Getting Started In The Industry: An Interview with Kateland Brown

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Today we are incredibly excited to welcome Kateland Brown to Into The Script! 

Kateland has worked on popular shows such as Pretty Little Liars, Famous in Love and Melrose Place, and has been kind enough to share with us her insights on how she began a career in this industry and what her top tips are for anybody looking to do the same. 

Without further ado, let’s get going!

Before writing for major shows such as Famous in Love and Melrose Place, you worked as a production assistant on Pretty Little Liars amongst other things! 

Could you talk us through this process and tell us how working as a production assistant led you to where you are today and how it has contributed to your current work? 

Working as a production assistant was vital to where I am as a writer today. My advice to any writer is to get a job – any job – on a television show in any capacity. The closer you can get to the writers’ room, the better.

The goal is to become a writers’ assistant.

What that job entails is taking notes for the writers as they break story, so you are essentially being paid to learn how to break story and learning the vital social cues and dynamics of a writers’ room, which are essential if you want to thrive in a room once you get that “big break.”

However, even landing a job as a writers’ production assistant (getting lunches and coffee), an executive assistant, or a script coordinator (editing scripts and distributing to network, studio, and production), is extremely competitive.

That’s why it’s more realistic to tell you to try to get a job on a television show in any capacity; it could be crafty or in post production, or it could even be as a network assistant.

Just always be vocal about your desire to be a writer and that you want a job as a writers’ assistant on a show as the next step.

That way, once you prove yourself and work hard, people will help you get there. You need the help of other people to be successful in this business; it’s just the way it works.

I went from being a production P.A. (1 year), to a line producer’s assistant (production, 3 years), to writers’ P.A. (1 year), writers’ assistant (2 years), to script coordinator (2 years, and they gave me two freelance scripts), and then I was staffed on Famous in Love.

A writer once told me to give myself a good ten years before I became a writer on a TV show.

It’s not a fast process.

Have patience, work on your craft, and get to know people.

Those people will hire you in the future. 

The shows you have worked on recently have mostly been teen dramas. Would you say this is your favorite genre to work on and do you think it’s beneficial for writers to focus most of their attention on one genre in particular?

 Agents and managers love to pigeonhole writers.

So if you are really good at one genre and you love it, that’s great. Sell yourself that way. But it also helps if you have a specialty. For example, if you were a cop before becoming a writer and you are going up for a cop show – perfect. Or if you have a degree in law and you are going up for a law show – perfect. Or if you grew up on Long Island and the show that you are going up for takes place in Long Island – amazing.

I love the teen drama genre but what I am drawn to is good story.

What drives me to write are compelling characters that I have to give a voice to. I’m also evolving as a writer and my writing is evolving as I am. 

I will always love teen drama, and I hope I get to work on many more shows in the genre, but I wouldn’t limit myself to just that genre. 

I love writing for television because of the evolving characters. In features, you only have so much time to evolve your characters.

But in television, you have seasons to really arc our your characters’ journeys. 

What is your top advice on meeting people who work in this industry and are interested in the same things as you and how has networking in general helped you in your career? 

Networking is certainly important and there is a place and time for it. Some people are better at networking than others. If you are a great networker, than use it.

However, simply landing yourself a job on a show, working hard, being a good person, working hard on your craft, and showing the writers on that show that you are cool to hang out with for hours on end also works.

Networking is important but it’s also important to be genuine. Be yourself.

The writers pick their assistants based on who they think will do the best job but also based on who they want to hang out with for twelve hours a day. It’s like a long road trip.

So they want someone fun, a good presence in the room, and someone who works really hard and does a good job.

Then, when all is said and done, they might give you a freelance script. 

Finally, could you give our readers your number one tip on how to stay motivated and not give up when it comes to their work? 
Sometimes the end is just the beginning.

Many times on this journey, I’ve thought to myself, “This might be the end for me.” But each time, I was wrong because I kept going and things happened.

It’s not easy.

Some people get really lucky. You see their success on social media. Then that pang of jealousy washes over you.

But just remember, you really don’t know how many times she rewrote that project before it sold, or how many years he put into that project.

The one way to stay motivated is to stay focused on your writing and not compare yourself to others. Also, write about stories that make you passionate.

Stories that are deep inside of you that you need to tell. More importantly, write about THEMES that you want to tell the world.

Whenever you get lost in your work, ask yourself, “What am I trying to tell the world?”

As far as not giving up, you are a writer because you have to be.

Because you have something to say.

You do it because you have to… no matter if you end up being successful or not. Write your truth, live your truth… and then see what happens.

Good luck… and when you’re successful, don’t forget to hire me on your show.

BIO: Jenny Schwender is in her second year of studying Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth University. She is currently working on a dramedy pilot episode and various short scripts while exploring life on set through different film productions in Germany. To know what she’s up to, you can follow her insta @jennyyy_000.

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