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Check Out The TV Writer Roadmap...

“Success is preparation meets opportunity.”
Ever heard of this saying?

Here’s a secret…

There’s always going to be things you can’t control.

Not every executive will love your script.
Not every job will lead somewhere.
Not every agent will want to meet you.

The key is to work on what you can control.
If you maximize what you can accomplish, then you maximize your chances of success–and breaking in.

So, what can you control? Well…

There are three ways to grow a TV writing career:

  • Improve your TV writing
  • Improve your place in the TV business
  • Improve your presence as a TV writer

We call these paths the TV Calling roadmap.

Print this image and tack it to the wall next to your battlestation. If you plan to execute the plan, you’ll need to reference it often.

When you’re writing a new spec script, or meeting wannabe executives, you’ll need to constantly remind yourself of the bigger picture. Otherwise, you’re wasting time and money.

But before we begin, there’s a vital part of this roadmap you need to understand…

This is a journey. In other words, it will take some time. The three paths also work concurrently. At the same time. In parallel.

This is a very important part of your future success. You can (and should) prioritize tasks, but never put your eggs in one basket. Yes, I just said another aphorism.

Combining the writing, the business, and your presence will lead to you becoming an amazing TV writer. Hence the Venn diagram of it all.

Let’s begin with…

1 – The TV Writing

Have you ever been told you can become a successful TV writer with just one amazing idea?
Probably not.

There may be nothing more important than writing the best material you can. Every other part of being a successful TV writer is dependent upon having strong screenplays.

TV writers are idea machines. And if you cannot write a sustainable amount of scripts, all the time you invest building your network is a complete waste of time.

No amount of luck (or work) in other aspects will give you a long-lasting career if you don’t have anything to back it up.

You may now be wondering where to start.

Take a look at your writing samples (if you have any). The bare minimum should be:

  • At least one spec script
  • At least one pilot script

The pilot will show your original voice, the spec script will show you can write in someone else’s voice.

Original pilots will often stay evergreen, but don’t underestimate the power of writing specs. After all, your job as a TV writer will be to write specs (albeit professionally).

Once you have a few scripts–keep writing.

The more material you have, the more likely you are to succeed. Every script you write is like a new ticket into the TV lottery.

2 - The TV Business

In parallel to working on your writing, it’s very important to build solid foundations within the TV business.

“How do I get an assistant job?”
“How do I find an agent?”
“How do I meet executives?”

Most questions relating to the professional side of TV can be answered with: put yourself out there.

I know you’re an introvert. Don’t be a shut-in.

Television is intrinsically a communal industry. No TV show has ever been made by a single person. It’s all made through relationships.

And I’m not talking about “in your face” networking.

Here are a few ways to connect with people:

  • Check your alumni network
  • Create or join a writing group
  • Attend relevant panels, such as WGA-sponsored events
  • Go to mixers and networking events
  • Interact on social media like Twitter (It’s super effective!)

The most detrimental thing you can do is to come up to a stranger and ask him/her to read your script. (You’d be surprised how many times that’s happened.)

To quote Depeche Mode: people are people. Treat them as such. Stop thinking of networking as merely a means to an end.

Keep yourself plugged into the evolution of the TV industry. A good place to start is, well, this very website. We’ve been covering it for over seven years.
You can also listen to informative TV writing podcasts (Nerdist Writers Panel, Children of Tendu).

Once your writing is strong enough, you should pursue opportunities not based on who you know. Namely, the TV writing fellowships and contests.

3 - The TV Writer

There’s a reason why TV writing fellowships ask for your bio. And it’s not because they want to make a biopic about you.

They want to know who you are. What kind of brand you are.

That’s right. I said brand.

“Brand” can be a dirty word. It conjures tasteless images, overbearing advertising, manipulative marketing. Except I’m not just talking about all that “selling yourself” stuff.

Dick Wolf is a brand. Tina Fey is a brand. Ryan Murphy is a brand. Even Bryan Fuller recently became a popular Funko/Hannibal figurine.

We’ve talked a lot about what you can control. Who you are as a writer and person is one of those things.

You’ve probably seen J.J. Abrams’ TED Talk about his childhood “mystery box” and how it relates to his shows/movies–Alias, Lost, Super 8, Cloverfield. That is how he defines himself as a content creator.
He crafted a compelling narrative about who he is, what he writes, and why he writes it.

That’s the writer’s brand.

Think about your latest script.
Now think about why you wrote it.
Is there a personal connection? Can there be one?

“Who you are” can also translate beyond the page.

If you’re a comedy writer, there are now MANY ways you can show how funny you are:

  • Online presence/Social media
  • YouTube/Short-films
  • Essays
  • Plays
  • Stand-up
  • Features

All these “extra-curricular activities” are what sell you as an interesting person, and therefore a compelling writer.

As a creative entity in the 21st century, you have the power to define who you are, what you write, and why you write it. In other words: what is your story?

It’s not an easy question, which makes it a misunderstood and underrated part of this industry. But it can quickly become the missing linchpin to your TV writing success.

Who you are can be just as fascinating as what you do.

4 - The TV Calling

Being a TV writer is a journey.

Every “tactic” you may have heard about is useless without a coherent system. That is why the TV Calling roadmap exists.

These are our tools to being a TV writer. Even following just one of the paths on this page will expand your career.

Implementing all of them will make you unstoppable.

Want to stay up-to-date on all our tools and insights?


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