and you need to breathe. Right.

Michael: (21:11)
The pulse, if you, if you’re dead, you’re going to have, you’re going to struggle. But if you have a pulse, you be okay. It’s like, I don’t really care. I don’t need to know that you have a degree from Harvard from what do I care? I want to know. Can you go on a run?

Phil: (21:23)
Do you think that’s people who just assume it’s all an old boys club and you ha it’s about who, you know, and it’s not about like, like, oh, Harvard Alumni will hire Harvard alumni. Is it that kind of thing? Or do you think they actually think you have to be like a Rhode Scholar to be a PA?

Michael: (21:38)
No, I think there’s, you know, breaking into Hollywood is hard and it’s, you know, that first job, the hardest one is that first job to get in. And so you have to hustle and you really have to like, you know, send out flight. You kind of have to really be in contact with people. And you’ve got a nudge way in and I, and it takes a lot of work. And I think people would much rather say, well, they’re not hiring people like me. Cause you know, there’s an excuse as opposed to, that’s not true at all. It’s like, you just have to do your end to the part. You have to hustle to get the job. Yeah. You know, it’s just, there’s so many excuses. And like, I always say like, you can, you can have results or you can have excuses, uh, or you can have excuses or you can have results, but you can’t have both. Right. And people like to have excuses. It just makes them feel better for not trying or not trying hard enough.

Phil: (22:22)
Now, now I’ve been on a other side of things. I think my first PA job, um, you gave my resume to a show that you were running and I didn’t get that job. And I didn’t get that job because your writing partner also referred someone and that person had experience. Yeah. Right. Yeah. And so I didn’t get that job, but because I did so well in the interview when they needed a day player to come out and just lock down set for a day, they called me and said, Hey, it’s one day job. You want to come up and sit? Absolutely. What time? Where should I be? I showed up early. I was there. I ran around set the whole day. And it just happened to be that that day, the Office PA was called back in to his Fox show and he had to leave. And so the UPM who was on set with me, watching me work said, you should consider this guy. He seems good. And I got offered a full-time position as the office PA because of that. And so it was that

Michael: (23:16)
Is that luck. Was that, was that, did you get lucky or did you make your own luck?

Phil: (23:20)
I think that there’s a, there’s a level of luck, you know, there’s this old saying that luck is where opportunity meets preparation. Right? Right. And so the opportunity came because I knew you and you were able to give them my resume, but I didn’t get that job. Someone else got that job. And they had three other people who you and your running partner did not recommend who also got jobs because they had, and that’s just the racket. But because I was willing to show up and I was prepared and I understood what was expected of me as a PA, I was able to prove myself on that, on that day, the chance I go, yeah.

Michael: (23:57)
We had a PA on Tacoma, FD, we talk about, I don’t mention his name, but one day one of the writers asked him to get a, for like Tylenol or Advil or something to go to drugstore. And he kind of said, no, he was busy.

Phil: (24:10)
So we should talk about that too. So, so the Writer’s PA job is not just lunch. Like you’re responsible for whatever the writers need. Like the Showrunners asking you for binders, but not just not binders, but D clipped binders, full ring binders, because they don’t like the way the dividers are. And it’s my job to go get that for them. I’m also supposed to stock the fridge. I’m supposed to have first aid available. I’m supposed to clean up after them. And so to have a Writer’s PA tell a Writer I’m busy. I can’t get you medicine because you have a headache. But I think it was worse than that. I think it was. Do you know if we have any, I think they have some upstairs. Can you go get some, I don’t think I can do that.

Michael: (24:48)
Yeah. And man and we all laugh when he said no and you know, like men just falls in this guy. Yeah. And then he didn’t last much longer than that.

Phil: (24:59)
Well, he did some other stuff I heard too. I, I ended up replacing that guy that season. Um, but he did some other stuff too. Like you told me that he would just like stare through the glass at you guys while you were watching writing stuff.

Michael: (25:12)
Yeah. He just, I had a weird thing where like, he just didn’t, he’d come into the room, the Writers’ Room and he just wouldn’t know when to leave. And he was like, you know, and it got awkward. It’s like, Hey, did you got to leave? Now? We got to work. And he would just kind of stand there. I dunno, gabbing or, you know, watching and was just so uncomfortable. And the writer, we, we thought it was hilarious. Like this guy he’s something else.

Phil: (25:33)
Well, he hit the nail in the coffin. And I think this is like a big note of what not to do is one of our Showrunners who is an actor on the show is like on Nutrisystem and like cutting weight to get camera ready, because he’s going to be, you know, he’s effectively starving himself to look good on camera. And he’s entitled to lunch more than anybody else on the show. Cause it’s his show. And one day he comes in, he’s like today I want sushi. And he said, uh, we don’t have the budget for that. Right. And he said, I don’t care. I’ll approve it. Cause he’s show is responsible for the budget. And he goes, I’ve already put in the other lunch order.

Michael: (26:11)
Yeah. That’s what it was about. And that, you know, and afterwards we were busting that actor’s because you know, I, you’re not in charge.

Phil: (26:24)
Yeah. You’ll keep your job if you, uh, if you deny your showrunner on her food, the one time he asks for it and the whole season.

Michael: (26:32)
So that guy didn’t, he didn’t last very long. But, uh, yeah, your, your job is to say yes, not to say no as a PA. Right.

Phil: (26:39)
Well, yeah. Well, interesting stuff. And you know, ultimately like I got that job and I think to your note, one of the first things you told me forever ago is if, you know, if you want to make it in Hollywood, you have to be in LA because that’s where the jobs are. And I think there’s a caveat because this is a question I’ve seen in a lot of your social media people say, do you have to live in Hollywood to make it in film? And the answer is depends on what you want to do. Right? So for example, I went to film school in New Mexico and New Mexico is a smaller market that is expanding ridiculously right now. I think Netflix is investing a billion dollars in New Mexico and infrastructure expanding stages. And they bought the biggest stages there where they shoot Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and all that stuff.

Phil: (27:17)
And so if you want to work in camera or you want to work in, you know, an office position or a locations or a costume position, my opinion is those exterior markets, Utah, where you have Park City studios, you have, um, Santa Fe or Albuquerque where you have a fast growing film industry. You have Louisiana, you have Georgia. Those markets is really easy to progress and move up the ranks in those craftsmen positions. Right. Right. But when we talk about writing, I really think the answer is you do have to be an LA because this is where the writing happens.

Michael: (27:52)
Yeah. All the writing, they even Handmaids Tale. They shoot that. I think in Toronto, they sh they write it here. Um, I’m pretty sure Breaking Bad. They, they, they

Phil: (27:59)
Wrote here in LA, in LA shot, in New Mexico.

Michael: (28:02)
Right. So if you want to be a writer, then you want to be a writer’s assistant and you want to be a PA here in LA. So you can come up this way. But in someone, some of them had sent me, um, a question that maybe was on Tik TOK or something. And she was, she seemed very lovely. And by, so I still let her have it. She was, um, she was like, uh, I live in the UK and I would gladly, I really want to break into the business. And I would gladly come here to LA. If someone could guarantee me a job. And I was like, you know, there’s no guarantee, you know, no, one’s gonna guarantee you a job. Uh, first of all, there are no guarantees in Hollywood. Right. You know, you’re not, um, you know, you’re, you know, you’re not Brad Pitt Brad Pitt.

Michael: (28:42)
He’s guaranteed to get a dressing room and, and a driver. You’re a PA you have no guarantees. If you came here and got a job, let’s say the show would get canceled after 10, at 10 weeks, or you get fired or whatever, you’re still out of a job. Now you’re out of a job. And so you’re still screwed. You have to come here first. And when they’re hiring for those positions, that basically for any kind of PA position, the job is like you interviewed today to start tomorrow. And so you can’t fly here. We’re not going to get, I’m going to give you a week to fly here. And then a week to find a place then a week to get a car because you need a car. It’s like, you know, no, you have to be here for those opportunities. There’s no, there’s no guarantees.

Phil: (29:22)
Yeah. That’s what you told me. You said you have to be here because when they want to hire someone, they need you today. Right? Yeah.

Michael: (29:27)
And I, I called you. I remember when that opportunity came up on our current show, I said, Phil, can you, can you be here this afternoon? They’re hiring you. You have to be here today.

Phil: (29:35)
Yeah. I think the exact text was, um, we need a PA the job sucks. It’s low pay. Do you want it? And I said, I’ll do that job for free. Right. And your response. Good answer. That’s how I got my first paid job. Hold on. And they’re like an hour or so later the Script Coordinator. Um, so basically shot me a text said, Hey, man, uh, it looks like, you know, we’d like to use you on the show. I said, do you want my resume? He’s like, no, Michael Jamin’s words. Good enough. And it’s because you had proved yourself at that time. Right. So they took your recommendation. And I literally showed up the next day

Michael: (30:09)
And I have a new gun

Phil: (30:10)
And I haven’t been working on the show in two years. I’m still on the show.

Michael: (30:13)
And if you had ’em right. And if you had, uh, you know, said, well, yeah, I’ll be there next week. They would have found somebody else. Right.

Phil: (30:20)
Because, um, literally cause they were, they were buying their own. You guys were buying your own lunch at that point, I think.

Michael: (30:25)
Yeah. Like we, like, we need lunch. Yeah.

Phil: (30:29)
Carrie Clifford’s like, I want my tuna where, which tuna do I get. Yeah,

Michael: (30:32)
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And so yeah, having a good attitude and being ready to start tomorrow is, is really key. Unfortunately, that’s how you, if you want to, like, if you want to work in Hollywood, you have to be in Hollywood, you know? And, and sure there are other jobs like in Atlanta and, and, uh, Albuquerque, but often, um, like it may be harder to have a career in those cities because there’s just not as many opportunities. So I’m sure people, you know, piece together careers. I just think it’d be easier to piece together a career in Hollywood. There’s just more options.

Phil: (31:02)
Yeah. There’s constant. There shows constantly shooting, especially right now with streaming and cable. There’s not like a development season. Like there used to be right. It’s

Michael: (31:11)
And you may have to move, you may, I know like costumers, they work here, but they have to take a job in some other state because that’s where the show is shooting, but writers generally have to generally stay in LA. Yeah.

Phil: (31:23)
Yeah. So are there any other jobs or any other ways to break in to Hollywood at this point? I mean, is it, is it just, you have to work yourself way up as a PA or get lucky enough to, you know, be lucky enough and have the craft and skill to become a Screenwriter. Is there another option?

Michael: (31:38)
We talked about this in other episodes where if you have your own, if Hollywood is not going to come to you, unless you really make it worth Hollywood’s while. So if you are blowing up on Twitter, if you have a giant Twitter feed or, uh, you know, Instagram or whatever, and, and you have a million followers, Hollywood will find you, you don’t have to start at The Bahamas. Like, man, this person here, she’s got it going on. Uh, let’s give this person to show because they have a built-in marketing platform that often happens. Yeah. So there’s a show on CBS, it’d be 10 years ago. Shit My Dad says, and that was based on a popular Twitter feed. Yeah. And so, you know, that guy just tweeted it from wherever he wanted and you know, just find stuff that his dad said.

Phil: (32:19)
Got it. So I, I do, you know, of other people who’ve broken in, so I’m another writer who is that a lot of stuff to put stuff out there as website he’s got scripts and things. Javier Grillo-Marxuach who I think you might know. Yeah. He wrote lost. Yeah. Yeah. Lost. He was a showrunner on a bunch of stuff. So he, I believe was a development executive and he transitioned that position to being a writer. Yeah. So there are those other opportunities as well. Do you know anything about those?

Michael: (32:45)
I do know. I have a friend who we hired on a show, Glen Martin DDS years ago. And I didn’t know him at the time we just hired him. We became friends. And I… I discovered after about a year that he was at one point a Development Executive at a studio and I was shocked. I was like, oh, I hadn’t because it’s a whole, whole different thing. Um, and he told me that most development executives from his they’re, they’re jealous of writers. They want to be writers. And so, because it’s more creative and development executives or, you know, they, they tend to give notes, uh, but they don’t do it themselves. And so, cause you know, it’s one of those, like why would you want to become, uh, an executive at a studio or a network if you were not had that creative passion in you, you wanted to create. And so the closer I think they can get to creating the more fulfilled they would be, which is, you know, obviously writing is probably closer to… than giving notes to

Phil: (33:35)
Somebody. That makes sense. It makes

Michael: (33:37)
Sense, but I’m, I’m not gonna speak for all that. I’m sure there are many great development executives or creative executives who love exactly their job. But this is what he told me was that he felt that that many or most really wanted to be really wished they were writers. Right.

Phil: (33:50)
And I think that, you know, from my limited perspective, with the, the limited amount of work I’ve done, kind of the general vibe that I get from most people is that most people in most jobs in Hollywood dreamt of being a writer, director, producer, and they are now doing this other job, hoping to have the job that you’re also trying to get.

Michael: (34:13)
I think many writers also want to be directors because it’s not writing. It’s like, Ooh, because writing is hard. You’re like, well, directing it, that seems like something I could do. Was that, was

Phil: (34:20)
That your experience when you directed on Maron?

Michael: (34:23)
Uh, no. That was just an opportunity that came our way. We didn’t want to say no to it, but I know other writers who want to get into, or have gotten into directing because writing is really hard. Writing can be difficult even like, I, I used to say like, if you think writing is fun, you’re kind of, you’re probably doing it wrong. It’s hard to do it. Right. It’s hard. Yeah. And so I think a lot of writers that well, anything about writing, so.

Phil: (34:47)
Right, right. Well, awesome, man. I think it was incredibly helpful. You have any other thoughts or?

Michael: (34:52)
No, I think that’s, I think we covered a lot. We have, we have more podcasts come and Phil. We got to save it for the next.

Phil: (34:57)
Oh, I love it. No. So again, you know, I think that if you want any more of this information, definitely check out Michael’s course because he goes into this more detail kind of what’s expected in some of those positions and what it takes. But yeah, I think the big note that I would like to give or leave people with is that you don’t have to have won the lottery or be born with a silver spoon in your mouth. I sure wasn’t. And I live in LA and I work full year round as a PA. And I’m actively working on progressing towards being a better writer so you can make it happen. You just have to get rid of the excuses and just take control and just make decisions with what can I do today to improve things. And we talked about this on another podcast, like I’ve always was raised with this prodigy syndrome.

Phil: (35:41)
I feel like I have to hit grand slams with everything I do. And there’s this framework that I’ve transitioned to, which is, you know, it’s Moneyball, it’s singles singles win baseball games. If I can hit a single today, like which might just be writing something, I can hit a single today. It’s not sexy. If I hit a single tomorrow, it’s not sexy. If I hit a single one day three, it’s not sexy, but they, for you score it run day five. You score a run. It’s about chaining those singles together. And that’s how you ultimately win.

Michael: (36:08)
I think so. That makes sense to me. Yeah. Like people say like, well, how do I become a writer is like, you’re, if you write every day, you’re a writer, right? If you want to be a paid writer, that’s a little different, but you know, but if you were someone new who wrote a script last year, you’re not a writer. You have someone you’re someone who has written. So a writer you’re constantly writing, it’s active. And, and that will make, that will make you better at your craft and will increase your odds of actually becoming a professional writer.

Phil: (36:35)
Awesome. I love it. Here’s a great way to end. Thank you, Michael. Thanks everybody for listening.

Michael: (36:40)
Thank you.

Phil: (36:53)
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’d like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing leaving a review and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today’s subject. If you’re looking to support yourself, I encourage you to consider investing in Michael’s screenwriting course at I’ve known Michael for over a decade. And in the past seven years, I’ve begged him to put something together. During the global COVID-19 pandemic. Michael had time. And I have to say, I wish I’d had this course 10 years ago. As someone who has personally invested in most online courses, earned a bachelor’s degree, and actively studied screenwriting for over a decade, this course has been more valuable to me than most of the effort I’ve put in because it focuses on something noone else teaches: story. In his course, Michael pulls back the curtain and shows you exactly what the pros do in a writer’s room and that knowledge has made all the difference for me. And I know it will for you too. You can find more information at for free daily screenwriting tips. Follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @PhilAHudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.filet Hudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas crane until next time, keep writing.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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