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The Secret Production Company Jobs That'll Help Your Screenwriting Career.

Discover the best TV/film development jobs that'll advance your screenwriting career AND how to get them.

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by Script Reader Pro in Screenwriter Career
February 20, 2024 0 comments
production company jobs

The secret production company jobs that’ll help your screenwriting career (and how to get them).

Can working in Film/TV development help your screenwriting career? The short answer is… yes! Working in feature film or television development is a great way to get your start as a screenwriter.

Development is an often overlooked path towards a career as a film or television writer. Working in development could be a game changer if your hope is to one day land a screenwriting job.

Not only can you make insanely valuable connections in the film industry, you can actually hone your craft while doing so. It might seem too good to be true.

And yes, these film and television development jobs can be difficult to come by. But it’s most definitely worth looking into if you want a successful career in screenwriting.

So what exactly is development?
And how can you get one of these coveted film industry jobs in such a competitive landscape?

Let’s break it down.

What is Film/TV development?

To put it simply, film/tv development is exactly as it sounds—it’s essentially shaping the creative vision of a project before it goes into production.

It’s the earliest stage in the filmmaking process—the foundation of all of the films and television shows we love watching. At most production companies and studios, there is a team of development professionals who are in charge of this process.

So what does the development department actually do? Great question. And the answer is—a lot. They are in charge of almost everything leading up to the moment that first take is filmed. It’s a big responsibility, but an essential one.

Production company jobs: an overview.

Here is a general overview of the types of things you might take part in if you work in development:

Generating concepts. It all starts with an idea. It can be an original concept, a book adaptation, a true story, a remake, or even a fully written script. Development executives, producers, and writers brainstorm, research, and refine these concepts into tangible stories that are actually ready to go into production.

Script acquisition. Development teams source scripts through pitches, agent/manager submissions, contests, connections. Execs then assess these scripts for marketability, originality, and execution, providing feedback and guidance for improvement.

Script development. Selected scripts undergo multiple drafts, each meticulously reviewed and revised. This involves collaboration between writers, producers, and development executives, focusing on character development, plot structure, dialogue polish, and commercial appeal.

Packaging the project. Once the script is in a solid place, the development department is often charged with assembling a team. This involves finding a director, actors, and other key players based on vision and budget considerations. When pitching to studios or networks, it’s always wise to have talent attached to a project to make it as marketable as possible.

Pre-production planning. If greenlit, the project moves into pre-production, but development’s role isn’t always over. They can also have a part in refining budgets, securing locations, and ensuring the creative vision aligns with practical considerations.

character description examplesTypes of TV and film development jobs. 

Within the development field, there are many different roles with varying levels of responsibility (all extremely important, of course).

From development executives and assistants to coordinators and script readers, each position is vital to the development ecosystem. Without these jobs, there would be no film industry.

Everything you see on screen is first filtered through the eyes of a wide array of development professionals.

Development executives.
Oversee the entire process, identifying promising projects, managing script development, and pitching them to potential buyers.

Producers. Drive the project forward, securing financing, assembling the team, and overseeing pre-production. Some development executives also act as producers, depending on the company or the project.

Script readers. Provide objective evaluations of scripts, highlighting strengths and weaknesses. Usually write coverage of these scripts for executives.

Development assistants. Assist executives in their daily tasks, including rolling calls, scheduling meetings, providing feedback on scripts, and in some cases, personal tasks.

These development and production company jobs are some of the most coveted in the film and television industry because they provide such intimate access to the filmmaking process.

A guide to working in development: the day to day.

Working in film or television development can be a really fun and engaging experience. Generally, TV and feature film development jobs at the executive level are meeting heavy, and involve a lot of collaboration with writers, directors, and producers.

Everyone in the entertainment industry is hoping to score some time with these folks, so expect a packed schedule. There is a lot of phone and email correspondence as well, mostly with agents, managers, and other executives. It’s a demanding job, but a rewarding one.

At the lower level, there is a lot of script reading, writing script coverage, and of course, some administrative work. Depending on the company or the executive, you might be allowed to sit in on meetings and important calls.

Some bosses might have you take notes and send out meeting minutes. The admin side can be tedious, but it’s entirely worth it to get a front row seat to the creative process. Some day, you’ll be the successful screenwriter in that meeting, and you’ll know exactly how to make a good impression.

How does getting a job in development help a screenwriter?

There are many ways, getting a job at a production company can help you, and here are the top three:

#1. Gaining industry knowledge and insight.

Working in development offers a unique vantage point into the inner workings of the film and television industry. By actively participating in the development process, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the creative, financial, and logistical parts of filmmaking that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Really, you’ll get to see the entire journey from script to screen. Plus, you’ll learn so much about market dynamics and industry trends. This knowledge can give you a better idea of what sells and what doesn’t, what is commercially appealing at any given moment, and what executives are looking for when they’re reading your scripts.

A screenwriting job just might be in your future if you pay attention and absorb as much as you possibly can.

Networking and collaboration opportunities.

Development brings you into contact with established industry professionals, fostering invaluable networking opportunities and potential collaborations.

If you play your cards right, these connections can open doors to pitch meetings and script development partnerships. You‘ll interact with agents and managers that might want to represent you in the future. These types of meaningful relationships are hard to come by for most aspiring screenwriters.

But as a development professional, you’ll be working alongside directors, producers, executives, and fellow writers. These are the people who can help you get your foot in the door. Don’t underestimate the value of personal connections.

Understanding of effective storytelling.

Reading and analyzing scripts as part of a development job can significantly enhance your grasp of effective storytelling techniques, character development, and narrative structure.

They say the best way to learn how to write screenplays is to read screenplays. And as a development professional, you will read a lot. Somewhere in the ballpark of 5 to 15 scripts a week.

Nothing can beat that kind of exposure. It’s truly insane the types of things you will learn just by reading the work of other screenwriters. You won’t even realize it, but after your first month or so, your writing will have improved without any real effort on your part.

script outline example

Real life production company jobs success stories. 

Several successful screenwriters, including those behind acclaimed films and television series, have launched their careers in development roles, leveraging the knowledge and connections gained to propel their own writing careers. To name a few:

Scott Neustadter & Michael Weber. This writing duo behind (500) Days of Summer and The Fault in Our Stars met while working in development at Tribeca Productions.

Eric Heisserer. Heisserer began his career as a script reader and development executive, eventually leveraging his industry knowledge to write horror gems like Arrival and Bird Box.

Kirsten Smith. Co-writer of Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You, was a development executive at CineTel Films before gaining success as a screenwriter.

How to get production company jobs. 

So just how do you get a job in TV or film development? Check out these tried and trusted methods below:

Networking.

It’s such a cliche, but building connections within the industry is essential when trying to break in. There are so many ways to network. Check out to your college alumni association and try to find entertainment professionals to reach out to.

In person networking is also key. So many organizations have industry events you can attend for free, or for a small fee. Young Entertainment Professionals, Women in Film, Film Independent, and many more offer film and television networking events and speaker series in both LA and New York.

Online communities are also a great way to get to know others in the field. LinkedIn and Facebook have groups for professionals in the industry, and sometimes job opportunities are posted there directly. People in these groups are generally friendly and open to chatting.

Be warned: The best way to network is to simply build relationships. Don’t ask everyone you meet for a job right away. You need to foster your connections. It’s a two way street, here.

Essentially, make friends without the intention of gaining something from it. Genuine connections are far more valuable than ones made with ulterior motives.

Resources and career websites. 

The normal career websites like Indeed and Ziprecruiter might not be the best place to look for film and tv development jobs. There are actually a lot of entertainment specific sites you should check out instead.

Entertainmentcareers.net, hollylist, StaffMeUp, and The Tracking Board all have monthly fees, but they aren’t too extravagant. Subscribing to one or all of these sites can make a huge difference in your job search. They all post entertainment jobs in LA, New York, and several other cities across the country.

Want more screenwriting jobs sites? We have a blog post here that lists the best screenwriting jobs sites you should sign up to right away.

You might also want to go directly to the source. Check out studio and production company career sites for the most up to date listings. Examples include NBC Universal, Warner Brothers/Discovery, and Sony Pictures, as well as production companies like Anonymous Content, Legendary, and Blumhouse.

Do research into smaller companies that may have opportunities as well. If you have little experience in the entertainment industry, a lesser known company may be your best bet.

Crafting an outstanding resume and cover letter. 

Tailoring application materials specifically for the job you are applying for is essential. A lot of these career sites use AI to scan resumes for relevant keywords. Look at the job post and try to incorporate some of the language they use into your resume and cover letter.

This will help your application stand out in a sea of thousands of other qualified applicants. Make sure your materials are formatted properly and won’t get flagged as spam.

Production company jobs FAQs.

Q. What are the educational and experience requirements for a development job?
A. This varies greatly. A lot of people attempting to get these roles have a film or creative writing degree, or experience in the industry already. That being said, it’s not impossible to get these jobs without experience or a fancy degree. You should always apply, even if you think you aren’t qualified. Try to make your application stand out with an interesting cover letter that explains why you would be a good fit.

Q. What are the salary and benefits like?
A. This is entirely dependent on experience, role, and company. Some places offer competitive salaries and benefits while others might try and lowball you. You should always try and negotiate with the hiring team so you can start your job knowing you are getting what you deserve.

Q. What are the biggest challenges of the job?
A. The hours can be long and the environment can be competitive. As with most entertainment industry jobs, it’s not always a walk in the park. You might have to work weekends and nights. The job might come home with you.

Q. What are the most rewarding aspects of the job?
A. You get to bring stories to life in a way that most other people can’t. You also get to work with creative people, and will probably see your work on the big (or small) screen. Who knows? A film or show you worked on may have a real cultural impact. You can say you took part in something that was meaningful to you and to others.

Get started now with the next stage of your screenwriting career. 

If you’re serious about a career in screenwriting, don’t hesitate to look into film and tv development jobs. There is so much potential for growth, both personally and professionally.

The insights, connections, and industry knowledge you’ll gain through development work can mean the difference between “aspiring writer” and “professional writer.”

Go network. Subscribe to every entertainment job board. Ask your friends in the industry whether they know of anyone looking for a development assistant. And don’t be afraid to be persistent.

Getting a development job will bring you a step (or many steps) closer to that screenwriting career you’ve always wanted.

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Ever worked in development? How did it help you become a screenwriter? Let us know in the comments below.

character description examples

Liked this post? Learn more about production company jobs and how to snag yourself one below… 

Screenwriting Jobs: The Best 14 Sites for Screenwriters to Get Paid

How to Become a Screenwriter: A Pro’s Ultimate Guide

10 Things Smart Screenwriters Do to Build a Screenwriting Career

[© Photo credits: Unsplash]

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