How to Become a TV Writer

Lily Cedarbaum

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV.

The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!
Lily Cedarbaum

Establishing your identity as a TV writer can be incredibly challenging. Between the thousands of competitors and the subjectivity of networks, you can often lose faith in your skills and voice. Yes, most of all it helps to make the right connections. However, while you’re working your way up the career ladder as an assistant, getting involved in writing classes and workshops is also a great way to improve your craft, your confidence, and your own network of artists. Impress a teacher with your sense of story and he or she may pass your work along! Who knows, maybe a friend in your class will come to you when she builds her first writing staff, or vice versa! Here are a few great ways to get your creative juices flowing and your writing voice out where it can be heard:

Sundance’s Episodic Story Lab
This brand new creative lab will be open for the first time to applications starting this fall, after hosting its inaugural program this year. While relatively unknown, this five-day intensive program offers its small group of 10 accepted writers the support and prestige of the Sundance brand, while also assisting in guidance and education from established writers and showrunners. It also includes a continuum of support by connecting you with people that are interested in producing your work. This program is for people with a highly defined vision of what stories they’d like to tell; more information will be available when the application process opens later this year.

For more on Sundance’s Episodic Story Lab, click here.

Gotham Writers Workshop
For the more entry-level writers out there, Gotham recommends taking a spec script course before developing your own pilot ideas in their TV Pilot class. Spec scripts are what you usually submit for staff writing positions, so these are extremely valuable for young writers who want to break into television. Courses are taught in NYC, but are also available online for those outside the Big Apple.

For more on the Gotham Writers Workshop, click here.

WB Writers’ Workshop
For over 30 years this highly selective workshop has churned out some of the most successful television writers working today, most notably Terrance Winter of HBO’s acclaimed Boardwalk Empire, now in its final season. Through several months of weekly lectures, simulated writers’ rooms, and staffing in Warner Brothers’ Los Angeles studios, workshop members will be well on their way to a successful career in writing for television. However, not all participants pass the writers’ room simulation, so staffing opportunities are not guaranteed. This opportunity is best for the competitive of spirit and requires fast thinking and a high drive to succeed.

For more on the Warner Brothers Writer’s Workshop, click here.

Meetup.com
Check out what free opportunities there are in your own city by searching writers’ groups on meetup.com. The drawback of these is that they aren’t as organized or as regular, but if you are willing to take a leadership position, you can shape the group to what you need: a critical audience. Often getting better at your craft requires no more than regular practice and accountability. Having a regular time to write and critique others will get your writing muscle pumping again. Meetup.com is especially beneficial to those who don’t have the extra money for a class or who want to ease back into writing after taking a break. Just be careful to get to know your new companions first before you start giving away copies of your cherished scripts. Reading aloud at first is safest.

For more information on TV writers groups through meetup.com, click here.

Comedy Venues
UCB, Second City, Gotham Comedy Club: all of these comedy groups and more have classes for not only stand-up but also comedy writing. If you want to specialize in comedy series but don’t want to perform live, don’t automatically discount these opportunities. Television is widely becoming more improvisational in its tone, and so even scripted comedy should be able to accommodate for this trend. Similarly, you’ll meet some great actors with comedic timing along the way, who are just dying to star for free in your no-budget web series! Not so bad, right? You can check out these opportunities below:

http://newyork.ucbtrainingcenter.com/courses/open

http://losangeles.ucbtrainingcenter.com/

http://www.secondcity.com/training/chicago/coursecatalog/83/

http://gothamcomedyclub.com/Classes

http://thepit-nyc.com/classes/

http://www.comedycellarclasses.com/

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV. The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!

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