Open Letter: A Reflection on 2019 in Career Coaching
I can’t believe it. Another year is drawing to a close. And even though I’ve been doing this for a very long time now, sometimes I still can’t believe that I get to – quite simply – do THIS: work with screenwriters and TV writers out of my favorite restaurant/coffee shop, as my full-time job. So now, as the coffee shop begins to quiet down in the morning, as business conversations turn to holiday travel, and as time runs out on 2019, I wanted to reflect on this past year and all that it brought. Because it’s been… A LOT.
As always, the industry remains a highly dynamic, ever-changing landscape that, for a professional observer like myself, is so fun – albeit sometimes grueling and unnerving – to watch. There was the writer/agent relationship disruption in April 2019 as the war between the WGA and the ATA exploded, making 2019’s staffing season a wholly new and different animal. Just the other day I was musing with a manager friend that in the last three years, we’ve only had one straight-forward, nothing-unusual staffing season, and 2020 threatens to make its staffing season one that won’t be, by any stretch, “normal.” Also this past year, new streaming platforms were launched by Disney and Apple, while HBO Max signaled more to come just around the corner. Assistants rightfully raised their battle flag with #payupHollywood, and rumblings about a potential strike in 2020 (expected to disrupt 2020 staffing) are rising as this year comes to a close.
Because of the writers who’ve chosen to work with me this past years and the many years that came before it, 2019 brought me a great deal of satisfaction and joy. I’ve had the privilege of working with so many talented scribes, who have, very fortunately for me, made the sport of watching their ascent something I get to engage with on the regular. Many of my very generous clients would tell you that it’s somehow due to me; I will tell you without a shred of doubt that it’s all because of them, because of the talent and hard work and tenacity that they bring to the table day after day. And because of all they’ve been able to achieve, it’s been an exciting year for writers that I am fortunate enough to root for and support.
Success stories can be big and small, but all have incredible value and meaning for those writers experiencing them in the moment: A number of my writers got into fellowships for the first time this year: Humanitas. HBO Access. The Black List/Women in Film Episodic Lab. Warner Brother’s TV Writer’s workshop. A slew more landed representation for the first time, on both the management and agency fronts. And a lucky few got to step into the writer’s room for the very first time this past season. Careers continued to build as working writers landed in new rooms and continued to move up the ladder, as pilots, pitches and movies were sold, and as writing assignments were landed. Even as I write this, as the industry begins to unabashedly slow down, one of my writer’s movie pitches is now the subject of a competitive situation with a number of studios vying for the property and the biggest of big names showing interest, while another awaits her offer to start in her very first writer’s room once we all get back to business in the beginning of January. At moments, this can feel like an embarrassment of riches, for which I am so incredibly grateful.
But it’s not always about the highs, and having my writers allow me to support them through challenging times and difficult career moments makes the job all the more meaningful. And, in that sense, this year did us no favors. We dealt with more par-for-the-course issues like difficult showrunners and frustrating rooms, disappointment from coming this close but not ultimately getting into the writing program or landing that first industry writing job, frustration with representation, co-workers, and pitches that went out but didn’t ultimately find a home, hard decisions about parting ways with reps who didn’t quite live up to their promises. In this business, it’s part of the job. But we also went through more trying and emotionally challenging things: This year I’ve seen a few of my clients through divorce, through miscarriages, through writers room bullies and, most challenging of it all, through sexual harassment in the workplace, made all too familiar even in the days of #metoo. But somehow, together, we’ve persevered, and I’m happy to report that even those writers going through tough, tough moments, are, for the most part, ending the year on a high, or at least better, note.
It’s incredibly rewarding to watch people you’ve had the privilege of supporting for years grow and evolve in their lives and their chosen careers. Over the years, some of my writers have become my closest friends. And more than anything this year, I’ve been awed by the integrity and dedication my writers have shown, by their ability to dust themselves off and keep writing, keep pursuing, keep going and fighting for the career that they want, no matter how far along. Yes, there have been very tough moments. And tears. And those events that happen that leave you, at least momentarily, completely at a loss. But my writers have kept going. Moved onto the next project. The next room. The next pitch. The next rep. The next pilot. And that is what I am proud of them for the most.
I have no doubt that 2020 will bring us all more highs, more lows. It is just the way that it goes. But before the new year comes, I wanted to take a moment to thank those writers who have chosen to work with me, who have come into my life, and shown care and concern for me through my own challenges. And so, as 2019 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to say this to my army of writers:
Thank you. For allowing me to support you. For confiding in me, and continuing to trust me through this journey. Thank you for letting me into your experience, for allowing me into your insecurities and vulnerabilities, for confiding in me when things are challenging and difficult. And thank you for making me one of your first calls (or texts, or emails) when you sign with your rep, when you get into that fellowships, when you land your first, or next job. Allowing me to support you is what makes my job, at least for me, the best thing I could do. I do, indeed, #lovemyjob. Can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for us all!
Note: Blog posts and This Week in Coaching entries will not be published on the week of 12/23/19 and 12/30/19. The next blog post entry will be published on 1/7/20.