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09/18/2007: Hire Education
I guess I assume that everyone out there wants to be a TV writer. I mean, why wouldn't you? But a letter from Lauren in Michigan reminds me that some of you may want to know more about what you're getting into before you hop that ol' freight train for LA.
Lauren wants to know about what sort of educational background is a good preparation for the job, and what the typical daily life of a writer looks like, both when working on a show and when between shows. She also wants to know about the most challenging parts of the job -- the downside of the work. This, in particular, is a great question, since it's true that it isn't the Emmys every day! This is a lot to cover in one post, so I'm going to start my answer today and continue it tomorrow. 'Kay?
First off, every sort of educational background is found among TV writers. I know rich successful writers without college degrees, for example, although that's unusual. I myself was a computer science undergrad (I can program in Pascal -- useless now), and a linguistics/cognitive science grad student. Some writers have film school backgrounds, but certainly not all of them do, not even close. There is no educational background that would be inappropriate. In fact, a background in something beyond film is often considered desirable because it brings a diversity of knowledge to the room. Biology? Poli Sci? Psychology? Philosophy? Engineering? Great. The sort of skills that you need to work on a writing staff aren't really part of any specific curriculum. If you have creative ideas, can write a good script, and get along with people in a cooperative venture, then you've got the skills. (This is not to say I'm encouraging you to enroll in a program with a poor record of post-graduation employment, thereby gambling it all on hitting the Hollywood Jackpot. I'd suggest you be a little more practical than that, of course.)
It's also fairly common for TV writing to be a second career, giving you the extra selling point of real-world experience. There are ex-doctors and lots and lots of ex-lawyers and ex-journalists in writers' rooms around town.
I think there's also a perception that TV writers grow up in the business, but I've actually met very few second-generation writers. You can come from anywhere and you can have studied anything. Just write scripts. Write them well.
Lunch: veggie sandwich with extra avocado. No mustard today -- I think it was the right choice.