With your foot firmly planted in the door, you’re on your way to becoming a professional writer! Woohoo! So how do you shine at the job of being a writers’ assistant like the top of the Chrysler building? Well Annie, let’s start with wrist support and dip into some challenges that might not be so crystal clear.
You’re going to be typing. A lot. All-day, in fact. So let’s make sure your hands can handle it. If you’re on a laptop, think about cushion pads for your wrists. You can find some that stick right to the laptop or are just a bar in front of your keyboard. Both will help to relieve pressure. Prone to arthritis? Going the extra step for a wrist guard could help. Since all of these little extras are for work, ask if the show can order them for you and let the studio pay for them. Tips! Tricks! Perks, pal!
Learn What’s Important
Nobody wants to go home and read a million-page transcript of their day at work.
As you take notes, you’ll get a feel for what the room agrees upon and what are obviously tangents. When the room decides on what they like–when it comes to story ideas or character moments–or what they want to pitch to the Showrunner later, underline it so that it’s easier to see when flipping through.
When the Showrunner talks, it’s always important. So, bold their pitches and ideas, since it’s what they want and the most likely to end up in the show.
If you use this method, add an explanation at the top of the notes that clarifies “underline means we landed on the idea“, and “bold means it came from the Showrunner“.
Have a Template
Keep things consistent. Using Google Docs makes it easier to email and store all of your notes.
Label each day with the date, the episodes you focused on, and the important things you talked about that day, so it’s easier to find something if it gets lost by the end of the day.
Add page numbers. Having a table of contents is also helpful. This way, writers quickly glance to see what discussion they want to see and what page that is on.
You’re at your computer, taking notes, and also on your third cup of coffee of the morning – how do you escape to the bathroom mid-conversation? Have a system in place.
Set up your computer (if you’re in Hollywood, it’s a Mac) so that your texts through iMessage, which show up on your laptop. (This is a good time to make sure your computer is on mute (phone too)!) Text the Writer’s P.A. to come cover for you. This way, all of this is done in swift silence and the notes don’t miss a beat. Is the P.A. busy? Try the script coordinator, with the Showrunner’s assistant as last resort (since they’ll have to step out to keep answering the phone).
The Little Things
When you email the writers with all the notes at the end of the night, make sure to attach them as a Word doc AND as a PDF, that way no matter what device they are on they can read it. This also allows them to easily copy and paste anything they need into a script. It’s also fun to take an inside joke from the room that day and add it to the body of the notes email, either as a fun quote or with a silly GIF or meme.
Now that you’re physically and mentally prepared, have fun! Laugh, soak it all in, and learn from the best. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting at the table.
Sometimes writers will ask your opinion or the Showrunner might encourage you to pitch ideas if you have them, and if so, give them your best pitches! You’re in the room where it happens, you’re going to do great.