A Lesson on Succeeding in Your Internship From Breaking Bad

Walter White:   I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!

Many TV fans think that line is one of the most memorable lines ever written for television. In his creation of Walter White, a family man and chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin, Vince Gilligan wrote one of the deepest, grayest, and most morally compromised characters ever to appear on television. During its five year tenure on AMC, Breaking Bad won 133 awards, sweeping the Emmys in its final season. After Breaking Bad ended, Vince created a prequel to the famous series, Better Call Saul, which just completed its second season. So as you can imagine, any writer working in Hollywood would give their left foot to join Vince Gilligan’s writing team.

Vince Gilligan working in the Breaking Bad writer’s room.

And yet some prominent writers and professionals on Vince Gilligan’s staff, even just a few years ago, had no experience in the entertainment industry. So how did they land a coveted spot on the Better Call Saul team? What advice can you learn from them to apply to your own job search in the legal field?

Be Humble

Starting on Better Call Saul Season 3, Heather Marion is going to join the writer’s team as the team’s newest writer. She has wanted to be on a writer’s team her whole life and it is now happening for her and on one of the most captivating shows on television. But she wasn’t born in the writer’s room. She got there by climbing up the ladder and exhibiting tremendous humility.

Heather Marion worked as a writer’s assistant for 4 1/2 years for Jeff Garlin, executive producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm. While it sounds like as a “writer’s assistant,” Heather was just a step away from her dream job, to be clear, a writer’s assistant position involves very little writing. Writer’s assistants clean up the clutter in the office, answer the phones, arrange travel, and schedule appointments. If they are very lucky, they get to proofread. For someone dreaming of writing on a TV show, working as a writer’s assistant feels very far away from their true passion.

Still, Heather did a great job while she was a writer’s assistant. Jeff  always had a clean office, smooth travel plans, and an immaculate schedule. He called Vince Gilligan one day and told him that Heather was amazing and he had to hire her.

So Heather moved on to work as a writer’s assistant on season 1 of Better Call Saul. She continued to do what the staff of Better Call Saul needed and even though it was mostly secretarial, she did it well. Then, one day a member of the staff asked to see her writing and  she co-wrote her first episode with Vince Gilligan, the last episode of Better Call Saul Season 2. In her first episode, Heather did not get to draft Emmy quality, “I am the one who knocks” material. Instead, she wrote a complex scene requiring a great deal of knowledge about gun technology and gun speak.

She did not complain about getting assigned the difficult gun scene. She relentlessly researched the topic and talked to many people with gun knowledge and ended up writing an incredible scene. That is why Heather is going to be a full-fledged writer on season 3.

The lesson to take away is the vital importance of humility. For 5 1/2 years, Heather answered phone calls and kept offices clean until she was given her chance to write her first television scene. Never once did she complain about the work she was given or act like it was beneath her. She just did the work she was assigned with a smile on her face.

Be like Heather while you are externing or working over the summer. No matter the task you are given, do it with a smile on your face and do it well. People will notice and will give you more and more responsibility.

You can read an interview with Heather, where she talks about her Better Call Saul experience here

 

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