Michael Jamin likes to describe the TV writer’s room as being held captive like veal. You don’t leave – they even bring your lunch to you. You essentially have to stay and work in a room with a group of writers (size of the group depending on the show).
If you’ve ever watched movie credits before and seen a whole bunch of producer titles, perhaps you’ve asked yourself why there are a whole bunch of producers. While the title of “producer” may sound like a big role, these producer titles are usually referring to a bunch of TV writers.
Writing Careers in Hollywood Defined
So, who exactly is in the writers’ room and what exactly do the different producer titles mean? Here are some role descriptions in order of the writers’ room hierarchy:
Staff Writer: This is pretty much the “newest baby writer” as Jamin calls them. As a staff writer, you probably don’t have any experience and have just broken into Hollywood. It’s your first year on the job.
Story Editor: After one year as a Staff Writer, you’re usually promoted to Story Editor. You have a little bit of experience under your belt and are now in the credits – though, typically at the end.
Executive Story Editor: The significance of this role has changed over the years. Back in the 60’s, this was practically the showrunner. If you have this role nowadays, however, you’re still in a lower level TV writer role and don’t have any showrunner duties.
Co-Producers and Producer: These are mid-tier level TV writer roles. In these jobs, your producing responsibilities may be limited, depending on what the showrunner asks of you.
Supervising Producer and Co-Executive Producer: The person who holds this role is usually 2nd in Command, the #2 writer. As Jamin likes to point out, they make good money but don’t have all of the stress of the boss.
Executive Producer: This is the #1 TV writer and showrunner. This person is responsible for deciding what stories are going to be told, and how they are going to be told. Usually, but certainly not always, they decide the creative vision of the show. They are also oversee casting, post production, editing and music.
While some roles may seem more appealing for various reasons, it’s important to note that every role is important. In his podcast episode on the different ways to break in Hollywood, Jamin points out that there are the dreamers who get to say “Hey, what if” and then there are the people who are doing it. And, as he says, “You can’t just have dreamers on set – nothing would get done!”
Ready to Write for Hollywood?
Michael Jamin has a lot of experience working in Hollywood as a screenwriter. When working for a TV show, he usually fulfills the role of Co-Executive Producer or Executive Producer. So, he knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it in the TV industry. If you’re serious about becoming a TV writer, take his online screenwriting course.