Ladybosses, are you ready for this interview? This week I sat down with Caitlin Schneiderhan, a showrunner’s assistant and writer. If you’ve ever wondered what a showrunner is or how one begins a trajectory to end up as their assistant and then ideally as a showrunner, we’ve got it here for you!
Intuitive, spot on, organized and prepared were just a few of the qualities I immediately sensed when sitting down with Caitlin Schneiderhan.
Caitlin Schneiderhan is from Silver Springs, Maryland and has been writing since she was about 7 years old. Yep, while I was busy looking for worms under rocks, Caitlin was already honing her craft. When she was 13, she sat down on the couch to watch her favorite movie of all time for probably the 6th time that week - LORD OF THE RINGS. Afterwards, she turned on the scene features to learn even more about her favorite movie and she knew after just a few moments of behind the scenes footage that she’d KILL to apart of “this.”
But what is “this”? It’s what so many people who don’t live and breathe film, tv and the entertainment industry forget; all the people, the writers, the grips, the costume designers, the editors, the make up artists - the actual humans with lives and loved ones who spend countless hours to make your favorite tv shows and films come to life. When she discovered she could make “actual money” writing for a living, she knew this was it. She continued to write throughout High school and then set off to a very casual college that may sound familiar to some - Northwestern (!). She headed there with the mission to be accepted into the Creative Writing for the Media program - a 2 year sequence in which only 12 people are accepted.
“I knew it was a gamble but I couldn’t not try.”
As history would have it, and being the badass ladyboss that she is, Caitlin was accepted and dove into two years of intense writing from playwrighting to tv writing to screenwriting. She came out with a powerful portfolio spanning from horror films to TV sitcoms.
After Northwestern, Caitlin made the move. She knew she had to be in LA to write. She worked at a Visual Effects company as an executive assistant for about 3 years. Her job gave her enough free time to really work on her writing. From there she met a connection that lead to her next job as a writers PA which is often referred to as a “Gopher” because their job can mostly be:
Go get lunch
Go get groceries
Go get coffee
An assistant is truly the backbone to every Great out there. It’s also the work of an assistant that’ll make you wonder (as the assistant) if anyone realizes you have a WILDLY expensive degree and expansive skill set not being put to use. But it’s the name of the game; climbing the ladder. While working as a writers PA, Caitlin found a posting for a Showrunner's Assistant for a little bitty Netflix show. Nobody knew the guys who ran it, it wasn’t some big high profile production either but the “sci-fi” angle caught Caitlin’s eyes… now before we get to the show and everyone loses their collective minds. Let’s talk about...
Pedantically, the Oxford Dictionary defines a "showrunner" as:
"The person who has overall creative authority and management responsibility for a television program."
Writers' Guild of America (WGA) members (the labor union for film and television writers) have known that job to be the executive producer position since the guild started arbitrating writing credits titles back in 1941.
And as we know through our series of interviews, no one in this industry survives without their assistant. Caitlin spends her days organizing calendars, scheduling meetings, tracking down her bosses when they’re on set, rolling calls (rolling calls = her bosses receive a ton of calls a day from every dick, jane and joe in town. Caitlin will make a running call sheet and then when her bosses have time they will go down the list and make calls back that they missed). Basically Caitlin makes sure that her bosses lives are in order logistically so they can thrive and focus creatively. It’s not an easy task, especially for a show the caliber of STRANGER THINGS!!!
(cue synth music)
Yep, that little known Netflix job was the position for Showrunner Assistant for The Duffer Brothers and the breakout Netflix series STRANGER THINGS. Caitlin is the behind the scenes person letting the Duffer brothers create your latest binge-worthy obsession.
Caitlin is still focused on her goal of becoming a full-time writer. She has a writing group that holds her accountable that she meets with every 3 weeks and she’s doing what Hollywood does best; networking. Caitlin suggests always being open whether it’s for a mixer or telling someone you meet how much you love their work or the show they currently work on. And it’s gotten her to all the right places. Caitlin currently has a group of agents who represent her and her work.
We talked more about her favorites and inspirations - Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, American Gods, iZombie, The X Files (classic), Parks and Recreation, and The Hour. Along with Bryan Fuller, Terry Pratchett,Tamora Pierce, and Douglas Adams.
Caitlin is not only Intuitive, spot on, organized and ready - she’s kind and thoughtful - they type of person who you would want to work with/for and be proud of it at the end of the day. We hear so often about this industry not being for the weak and the need for thick skin but Caitlin is the type of future we have in-store for us. The type of person who gets “shit done” without having to step on or belittle others. Maybe she’s learned that from her current bosses - whom she praises for their drive to create an atmosphere in which equality reigns.
Caitlin is hoping that in the next 3 years that we’ll spot her with a writer credit on a show… and not that we had any doubt but just to solidify Caitlin’s badass writing skills - she’s one of the winners of the Austin Film Festival Script Competition in the AMC One-Hour Pilot Award for Breakfield! Keep a look out for Caitlin's name on your TV screen - COMING SOON.
If you have more questions about being a showrunner’s assistant or about Caitlin in general, you can find her here: