I was approached by a young man while at lunch today. He's an aspiring writer and was looking for tips on how to break into the industry writing scripts. I know the young writer is eager and passionate about his craft. I wish I had some easy advice I could pass on. However, in this business there are no easy answers.
My number one advice to any young writer is to continue to write. You can't call yourself a writer if you're not writing and completing what you write. It really doesn't matter what you write as long as you're doing the job. That's a work ethic you must have.
Secondly, and this is not easy - but you've got to know people. Yeah, it's the old Hollywood thing of, “Who You Know,” but it's really true. I've gotten any number of jobs during my career because people knew me and remembered me. So, during those tough times when I couldn't find work, my phone would suddenly ring and a producer or director would begin the conversation with, “what are you doing or are you busy?” So, I told the young man to get to know people. How do you do that, one might ask? That's up to you. You'll have to do it anyway you can. The jobs won't come looking for you because nobody will know you or what you can do. It's going to be your job to get them to know you - and know your work.
Of course, you'd best be ready when opportunity comes knocking. I didn't think I had the chops for television writing when I began writing scripts but I stuck with it. One day, a producer approached me out of the blue with a scripting opportunity. I had been honing my craft, so at least I was somewhat ready to tackle the assignment.
Of course, there are those far more qualified than myself to be providing writing advice. However, there are some things that never change. A good writer has to continue to write. Short stories, scripts, whatever. You've got to get your work into the right hands and how you do that will take some skill and imagination. As I told the young man, there's no right way or wrong way of breaking into the business. You get in anyway you can.