Want to Write for Television? Read Jessica Butler

hwoodSure, it would be nice if her “Hollywood University” blog logged millions of hits and made her millions of dollars in the process, but that isn’t why Jessica Butler started it.

“I did this because I knew students needed it,” said Butler (BA, Media Communications with an emphasis in Scriptwriting, 2004). “It could become huge and that would be nice, but it’s not really why I’m doing it.

“A lot of people helped me when I was breaking into the industry, so I figured I could help out others in the same situation.”

The blog attempts to tackle some of the issues new writers face as they try to break into the television industry. More specifically, it offers résumé advice and cover letter tips to those struggling to land that first job.

It wasn’t long ago that Butler was there herself.

Butler moved home after graduation to the Kansas City suburbs where she found herself working 3 to 7 a.m. as a production assistant on a local morning show and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. as a teller at a local bank. She didn’t particularly love doing either.

“I knew I wanted to go to New York or Los Angeles, but more than anything I just wanted to move,” Butler said. “I was wanting to move and ready to work.”

She headed west with $2,000 she saved from working at the bank and a well-prepared cover letter and résumé. The search was on.

Butler first explored the job listings in Below the Line, an industry newspaper for television and film crews. There was 76 listings. “I called, literally, every single show that was in production,” Butler. “I then sat in my apartment and faxed a cover letter and résumé to every single one.”

Six called back, one hired her four days later. Butler’s first Hollywood job? A production assistant on the television show “According to Jim.” It was a job that led her to become assistant to the line producer the following season.

Two years ago, Butler served as assistant to the executive producers of USA Network’s In Plain Sight. An idea she pitched the producers became an episode, “Don of the Dead.”  She was promoted to the writing staff the following season and authored two episodes, “Don’t Cry for Me, Albuquerque” and “Who’s Bugging Mary?”

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