Assistant jobs are in high demand in Hollywood, New York, and other television production hubs, especially for people who want to pursue writing as a career.
Showrunner's assistant or writers' assistant jobs are entry-level but no less competitive because it puts a would-be writer right in the middle of the action. Here, they can learn how a television show comes to life, be in the room as writers break stories, and be responsible for tasks that follow the show through to its premiere.
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But the job changes a lot during a television show's lifecycle. While an aspiring writer might have access to the writers' room during pre-production, what happens over the next 60-70 percent of that show's lifecycle? During production, a showrunner's assistant might help with:
Coordinating with costume designers, line producers, production designers, and assistant directors
Taking and tracking notes
Interacting with the studio and department heads
We asked filmmaker and showrunner's assistant Ria Tobaccowala to explain how it works. Ria's most recent stint as a showrunner's assistant was with Showrunner Soo Hugh on shows including Apple TV+'s hit series "Pachinko" and AMC's "The Terror." The shows differed in their paths from script to screen, with pre-production, production, and post-production occurring separately on "Pachinko." All writing was done ahead of time, so Ria's role changed as she left the pre-production part of the show behind.
These days, more television shows are run this way, especially for streamers; writing happens all at once rather than on a rolling basis as it would for a network television show. It changes the writers' jobs, yes, but it also changes the assistant's jobs.
Below, Ria delves into what a showrunner's assistant does during production on a television show in this whole new world of streaming.
What Does a Showrunner's Assistant Do During Production?
During production on a television show, a showrunner's assistant will still be responsible for scheduling and supporting the showrunner, managing phone calls, messages, forwarding, coordinating events, performing research, and ensuring everyone is prepared for what's to come.
Showrunner's assistants stand to learn a ton during this phase of a television show, and they'll be kept on their toes. But it's a chance to get a hands-on education that you can't get in many other entry-level positions in Hollywood. And the connections to be made? Priceless.
Help Coordinate a Bigger Crew
During the production phase of a television show, the staff grows exponentially. The assistant must make headway and build relationships with an entirely new crew.
Help Transform the Script to the Screen
During production, the showrunner's assistant will learn more about how a script transforms into the visual medium of television.
Coordinate, Track, and Organize Cast
By this point in production, the showrunner's assistant should understand how the showrunner and writers envisioned the cast and should have been keeping detailed notes. When it comes to casting, the showrunner's assistant will be expected to communicate those notes thoroughly to the casting department and ensure the showrunner's vision is applied.
Schedule Meetings with Department Heads and Studio
A showrunner's assistant should be highly organized and be able to keep the showrunner and the rest of the team in the loop regarding important meetings. Ria's job included ensuring everyone knew where they were supposed to be and at what time and that any changes to the schedule were heard loud and clear.
Sit in On Actor Meetings
The showrunner is extremely busy, running the television show much like a corporation. With so many moving pieces, the showrunner’s assistant has to be the showrunner’s eyes and ears on the ground in many cases, even during actor prep.
While the skillset needed to ace the showrunner’s assistant job might not change much from the writing phase to production (a can-do attitude, problem-solving, high level of organization, and communication), the nature of the tasks will change. The showrunner’s assistant job will become more fast-paced during production and will give the assistant a chance to shine.
Sink or swim,