Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

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.

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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. Ria Tobaccowala was gracious enough to share how she scored this coveted role. She’s a newcomer to the television industry, which is why she wanted this job. With a degree in economics, an MBA, and film school education under her belt, she knew there’d be a lot about television that she could only learn on the job.

In this article, learn how to get a job as a showrunner’s assistant so you can kick off your television career, no matter which direction you’re headed.

What is a Showrunner’s Assistant?

The showrunner’s assistant job description includes assisting the showrunner on a television show with supporting tasks, such as administrative work, scheduling, meeting coordination, travel coordination, writing covers for shows, finding locations for writers’ rooms, reading scripts, writing coverage, and even more menial work like running errands for coffee and lunch (it is imperative to keep the writers caffeinated and fed!).

The showrunner has an often stressful, big job on their hands while running a television show. So, in essence, the showrunner’s assistant’s job is to make life easier for the showrunner in whatever way they can. Make the boss look good; that’s the job. It’s not a typical 9 to 5 position, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

However, showrunner’s assistants will have an almost all-access pass to see what goes into making a television show, from spending time with writers, working with production, and coordinating with the network. The showrunner’s assistant will meet people from all areas in the television industry, helping them to cement their future career aspirations and meet people who can help get them their next television position.

How to Get a Job as a Showrunner’s Assistant

You’ll not have much luck looking for showrunner’s assistant jobs online. While there are plenty of entry-level television jobs on sites like Indeed.com and EntertainmentCareers.net, you’ll need a different job hunting strategy for this specific role.

Ria describes how to get a job as a showrunner’s assistant based on her personal experience.  

Build a cohort

“My path to my job as a showrunner’s assistant really came from creating this group of people who are my peer set,” Ria explained. “The people who are, you know, also just out of school or getting ready to go into an assistant position, we’d sometimes go out for drinks or hang out and have lunch and talk about what we wanted to do.”

Ria leaned heavily on the connections she made in film school, not necessarily for a job, but to keep her name top of mind and ensure she stayed in the loop regarding opportunities.

You don’t have to go to film school to create this network, but it helps. If you’re looking for ways to build a cohort of people, start with networking events, film festivals, or even community college classes. Stay in touch with your contacts regularly and update them with your latest pursuits. And remember, the best networking happens when you can help each other. Make sure the relationships aren’t one-sided.

“That was kind of my path, was a friend of mine was helping hire assistants. Because that’s often what I do, and what all assistants do, is we look for other assistants. So, making sure you have a group of friends who are also assistants, that’s often where you’re going to get your first job.”

Build a resume

The friend that Ria refers to above also helped her craft her resume to appeal to the people doing the hiring. Any old resume won’t do. It needs to be specific.

“He actually had helped me because I’d never really made a [showrunner’s assistant] resume. I had to use all these business resumes. I never had a resume for an assistant job, and so he went through and like helped me revise, and said “No, this resume won’t work,” and really helped me put together a really strong resume, you know, sent it out, put a good word in with my now current boss, and then I interviewed with her, we had a couple of conversations.”

A showrunner’s assistant resume should include:

  1. Skillset, as applicable to the role, such as “fast learner,” “can-do attitude,” “conflict resolution,” “budgeting,” “scheduling,” “research,” and “proofreading”

  2. Fluencies in computer programs, such as Microsoft Office, Google Suite, and Adobe design and video programs

  3. Applicable experience in television, but also roles where you applied the skills a showrunner’s assistant requires to be effective

  4. Bullet points underneath each employer that briefly explains what skills you employed (only if applicable to the role to which you’re applying) and any job highlights

Tell people you’re looking

“I made it pretty clear in my conversations when we talked about our future careers that I was looking to become an assistant in the TV space, whether it be a showrunner’s assistant, a writer’s assistant, that I was really eager to learn and get involved at that level on a show,” Ria said.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. That is to say, if you’re not loud, clear, and consistent about your intentions, others will have difficulty recalling what it is you’re looking for. Your name and skillset will be less likely to pop into their heads when an opportunity presents itself.

“A friend of mine that I met was working for a studio. When that studio was looking for assistants who were still based in New York, he reached out and said, “Hey, there’s a showrunner in New York looking for an assistant. Would you still be interested? Do you have a resume? I’d love to share it.”

Nail the Interview

If you’ve landed an interview for a showrunner’s assistant position, it’s time to prepare. The showrunner could be the person to interview you because they’ll want to know they can trust you and that you will make their jobs easier.

Be yourself, be appropriate, and represent yourself professionally. Show that you can perform any tasks they throw your way and that you’ll have a great attitude about it. Demonstrate your passion for television and their television project.

Be ready for various questions that, if answered correctly, will show that you’re a problem solver and a quick thinker.

“They were part interview, of course, you know, she was asking me questions, but also just a conversation, and I felt like it was really important to be able to share who I am and be as authentic as possible as you can be on a phone call with someone you just met,” Ria said.

How Much Does a Showrunner’s Assistant Make?

So we know the showrunner’s assistant job is sought after, but how much does a showrunner’s assistant make in salary?

The showrunner’s assistant salary will vary widely by the show. According to Glassdoor.com, the pay average for an assistant to the showrunner is just over $49,000 per year, but actual accounts from showrunner’s assistants paint a different picture.

An anonymous wage survey released in 2019 shows that showrunner’s assistants earn anywhere from $700 to $1,000 per week, or an average of $17.50 to $25 per hour if that assistant works a standard 40-hour week. But usually, 40 hours a week is a minimum commitment for this job.

Of course, overtime hours can stack up quickly on this job if the assistant is paid hourly. Overtime usually pays at least 1.5x the regular hourly rate.

According to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, assistants are only required to be paid $16 per hour if they are part of the union. That’s just above the minimum wage of $15.15 in California.

The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is nearly $2,700. In New York, it’s $4,761. That leaves little, if anything, left over for other monthly living expenses in these two hot spots for assistant jobs, so roommates will probably be required!

Final Thoughts

For those who want to know how to get a job as a showrunner’s assistant, the answer lies in building a solid network, crafting a compelling resume, stating your goals to anyone who will listen, and allowing your work ethic and passion for television to shine through.

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As difficult as it is to get this job, it is still considered entry-level and pays accordingly. Most creatives will use this position to learn as much as possible about the television business and make lifelong friends and contacts in the process.

It’s challenging but rewarding work.

And somebody’s got to do it,

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