Breaking Into Hollywood – How Do I Write for TV if I Live in NYC?

Despite popular (and fairly legitimate) concern, it definitely is possible to write for TV if you are based in New York rather than Los Angeles. There are some shows that staff and shoot there, of course, like Law & Order, many talk shows and the soaps (see partial list below). And with a connected Los Angeles agent and some well-timed trips to the Coast, hour-long drama assignments for L.A.-based shows also could happen at the freelance level. This would be pretty tough, but this is Hollywood, so nothing is impossible, right? Yes, ultimately, you will want to live here in L.A. to take advantage of the bulk of work being here. But you don’t need to live here to get hired. You just need to meet the right people who do.

If you haven’t already, a good way to get into the networking mix while you’re in NYC is to join an organization like the Producers Guild East or the NATAS (the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences) if you have enough credits (or as an associate if you don’t), or the IRTS (International Radio & Television Society Foundation), which has outstanding educational and networking seminars with both East and West Coast execs throughout the year.

Now for the recon. Here are the TV shows currently produced in NYC:

PRIMETIME TV SHOWS:

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American Justice

Backdrop NYC

Behind the Label

Black Donnellys

Blueprint New York City

The Bridge

City Classics

Cool in Your Code

Dateline NBC

Eat Out NY

Fashion in Focus

Fashion Week in Focus

Full Frontal Fashion

Inside the Archives

It’s My Park

Knights of Prosperity

Law & Order

Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Media 3.0 with Shelly Palmer

New York 360

New York Noise

NYC Paradetown USA

NYC TV Presents

Primetime Live

Rescue Me

Reservations Required

Secrets of New York

Six Degrees

The Sopranos

Summer in the City

Videofashion! News

What’s Cooking at Gracie?

20/20

30 Rock

48 Hours

60 Minutes

DAYTIME & LATE NIGHT TV SHOWS:

All My Children

As The World Turns

Between the Lions

The Early Show

Entertainment Tonight

Fox and Friends

Good Day New York

Good Morning America

Guiding Light

Inside Edition

In the Mix

Judge Hachett

Late Night with Conan O’Brien

The Late Show with David Letterman

Live From Lincoln Center

Live with Regis and Kelly

Martha

Maury Povich Show

The Metropolitan Opera

The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet

Montel Williams

Newshour

NFL Today

One Life to Live

The People’s Court

Reading Rainbow

The Rachel Ray Show

Saturday Night Live

Sesame Street

The Today Show

The View

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

CABLE TV SHOWS:

Art in the 21st Century

A&E Biography

American Morning

Anderson Cooper 360

The Backyardigans

Bloomberg LP

Blue’s Clues

Blue’s House

Blue Collar Style

Broadway: The American Musical

Change of Heart

The Charlie Rose Show

Cheap Seats

CNN

CNN Presents

The Colbert Report

Cold Pizza

Consumer Reports TV News

Court TV

Cold Case Files

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

“E” Television Special

Egg the Arts Show

Emeril Live

Food Nation with Bobby Flay

Go Diego Go

History vs. Hollywood

Howard Stern

In a Fix

Inside the Actors Studio

Isaac Mizrahi Show

The Movie Mission

Newsnight with Aaron Brown

Nick News

Now with David Brancaccio

Paula Zahn Now

Project Runway

Room Raiders

Total Request Live

U Pick Live

VH1 Top 20 Countdown

Weekend Today

What Not to Wear

The Wonder Pets

With this list in hand, a few (okay, A LOT OF) clicks at IMDb.com will let you know what production companies run these shows and the names of the showrunners, so you’ll get a sense of what names to check for when you see industry seminars, panels and other events happening. And if you do get to meet them, while most would not take a spec, all will tell you who the top 3-5 agents/agencies are that they are open to take scripts from. And that will help focus your efforts on the rep front, as well.

The rules from there are the same as they are here. Have 2-3 excellent spec scripts for current shows. You can’t send a spec to that actual show, so you’ll want options to get into the door at multiple productions. Second, don’t set your sights on getting staffed immediately or nothing. I want you to start as a staff writer, but a freelance assignment is a great in (and a coveted one – these are competitive and often are favors). And the writer’s assistant, as abused and unloved as this poor schlub is, is often the first one to fill an open staff seat.

Once again, it looks like a lot of work and waiting to get to the pot of Hollywood gold, yes? Of course it is! But it certainly is worth it if you can make it into the handful of writing positions on shows back East or here in Los Angeles. People manage to do it every year. I hope you do, too.