Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My First Staffing Season

Wait a minute, you're temping? you think to me, your thoughts taking the form of dialogue the way Garfield would think to Jon. (This is assuming you read the post below before this one. If not, you probably didn't know I was temping until you heard yourself think that just now.) You mean, your thoughts continue, that you're not working on a TV show yet?

Well, no. Staffing season as most people consider it ended back in June, but I was still taking meetings all summer. Not a ton of meetings or anything, but enough to keep me busy and to justify putting off getting a job.

It was a tough year for comedy. Drama shows are hot right now, but there are barely any new sitcoms this season, and new shows are the ones that do the most hiring. To give you an idea, CBS has exactly one new sitcom on its entire fall schedule. There is one more they've got in the wings that they are saving for a midseason replacement. Lots of established comedy writers have had trouble getting work and many are even trying to re-establish themselves as drama writers. In other words, yay, Timing.

The way TV staffing works (or at least, the way it has worked in the past--things are ever-changing, with the current move toward year-round programming) is that your representation starts sending your stuff out around January. You get network and studio execs to read your work, so that they'll like it and call you in for a meeting and confirm that you are not a person everyone will hate. Then by the time the showrunners (head writers) of the new shows are ready to meet people you will have plenty of other people who think you are great. Finally, the showrunners read and meet you, and then when they find out if their show is picked up or not, they go ahead and hire people.

I pretty much missed all that, so I didn't start meeting people until June, at which point most shows are staffed (again, not that there were many to begin with). A couple of shows were hiring later, and meeting people well into the summer. I met various executives and, eventually, even showrunners. Ultimately, I didn't come away with a staff job anywhere, but taking the meetings was exciting and I felt promisingly close.

We'll see what happens next year, when I should be able to get my stuff out there sooner and meet with people at the proper times.


Simon said...

This is a truly crappy time to be breaking into the sitcom world. As you noted, there are basically no sitcoms in development, and the ones that are being developed are from old hats with little need for new staff.

My brother has spent a while trying to break in, but he's done okay going after smaller comedy jobs to pay the bills (David Spade show briefly, and now a few random things that are way below that on the hollywood rungs). By getting into a few shows like that he now has decent relationships with a few producers who have been throwing him jobs, so hopefully if he keeps it up those relationships could eventually get him bumped up the list on the very short sitcom ladder.

Obviously I'm no expert, but from my brother and other people I've gathered that the "feeling close" thing is frustratingly common. He's got 5 or 6 balls up in the air at all times and some of them come through but most don't. Basically that means he's very busy working on many, many things, which is good, but some of those things are pitches (read: lots of meetings, little moola).

I'm looking forward to graduating and trying to write, but I'm definitely not looking forward to trying to break into the current comedy market, which is pretty damn dry. Hopefully my brother succeeds so I can add one more piece of nepotism to my resume.

Kid Fabulous said...

Chins up, funny folk! There is, as they say, the calm before the storm. If all the channels become super-saturated with drama, networks will soon be clamoring for something different - different, meaning you, with your sitcom. Who wants heart-wrenching story after heart-wrenching bloody story day in and day out for years and years? GAG! Audiences need variety. They need to laugh! Your time will come soon.