Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

3 Skills a Showrunner's Assistant Needs for Success

Hollywood assistant jobs are tough: think long hours, low pay, and thankless tasks. However, the reward for being a great showrunner's assistant is doled out in TV connections, hands-on education, and experience that can't be bought with a film school degree. Do you have what it takes to do the job and do it well?

We interviewed showrunner's assistant and filmmaker Ria Tobaccowala about her experience supporting showrunner Soo Hugh on shows including AMC's "The Terror" and "Pachinko" on Apple TV+. Tobaccowala has three degrees under her belt, including an MBA, but she told us the skills required to be a showrunner's assistant didn't come from school.

You'll want strong interpersonal skills, a general understanding and passion for television, and a can-do attitude to set yourself up for success as a showrunner's assistant.

Hold Your Place in Line!

Get early access to SoCreate Screenwriting Software. It’s FREE to sign up!

In this article, Tobaccowala explains how each of these traits applies to the position of showrunner's assistant.

How to Be a Good Showrunner's Assistant

"The number one thing you're doing as an assistant is dealing with schedule, but beyond that, there's a lot of different things whether it's research, taking notes, communicating with assistant directors on set, helping with the post team," Ria said. "There's a bunch of different things you're doing."

While most anyone can complete the aforementioned tasks, balancing it all and staying calm under pressure will require a separate set of skills, which Ria details below.

"There are probably three big things I think a showrunner's assistant needs to have," she began.

Strong Interpersonal Skills

"One: super-strong interpersonal skills, that means being able to communicate effectively and being able to write emails effectively and professionally. It's super important."

In the fast-paced television business, you'll need to ensure expectations are clearly communicated and that you speak up when you're blocked by something. Otherwise, the showrunner will simply expect that you've got it handled. Of course, always try to handle situations that arise on your own without bringing in higher-ups to answer questions for you.

General Understanding and Passion for Television

"Two: A general understanding of television. A passion and love for television, I think, is really important, because you're going to be working a lot, and it's busy. You should love, at least, the format and what you're doing, so I think that's the second thing."

Most people who take on assistant jobs in Hollywood do it because they want to move into other television roles eventually. Assistant jobs give you hands-on experience to see how a television show goes from writers' room to screen; It's like a mini-education. So, you want to make sure it interests you.

Better yet, having a strong passion for television will help you get through long days, nights, and often grueling hours.

A Can-Do Attitude

"The third is having the type of personality that's like a can-do personality, because the showrunner has so many hats on, from production to writing, to sometimes directing, to dealing with post, dealing with the business aspects, dealing with budget. You'll get so many different things thrown at you as the showrunner you're supporting is going through the lifecycle of a show. So, being the type of person that will roll your sleeves up and be willing to do whatever you need to do to support the show, and be able to adapt to those changes," Ria said.

As production on a TV show progresses, a showrunner's assistant's responsibilities will morph. You need to be able to take on whatever tasks are thrown your way.

"For example, the show I've been on for the last two and a half years almost, is I went from prep right before a writers' room, to a writers' room, to an extended writing period, to production in two different countries – neither of which were in the United States – to then post-production. And every stage changed. And my job changed. And what was more important at certain points changed."

Final Thoughts

As we can see above, if you want to know how to be a good showrunner's assistant, focus on your soft skills. A bit of experience helps – some people move into this role after assisting at an agency, for example – but it's not necessary to get the job done right.

Did you enjoy this blog post? Sharing is caring! We'd SO appreciate a share on your social platform of choice.

With passion, a positive attitude, and strong interpersonal skills, you're well on your way to absolutely acing the position of showrunner's assistant.

"I think being someone who likes being involved and constantly changing their job, it's important to have that flexible mindset," Ria concluded.

Be flexible,

You may also be interested in...

Filmmaker and showrunner's assistant Ria Tobaccowala over a graphic that reads "How to get your first job as a showrunner's assistant?"

How to Get a Job as a Showrunner’s Assistant

The role of a showrunner’s assistant might be considered entry-level, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to get. Showrunner’s assistants will tell you that supporting a showrunner gives you a television education fast, and the people you meet in the position will likely help you at some point along your TV journey. Whether you want to be a writer or a showrunner yourself someday, a showrunner’s assistant job can help you get there. But learning how to get a job as a showrunner’s assistant? That’s a little tricky. Competition is fierce, and these jobs don’t exactly show up in online listings. So, we called in someone who’s done it ...
‘Stranger Things’ Showrunner's Assistant Explains Other Jobs for Aspiring Screenwriters

‘Stranger Things’ SA Explains Alternative Jobs for Aspiring Screenwriters

If your screenwriting career hasn’t taken off just yet, and you still need to keep your day job, it’d be nice if you could work in a relevant field or related screenwriting job. It keeps your mind in the game, allows you to build connections with like-minded people, and learn more about the movie and television business. Take Caitlin Schneiderhan, for example. She’s a screenwriter with many accolades to her name, including being named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch. Her scripts have placed in the Austin Film Festival’s AMC One Hour Pilot Competition, Screencraft Pilot Competition...

6 Unique Screenwriting Job Ideas for Aspiring Writers

6 Unique Screenwriting Job Ideas for Aspiring Writers

When you first get started screenwriting, you’re likely going to need another job to make ends meet. It’s ideal if you can find a job that’s either within the industry or utilizes your skills as a storyteller. Here are some unique and beneficial jobs for the screenwriter who’s still developing their career. Screenwriting Job Idea 1: Teacher. I’m a screenwriter, but I’m not currently based in LA, so finding jobs within the industry is a challenge for me. I work as a freelance teacher, teaching video production to kids in my area. I’ve done this by working with schools and a local theatre company. Teaching is a lot of fun, and I ...