You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price in disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist, you must learn your craft -- then you can add all the genius you like.
-- Phyllis Whitney
If you want to work in television, first move to Los Angeles.
I started in Hollywood the old-fashioned way: I got a job as a secretary for a studio. Jobs as drivers and running the photocopy room also led to writing careers at that time. What's important is networking. Not just learning your own job, but learning what others do, how they contribute to the final product. Those connections will help you the rest of your career.
No matter how hard you work, there is also an element of luck. In my case, it was a producer, one of the good guys. He not only taught me lots about animation scriptwriting, he took one of my ideas to the network, and got me my first script assignment without me ever having to write a spec animation script. This is not the normal way of doing things.
The conventional way is to write one or more spec (speculative -- without pay) scripts for favorite series, then use them as writing samples. The challenge is to find and talk to story editors before they fill up their series. It's difficult, but not impossible. I know too many who've done it this way, to believe the nay-sayers.
Career momentum is one of those essential things few people warn you about. It doesn't exist in Hollywood; I learned this the hard way.
I had career momentum three times, and twice I let it slide, if you'll pardon the pun. The career had momentum all right, straight down. If you want to keep pushing up that hill towards the pinnacle of success, you have to keep pushing every day, every week, every script. The third time was the charm; I'm still pushing.
The answer I want to give is, "Never tell me the odds!" [The Empire Strikes Back, story by George Lucas, screenplay by Leigh Bracket and Lawrence Kasdan]
The real answer is that getting a script assignment is a lot easier than winning the big prize in the California Lotto (1 in 14 million), and harder than getting a job at your local fast food place.
The Writers Guild of America, west
The Writers Guild is the single greatest force taking care of writers. An impossibly large debt is owed to those courageous men and women who founded the Guild, forcing the Studios to give screen credit to writers, and over time, obtaining residuals for tv writers and videocassette releases.
The Guild provides lists of signatory agents, as well as publishing an extremely good magazine (Written By) each month with news and information useful to scriptwriters. To learn more, you can visit the WGAw web page, call them at (323) 951-4000, or write to them at: 7000 W. Third St., Los Angeles, CA 90048-4329.
The Guild also offers a FREE Mentor program. You can check this out via the Guild's Web Site.
Never Give Up
Among the best advice I ever got was from a fellow Guild member and novelist, Dennis Foley: "The only way to fail in Hollywood is to quit." He was right. It isn't easy, and it took me six years of full-time, then part-time jobs before I become a full-time freelancer, but for me it's definitely worth it. If writing is truly what gives you joy, you owe it to yourself and the world to make your dreams come true.