We want the titles to be super cool and meaningful... I hate to burst your bubble but that's what I'm here for. 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. I've found that to be misleading.
Every title other than EP and Showrunner means... writer. It means 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. Even the Story Editor = writer. Also, not to be forgotten. The WGA requires shows to commission a few freelance writers during the season. So some people are writing for the show who aren't on the staff.
What does this all mean? This means 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. No, they don't produce anything. They write. They've just been on the staff long enough to receive a producer credit. Again, until a writer reaches Executive Producer status, he/she simply writes his/her given episodes. 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 the 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 (been there, done that. SURPRISE!).
The most important title of them all is Writing Assistant. Why? Because it's the hardest of the jobs to attain AND it's the pipeline to the actual staff. If you're so lucky to become a writer's assistant, and you take brilliant notes, make brilliant coffee, and never f*ck up a lunch order, you may be trusted to assist on an actual script. If your writing doesn't suck, you may have just landed yourself an actual staff writer position for the next season. However, this isn't an annual turnover expectation. 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.
Here's the list of titles for those who care:
Executive Story Editor
Shannan E. Johnson, a writer who doesn't write.