Making it as a writer in show business isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.
It takes years of hard work and talent more so than luck.
“When I first went to Los Angeles, the pressure was intense,” said Scott Schaefer, a comedy writer and a 1985 graduate of Eastern Washington University.
“You have to prove yourself.”
Schaefer has since returned from Los Angeles and is now writing for the children’s show, “Bill Nye, the Science Guy,” in Seattle.
He said he makes science fun for children.
Tim Kelleher, a 1986 graduate of EWU, spent several years working as a stand-up comic, living off his credit cards, before becoming a television comedy writer and now an independent screen writer.
His first movie, “First Kid,” opens in August.
“The reality of it is it’s you alone in that room with the computer slugging it out,” Kelleher said.
Kelleher and Schaefer both have degrees from the radio and television program at EWU. They came back to campus this week to give students a look at the inside of show business production.
They said their courses helped prepare them for their careers, but what really honed their skills were internships and non-credit productions.
After leaving college, Schaefer wrote comedy for a nightly show in Seattle, and worked for a telephone sales firm to earn enough money to live. Then, he got a job in Los Angeles with the Fox network writing for the “Late Show” in 1988.
He said he worked six or seven days a week, 15 to 16 hours a day.
“Sometimes you get to rub elbows with a star, and you get paid well,” he said.
Schaefer said he remembers Zsa Zsa Gabor ordering one of her assistants to drop what he was doing and fetch a glass of juice, which was just out of her reach.
When the Late Show folded, Schaefer got jobs on shows he’d just as soon forget.
“I worked on a couple of really stupid shows, but I made a living,” he said. One of them was “Totally Hidden Videos.”
When the opportunity came to move back to Seattle and work for Bill Nye, he said he snapped at the chance. “I didn’t like living in Los Angeles,” he said.
Kelleher’s career path was similar. He paid his dues telling jokes in stand-up comedy clubs around the country, earning maybe $150 a week, just enough for food and gas, he said.
He got a job with Schaefer on the Late Show, and later wrote for the smash comedy “In Living Color” and “Empty Nest.”
Television production involves nearly eight months of non-stop writing, followed by a fourmonth break at the end of the season.
“It was really, really brutal work,” he said.
Kelleher wrote movie scripts on his own during the off-season and eventually sold the first one through the help of an agent. A good script is worth $500,000 to $1 million or more, he said.
“It’s way more money than you would ever think you would have in your life,” he said.