"Industry Spotlight" is our newsletter series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
This month, we sat down with screenwriter Jamie Nash, whose credits include V/H/S/2, EXISTS, and SANTA HUNTERS. Jamie also wrote the brand new installment of the Save the Cat! series, Save The Cat! Writes for TV -- a must-read for aspiring TV writers and development executives.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: Tell us about your job as a screenwriter. What types of projects have you worked on/do you like to work on? What's your day-to-day like?
JAMIE: I’m weird. I tend to write a whole range of genres and formats. Over the last few months I’ve worked on a biopic, a sports movie, a kids movie, two horror movies, a true crime podcast, and an animated TV show. I even throw in a novel and a non-fiction screenwriting book and other stuff once in a while. Weird. I’m always doing ten things at once — sometimes preparing a pitch, other times drafting a new script or revising a script based on producer notes, or coming up with new ideas to present to industry connections. I tend to focus on one project at a time just so I can scratch it off my to-do list. But there are days where I might be doing one thing in the AM and another in the PM with meetings mixed in during the day.
HR: What do you like most about your job?
JAMIE: I don’t need any permission to write. Anytime I want, whenever I want, whatever I want, I can just open my laptop and go to work. It may never sell or see the light of day, but I can do it, and what I’m doing here is not fundamentally different than what Shonda Rhimes or JJ Abrams or Diablo Cody can do. They just get big paychecks in the mail. But even that might come from something I do right now. It’s probably the only thing in the industry where you don’t have to wait for someone to kick off a project in order to do what you love. And that’s the coolest thing about writing.
HR: What are some of the biggest hurdles to getting a screenwriting job?
JAMIE: Early on, the biggest hurdle is apathy. Everyone is a screenwriter. Everyone has a script or pilot or pitch. Development execs and literary representatives are so overworked with their own projects, it's hard to get even the smallest amount of attention. Most of them aren’t looking for the next great discovery. It’s really frustrating at first, and it takes a long time for opportunity to meet timing where you can leverage relationships to even get a shot to pitch or submit scripts, and then its all about having what they need when they need it and, of course, quality. Later on, the tricky part is that it ebbs and flows. You’re either working on too many projects or not enough. You’re either overbooked or starting to think you may never work again.
HR: If you don't like ______________, you won't like my job.
JAMIE: Taking notes. You’ll get notes from agents, managers, directors, studios, actors, show runners, co-writers, craft service people, your mom, etc., etc. Unlike other forms of writing, you’re often hired to implement other people’s visions -- and even when your original script sells, it becomes "their vision" of your script. It’s a skill you have to learn. Be open to it and always remind yourself everyone wants the movie to be the best possible.
HR: What's something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn't expect -- and maybe you didn't before you started!
JAMIE: The job can be very meeting heavy. When I’m really busy, 30% or more of my week might be phone/zoom/in-person meetings.
HR: Tell us about Save the Cat! Writes for TV. How did you come to write it and who should read it?
JAMIE: Save the Cat! Writes for TV is part of the wildly popular Save the Cat series. I wrote a script with Blake Snyder, author of the original Save the Cat!, and was an early adopter to its methods. I also teach screenwriting at the college level. In recent years, many of my students would want to write pilots, and they were fans of Save The Cat, so it caused me to think deep about how I use the Save the Cat process in my own TV writing work. The book was born out of both of those things. I also analyzed several recent TV pilots before writing and came up with a few new tricks. The book is for writers who want to create original shows or write TV pilots. If you want to sell or pitch a show, or just create an original pilot script as a sample to get staffed, the book will guide you through the process.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood? How did you get it?
JAMIE: It’s weird for a writer. I optioned a script and got hired to do rewrites. That one was eventually sold/made. The bigger lesson…it was my 12th script probably about 4 years into screenwriting. I technically optioned one right before that. And sold a couple right after. I sort of hit my stride around script #12.
HR: What's a mistake you made early in your career?
JAMIE: I spent too much time on some of my first scripts. On one hand, I think most writers need to learn some hard lessons early on….but the truth is, those first couple of scripts are often unsalvageable. You’re better off writing 3-5 different scripts than writing 50 drafts of 1. If you’re on draft 5 or 6 on your first script…it might be time to start up a new one.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
JAMIE: Try a bit of everything….within reason. Write a movie. Write a pilot. Try directing. Write an audio drama. Make your own stuff (it’s good for the soul). Enter a couple of contests. Visit some film fests. Jump on Twitter. Read books. Take classes. Try not to spend too much money on anything. Writing is something you should be able to do for free. There are some money-sucks out there, and very few of them are worth it.
HR: Thanks, Jamie!