This month, we sat down with TV writer Steven White, Co-Producer on ABC's black-ish and founder of Script Coordinator University.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: Tell us about your job.
STEVEN: As a Co-Producer on ABC's black-ish, I get to work at 9:58 for a 10am start and chat with fellow writers until the showrunners start the day. We either blue sky new story ideas, work on breaking a specific episode's story, rewrite a script for the table read, rewrite a script after a table read, punch up a scene that's filming, give notes on cuts of episodes we've already filmed... it's basically, what episode are we working on, and where is that episode in the assembly line? I pitch jokes and try to help with mid-level problems while trying hard not to create any problems for anyone above or below my pay grade. We do 24 episodes of black-ish, so we don't have as much time to pontificate as writers on shows with fewer episode orders. We hit the ground running and don't stop until hiatus, so I may not know what day it is, but if it's Tuesday, there must be a table read.
HR: How did you get your current job?
STEVEN: I started as the Script Coordinator halfway through the first season of the show and used that as an audition for a freelance script in season two that got me staffed by season three. Some people say "Don't be too good at your job!" over fear you'll get stuck there, but I strongly disagree. Showing someone you can be the best at the job you have is the greatest way to show them you'll do just as good, if not better, at the next job they want to give you.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
STEVEN: I started as a Writer's PA on a Lifetime show long enough ago that producers still wanted hard copies of scripts. But the way I got lunches, made copies, and answered phones was enough to impress a producer who recommended me for my next job. You never know who's going to notice how well you're doing, but rest assured, if you do a good enough job, people will.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
STEVEN: If you want to be a comedy writer, you can't be too precious with your jokes, because they always need more. It's your job to have more, all the time, so forget your last one and be ready with your next one. Even with the best joke ever written, trust me, someone was waiting with an alt.
HR: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
STEVEN: This is going to sound crazy, but I didn't actually write enough. I thought about ideas and brainstormed a lot, but I didn't sit down and turn pages around as much as I should have. On the plus side, I'm not one of those people who burned themselves out writing spec features for 10,000 hours, but, flip side -- I also don't have as many spec features as I'd like.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
STEVEN: The best advice I ever heard was, "If you don't like where you are in your career, just work harder than everyone you know." I think a lot of people will think they're already doing that, but it's really about how honest you are with yourself when it comes to what kind of work you're doing. E-mailing 100 people that you want a job may be "work," but it's not as helpful as taking real time to talk to three or four people instead about the best things you can be doing to get to the next level. Reading every script on The Black List is "research," sure, but reading five or six of them and using the rest of that time for your own work is a better use of your time. There are a million more examples, but I would just sum it up by saying your time is valuable, so make sure you're using it in the most effective ways.
HR: Thanks, Steven!