What’s the difference between a Staff Writer and a Story Editor? In this article, we are talking all about screenwriting staff titles and what they mean. Let’s dive right in!
IT’S JUST A TITLE
This may come as a shock to you but writing staff titles equal seniority and only a little bit more responsibility. But like other things in Hollywood, for some it's just a title. Just something to make someone feel more important than they are. No real surprise there, it's La La Land. However, you would think that some of the titles at least mean what the title says. However that can sometimes be misleading.
Every title other than EP and Showrunner means... writer. Which really just means that they write episodes. Sure, the lower titles on the totem pole don't write as many episodes as more senior writers. But all in all, they just write. Yes, even the Story Editor = writer. Another thing to note is that the WGA requires shows to commission a few freelance writers during the season. So some people are writing for the show who aren't even on the staff.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
So you’re probably thinking “What does this all mean?” What it really means is to just watch the opening credits of your favorite show each week and check to see who's listed as the writer of that episode and check their title. You'll begin to notice who gets repeat episodes, who is tagged on with other writers on an episode (sometimes they are a team of writers who were hired that way, sometimes not), and who seems to be some random person that doesn't fit into the list of writers you've compiled.
Yes, some titles read Producer. They write and see the episode through to post-production, being the on-set voice from the writers' room. In TV, this is called producing an episode. Depending upon the staff, some lower levels are allowed to produce their episodes or at least shadow the EP. Producer titles come from being on the staff long enough to receive a producer credit.
Some EP's are title only. They may be a Creator who has nothing to do with the day-to-day running of the show but there would be no show without him/her. Other EP's are the Shonda Rhimes' of the world. They make the show happen. They take meetings with the network week to week to get notes and discuss full production of the show (though, by now I'm sure Shonda answers to no one). Believe me, the staff writer ain't seeing much of the Network... unless the Network does a pop-up visit to the Writers Room.
Let’s now discuss some of the different responsibilities that come with each role. For a Producer level writer, they may handle tasks like overseeing casting and production, coordinating with directors and more. The studio producing the show is more likely to approach a Producer level writer to develop new ideas. A Co-Producer is a mid-level writer who are given more responsibilities than lower level writers which may include input on things like casting, re-writing and editing. A staff writer is the least senior member of the writer’s room. They are expected to pitch ideas and help develop the story under the direction of more experienced writers but are not guaranteed to write an episode and their name may not appear in the credits.
A Story Editor is credited in the titles and gets to write at least one episode. An Executive Story Editor is one level above the Story Editor but is still considered a lower level writing position.
There are also writers room support staff. A Script Coordinator proofreads and distributes episode outline and drafts, numbers scenes, creates cast and location lists for script cover pages, and helps to ensure correct script formatting both during the writers room and production. A Showrunner’s Assistant primarily organizes their boss’ schedule. They are the liaison between the showrunner and anyone involved in the production. A Writer's PA, however, is the goffer of the screw. They "go" for lunch, snacks, errands and handle office duties for the staff.
Just so you know, below is a full list of writing staff titles
Executive Story Editor
The most important title of them all is the Writer's Assistant. Why? Because it's the hardest of the jobs to attain AND it's the pipeline to the actual staff. A Writers’ Assistant takes notes during the room and may be asked to handle research as needed. They sometimes may have the opportunity to pitch ideas for the show or even write an episode. If you're so lucky to become a writer's assistant and you take brilliant notes and add helpful information to the room when asked, you may be trusted to assist on an actual script. If your writing is up to par, you may have just landed yourself an actual staff writer position for the next season. However, this isn't an annual turnover expectation. Keeping it real, you can be a writing assistant FOR YEARS before you get bumped up to staff or bumped out for the next assistant. You never know. The Writers Room is a fickle place.
How do you become a writer's assistant? Well... do you know any Showrunners, Producers, Network execs? Yep, it's a who-you-know game as usual. But for real for real this time. It's a coveted spot and someone's niece's cousin is in line...park it at the back and wait your turn...and hopefully, you'll actually get a turn.
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