Breaking into TV Writing as a Writers' Room Assistant

Hosted by Marcelena Campos Mayhorn

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Marcelena Campos Mayhorn

Webinar hosted by: Marcelena Campos Mayhorn

Writer (Netflix's SELENA: THE SERIES)

Marcelena Campos Mayhorn is a former television assistant turned WGA writer. A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Marcelena began her film career working for the Austin Film Festival in Austin, TX, while writing on the side. She moved to Los Angeles in 2015, where she got her start as a line producer’s assistant on the TV show CSI: CYBER and later went on to assist on other shows such as APB and CRIMINAL MINDS before landing the role of Writers’ Room Assistant on the hit Shondaland show STATION 19 on ABC. Marcelena served in this role for two seasons before finding her first staff writing job on Netflix’s upcoming show SELENA: THE SERIES. By slowly moving up the ranks, Marcelena has gained a comprehensive understanding of the television writing landscape and how to be successful within it, and she’s excited to share what she knows with the Stage 32 community. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

It’s no secret that television is a hot commodity right now. The “golden age of television” that began ten or so years ago has since exploded, and with new networks and streamers like Quibi, HBO Max, and Disney Plus coming into the fold, the volume of TV content has hit unprecedented levels. In fact over 500 scripted shows were broadcast or streamed in 2019 alone, more than any other year prior. And with more shows, there are more paths for writers to break in. After all, virtually all of these 500+ shows have their own writers' room. Yet even with this influx of opportunities, it’s still not exactly easy for new writers to land a job in this industry. Everyone’s path is different, but a tried and true route is to enter in as a writer’s room assistant and work your way up. Yet this, too, requires some wherewithal, skill, strategy, and luck.

Being an assistant affords you the opportunity to learn first-hand how a writers' room works without the pressure of having to contribute to the same level as staff writers. It can be an incredibly valuable and educational step in your career. In fact, as your career advances, this experience will allow you contribute more than just stories and ideas; you’ll now know how rooms operate, how things run smoothly, and how to keep workflow productive. Yet this journey is easier said than done. Getting into the room as an assistant is one thing, but holding your own, standing out, demonstrating your value, and carving a place for yourself and your future can be even more challenging. So how do people actually get the gig as an assistant in a writer’s room, and how do they find success and further opportunities in the process?

Marcelena Campos Mayhorn is a former television assistant turned WGA writer. A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Marcelena began her film career working for the Austin Film Festival in Austin, TX, while writing on the side. She moved to Los Angeles in 2015, where she got her start as a line producer’s assistant on the TV show CSI: CYBER and later went on to assist on other shows such as APB and CRIMINAL MINDS before landing the role of Writers’ Room Assistant on the hit Shondaland show STATION 19 on ABC. Marcelena served in this role for two seasons before finding her first staff writing job on Netflix’s upcoming show SELENA: THE SERIES. By slowly moving up the ranks, Marcelena has gained a comprehensive understanding of the television writing landscape and how to be successful within it, and she’s excited to share what she knows with the Stage 32 community.

Marcelena will give you the lowdown of how writers’ room assistants work, how to get these jobs, and ways to use them to get ahead in your own writing career. She will begin by explaining the four main types of TV assistants, including the Writer’s Production Assistant, the Script Coordinator, the Showrunner’s Assistant, and the Writers’ Room Assistant. She will illustrate what these roles do and what they look like day to day, including primary responsibilities and general expectations. She will then teach you about writers’ room etiquette, including unspoken rules, how the four main assistant roles work within the ecosystem, who is actually in the room when and when to speak up and when to blend in. She will go over what the standard rates are for these positions and go over the main benefits of each position, including some you might not have thought of before. Next, Marcelena will explain how to find and apply for these assistant roles, including tried and true routes, and other strategies that are always worth a try. She will teach you how best to shine in each of these four roles and will also propose two additional positions—researcher and personal assistant to a writer—you could also consider in working to break in. Marcelena will detail what the future of TV writing looks like post-pandemic, specifically for assistants, and go over whether it’s important to live in LA for these roles. Finally Marcelena will talk about how assistants have used these positions to take next steps in their careers and become staff writers in their own right. Breaking into television is always going to be hard, but Marcelena will provide you what you need to know to approach it through a tried and true path that may just give you a step up you’re looking for.

 

 

"I know firsthand how hard it can be to break into TV as a writer. Everyone's journey is different, but I was able to grow and find success by working my way up as an assistant in a writer's room. I truly think it can be an invaluable experience and I'm excited to share what I've learned to give you the context and understanding you'll need to go down this path as well."

-Marcelena Campos Mayhorn

What You'll Learn

  • Lay of the Land: The 4 Main Types of TV Assistants and What They Do
    • Writers Production Assistant
    • Script Coordinator
    • Showrunner’s Assistant
    • Writers Room Assistant
  • What Do These Roles Look Like Day to Day?
    • Main responsibilities
    • General expectations
  • A Deep Dive into Writers’ Room Etiquette
    • How do each of the four assistant roles work within the room’s rules and ecosystem?
    • Who is actually in the room when?
    • When to speak up and when to blend in
  • Standard Rates to Expect for Each Role
    • How these positions work with the Writers Guild
  • The Main Benefits of Each Position (Including Some You Might Not Have Thought Of)
  • How to Find and Apply For These Roles
    • Tried and true routes
    • Tried but not always true routes
    • Other strategies worth a try
  • How Can You Best Shine in These Four Roles?
    • And the common mistakes you should avoid making
  • Other Roles You Can Consider
    • Researcher
    • Personal Assistant to a Writer
  • What Does the Future Look Like for Writers Room Assistants Post-Pandemic?
  • Is It Important to Live in LA for These Roles?
    • And what you can do if you live in another city, state, or country
  • How to Use the Assistant Job to Help You Become a Staff Writer
  • Q&A with Marcelena

About Your Instructor

Marcelena Campos Mayhorn is a former television assistant turned WGA writer. A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Marcelena began her film career working for the Austin Film Festival in Austin, TX, while writing on the side. She moved to Los Angeles in 2015, where she got her start as a line producer’s assistant on the TV show CSI: CYBER and later went on to assist on other shows such as APB and CRIMINAL MINDS before landing the role of Writers’ Room Assistant on the hit Shondaland show STATION 19 on ABC. Marcelena served in this role for two seasons before finding her first staff writing job on Netflix’s upcoming show SELENA: THE SERIES. By slowly moving up the ranks, Marcelena has gained a comprehensive understanding of the television writing landscape and how to be successful within it, and she’s excited to share what she knows with the Stage 32 community.

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