Elizabethtown College welcomed alumnus Dustin Paddock, who discussed his Hollywood story with students at Bowers Writers House on April 2.
After graduating from Etown, Paddock drove his hatchback to Hollywood where he hoped to make it big as a scriptwriter. Paddock expressed his enthusiasm for writing, and explained that he had taken a screenwriting course at the College. During his time as a student, he created and co-wrote the College’s first scripted television series, “Segue.” This love of writing and film followed Paddock to Hollywood where he worked toward his goal of becoming a full-time scriptwriter.
When Paddock first arrived in Hollywood, he found work as a production assistant, running around frantically while taking in the magic of Hollywood. Paddock revealed that he had been weary and unsure of his decision to ride out to Hollywood without a stable plan. “The town is so huge, the business is huge. It’s intimidating,” Paddock said. However, his hard work, partnered with his knowledge of computers, helped Paddock land his first job as a script coordinator for the television show “Robbery Homicide Division.” As script coordinator, Paddock proofread, formatted and handled the publication of all scripts and their revisions for the show. Not long after, Paddock obtained a position as script coordinator on USA Network’s crime drama television series “Monk.” He continued his work and pushed toward his goal of becoming a full-time writer.
His big break came when he was hired as script coordinator for the popular FOX medical drama television series “House.” Paddock worked on “House” for seven years and earned the chance to write his own original episode as well as co-write another. Paddock explained that while working on “House” he learned many valuable lessons about screenwriting. He found the most help came from understanding the most important concept of television writing. “Conflict is key,” Paddock said. “Without it, it’s boring.”
After “House” ended, Paddock found himself as the script coordinator on the ABC drama “Nashville.” Later, Paddock would find himself once again a script coordinator for popular shows such as “True Detective” on HBO and the up-and-coming ABC drama “Black Box.” Paddock said, “Being a script coordinator is a good way to learn the evolution and process of scriptwriting.”
After talking about his achievements, Paddock began to share his experience as script coordinator on such popular shows. He explained how difficult it is to write and produce an original television show. He talked about the many, arduous steps needed to get a show produced. He also discussed how a coherent and compatible team of writers and producers is a necessity for any good television show. He also shared that if one wanted to create a lasting television show, they had to fit somewhere within the three basic television genres. “Legal, cops and medical. These are the staples of TV because the stakes are already built in. No one asks why the character is doing what they’re doing or what the risks are. They’re already known,” Paddock said.
“Compelling writing can translate into any career,” Paddock said. “Always write down your ideas. Store them for later. You never know how that idea might help you in the future.”
Paddock discussed how ideas were thrown around by scriptwriters and how sometimes they worked and sometimes they did not; he said that it is often a big game of mix and match. “If you don’t like your writing yourself, don’t show it to anyone,” Paddock warned.
Finally, looking back on his experiences in Hollywood, Paddock found he had no regrets so far. “If I didn’t have a job where I could contribute creatively I would probably wither up and die,” Paddock said. Paddock continues to pursue an opportunity to become a full-time scriptwriter for a television drama.