Very few writers go from deciding they want to be a writer to being staffed or selling a writing project. Most often, they'll jump through a lot of hoops and hold multiple lesser positions over several years before finally reaching that sweet destination of writer for the TV or film industry. One of those jobs is script coordinating.
We caught up with script coordinator Marc Gaffen, who's spent years in this role while also working on his own writing projects. He's written episodes of television, comic books, and a graphic novel, all while expertly holding down the fort and keeping script drafts organized and on point for staffed writers and showrunners on networks like NBC and HBO.
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When he first moved to Los Angeles in the early 2000s, his ultimate goal was to write. But if you want to learn about the process of creating a television episode, getting involved at every level is critical. Between office assistant, camera assistant, assistant production coordinator, production assistant, and other film and TV industry jobs that are writing-adjacent, script coordinating is probably the closest you'll get to that coveted writers' room seat without actually being a staff writer. So, should you try to get a script coordinating job on your climb up the ladder?
Marc breaks down the pros and cons of the script coordinator's job for people who ultimately want to be television writers.
Script Coordinator Job Description
A script coordinator works closely with a showrunner and the writing staff to help them craft their draft script into a finished product approved by all necessary parties. They're responsible for organizing and maintaining the various versions of each draft, as well as making sure everything gets delivered when it needs to. This can include things like tracking changes made by producers and editors, ensuring continuity between different drafts, and helping keep track of which version of the script has been approved by the network.
Marc said you'll learn some invaluable writing lessons as a script coordinator, including how what you do affects all the other departments and, ultimately, the entire script. You'll also see how collaborative the process is.
Script Coordinator vs. Writers' Assistant
As Marc points out in this interview, both the script coordinator and writers' assistant roles get very close to a television script, and you'll get a ton of hands-on experience and meet the right people to help you ultimately land a staff writing position.
So, what's the difference between a script coordinator and a writers' assistant?
The writers' assistant's job entails less responsibility and more administrative tasks such as scheduling meetings, copying documents, and answering phones. But, it does get you close to the action.
Script supervisors, also called continuity supervisors, are kind of like the on-set equivalent of a script coordinator, making sure all details and continuity are accounted for during production.
Script coordinator salary
As with any television industry job that you take in hopes of eventually being a writer, you'll need to make sure it pays you enough that you don't have to take on a second job just to make ends meet. You'll need any extra time in your day for writing. So, how much money does a script coordinator make?
The union minimum pay for a script coordinator is just under $18 an hour, though the union members are campaigning for rates closer to $25 an hour in their upcoming union contract. Many script coordinators work long hours, sometimes upward or over 60 hours a week. To put things in perspective, a recent Hollywood Reporter article stated the average rent in Los Angeles in zip codes where script coordinators primarily reside is $1,770 per month, which means script coordinators should make a minimum of $70,000 per year if they're not to be "rent-burdened."
So, if you want to be a writer, should script coordinating be one of the rungs on your ladder to the top? In summary, it's a great option if you can find the right fit, including your level of responsibility and access to the writers' room, the connections you make with the show's team and showrunner, the pay, and the amount of time you have to balance your personal writing projects. Keep in mind, too, that not just ANYONE can excel at this role. It's a tough job that not everyone is cut out for.
In the entertainment industry, it's all about learning by doing,