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How I Started My Script Writing Career From Outside LA


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September 13, 2014 6 comments
screenwriting career

There are a lot of misconceptions about how to forge a successful script writing career. I’ve seen people move from their home in the Midwest out to New York City just to get their big break.

Then, when things didn’t work out, they headed out to Los Angeles in hopes of meeting the right people, selling a script and launching a career in screenwriting. But, that’s not always how it works…

Can You Start A Script Writing Career From Outside LA?

Absolutely. I believe as long as you have a compelling story and talent, you could be on a farm in Iowa and start your script writing career. Although I now live and work in New York City, I originally got my start in Orlando, Florida.

I knew from a very young age, growing up in Boston that I wanted to be a writer. But back then I thought that “being a writer” meant only writing novels. Even when I headed off to college and decided to major in Creative Writing, I figured I’d be making my living as an author.

My Screenwriting Career Began By Answering An Ad On Craigslist

A local cable channel was hiring a screenwriter to write scripts for children’s theater. In college I had spent several months traveling with a children’s theater group and often helped edit the scripts and write new lines. I figured it couldn’t be that much different.

At the time I answered the ad, I was working as a character at Walt DisneyWorld and decided to let my creativity spill over into screenwriting. I got the gig and the show was successful on both cable access and stages in the region.

Eventually I Headed, Not To LA, But To New York City

While working at Disney, I had been offered a job as a personal assistant to a legendary singer and couldn’t resist the offer. I needed the money and didn’t have any NYT Best Selling novel ideas so I put my career in screenwriting on hold.

While working for the singer I met a lot of interesting and inspiring people…

That’s one thing about “the arts,” whether it’s the music industry, photography, art or writing, the people you meet make you feel less like a misfit and more like part of something really great.

I showed my writing portfolio and a few screenplays to some notable people including a producer at Saturday Night Live. They all encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing.

As a personal assistant I spent a lot of time shopping, creating travel arrangements and miscellaneous tasks for the singer. The hours were strange and I often had a lot of down time. She was preparing for her tour so there were a lot of interviews with Entertainment Tonight, fashion magazines, etc.

Although I wasn’t needed immediately, I still had to be in her presence, just in case. I spent this down time writing.

I wrote a few scripts, mostly comedies for children. One thing I had discovered from my work doing children’s theater, at Disney and for cable, it is very easy to make children laugh. I loved that! Grown-ups can be such a tough audience.

How I Landed A Gig At Nickelodeon

I became close with the drummer of the singer’s band and he suggested I send my scripts into Nickelodeon. He knew some people there and had heard they were hiring.

Coincidentally, a friend who I had met at Disney was already working at Nickelodeon and helped me bypass the application process and got my resume and scripts into the right hands.

A few months later, when I got back from touring with the singer, I was hired at Nickelodeon as a script writer for one of their newest shows.

Why I Decided Not To Get A Traditional Agent

Nickelodeon opened a lot of doors for me, but I still decided it would be helpful to have an agent.

Most new screenwriters get an agent by sending out their scripts to several different agents and hoping one of them bites. I probably did things backwards considering I somewhat had my foot in the industry.

I could have gone through my industry network, but instead I hired an old professor. He had had some meager success as an agent and I hired him to help his developing script writing career.

You will find that in this industry (and in life!) the more you help others, the more successful you will be.

About a year after hiring him as an agent I sold a screenplay for an animated coming-of-age story. That was about six years ago and we continue to work well together today. He now has other clients as well.

My Advice To People Trying To Start A Career In Screenwriting

My advice is to tackle the industry from all angles. Don’t just wait for that big job. Do little things like:

  • Commercials for TV and web.
  • Write plays for local theater.
  • Write for cable access.
  • … and always be working on projects for yourself.
  • Also know that it is never too late to take classes or hire a mentor.

Although I majored in Creative Writing, there are many successful screenwriters who majored in things like engineering or didn’t go to college at all.

Check out classes at local community colleges wherever you live. Network as much as you can and keep your portfolio up-to-date.

ABOVE ALL — Always stay hungry! Even on those days when you think you’ll never get out of your day job. Had I not answered that ad on Craigslist, today I’d probably be a 30-something year old in a Mickey Mouse costume.


Amanda Caswell is a former script writer for Nickelodeon and currently writes for The Onion and Comedy Central among many others.


How did YOU kickstart your script writing career? From inside or outside LA? Or, how are you planning to do it? Let us know in the comments section below! 

  1. Stephen Bruce says:

    I can imagine how difficult it was for you starting out in Orlando, Amanda. Besides Nickelodeon there are few nationally recognizable avenues beyond freelance scriptwriting work to truly build a decent creative writing portfolio.

  2. Jasmine says:

    This is so inspiring. Thx guyz.

  3. hussane jeancar says:

    I really love your write-ups and to be candid,they are not only inspiring, but also educative. As what you said, to have a mentor is a necessity in all fields, could you be mine in the screenwriting industry?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks a lot for the comment! We’re not currently mentoring but it may be something we look into in the future.

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