As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Adam Stein, a former writer on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
He started out as a "writer’s assistant for seasons 3 and 4 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. During that time I wrote a season 4 episode. After season 4 finished I pitched a TV show idea to the sunny writer/producer/actors (Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day). They liked the idea and the four of us went on to create the pilot Boldly Going Nowhere (kind of “The Office” meets “Star Trek”) for 20th Century Fox. It wasn’t picked up, is technically being redeveloped, but I’m not holding my breath. Since then I’ve been taking meetings, pitching shows, etc."
HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?
AS: I graduated from USC in 2006 with a bachelor’s in creative writing. After college, I was trying to find any job in the industry. Luckily, I ended up in the mailroom at 3 Arts Entertainment which is a management/production company. As such, they manage all three Sunny Executive Producers and produce the show. Working there I found out “Sunny” was beginning to look for writers for their then 3rd season. I said “what the hell” and decided to write a sunny spec script. (Naïve at the time, I should point out usually when you submit for a show, you do NOT submit a script of that show). I gave my script to the assistant of the manager who represents the Sunny EP’s. The assistant then gave it to the manager.
As the story goes, the Sunny EPs were in their manager’s office, reading scripts to find writers for the upcoming season. They picked up mine off the manager’s desk, read it, like it, and asked to set up a meeting with me. A little young and inexperienced to be a full fledged writer, they offered me the writer’s assistant position which I quickly accepted.
HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?
AS: It’s hard to get your foot in the door. It’s even harder to slam it open. By this I mean that even after you get your first job, or your first script, your work isn’t done. One of the most common misnomers is that once you have an agent you can sit back and let the work come to you. This isn’t the case. A manager or agent can help, but they should be only one weapon in your arsenal. You are still your best chance for success.
HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into writing for TV?
AS: It’s obvious, but write a lot. I know lot of people who say they want to be writers or say they are writers, but they don’t write. Or they have one spec script of “The Office” that’s now been outdated by changes in the show. Always be writing.
Second, take internships, go to networking events, and meet people. Very few people break into the industry in a vacuum. Call it nepotism or call it networking, but it helps to know people. And with everyone and their mother (literally) on Facebook these days, there’s a ready made system to keep in contact with people, even if they’re ten or twenty years older.
Third, take some chances. Not everybody in the mailroom can get a script to EPs, and more times than not, you’d probably get scolded, potentially even fired for approaching someone with a script. But you know what the result will be if you do nothing. Be proactive in your quest to become a writer, actor, and everything in between.