Monday, January 21, 2008


Happy Martin Luther King Day everyone!

In honor of the holiday, today's post spotlights Susan Dansby, one of the very few African-American women working as a director and writer in daytime television today.

Susan has been a director on Guiding Light, General Hospital and Generations, and has won four Emmy Awards for writing As The World Turns.

According to Susan:

When I tell people I write for the soap opera, As the World Turns, I get a full range of responses.

My least favorite? “I never watch soap operas.”

My favorite? “I love As the World Turns! It’s the best show on TV!”

But what people say most often is: “How did you get that job?”

I do have an awesome job.

It’s creative – writing a weekly 84-page script for 30 or so recurring characters.

I get to live where I want to live (Atlanta), work at home, set my own hours, get paid well (thanks to the Writers Guild of America and my hard-working agent).

It’s rewarding in other ways, too. I have four Emmy Awards, a 2007 Writers Guild Award, and I get to work with extremely talented people whom I admire and respect.

Fabulous job.

But when people ask how I got my job, I usually give the short answer: I was a theater major in college, which led me to TV, which led me to soaps.

But the real answer, the one given in the book I’ve just written: How Did You Get That Job? My Dream Jobs and How They Came True, answers the question most people are too shy to ask:

Can I get a job like yours?

Yes, you can.

There are lots of books out there on how to land great jobs. What makes this book different is that it’s written by someone who started at the bottom, followed a simple process, and now earns her living in one of most competitive industries out there - entertainment.

* * *

This book is a great, step by step tool for anyone looking to land a dream job in any field. But, for the ATWT and GL fan, there's much, much more:

Here's Susan's favorite excerpt from the book:

One day, actress Harley Jane Kozak (Annabelle, GL) was completely covered with rats. She never complained. And there was the jungle set with the live chickens. One of the chickens flew up into the light grid and wouldn't come down.

There were weddings and funerals, and gorgeous, gorgeous acting.

Film actors can have months to prepare for pivotal scenes. A soap actor has to hit the ground running, and usually has one take (perhaps with no rehearsal) to nail the scene where they plead for a child’s life or commit murder or fall in love with the costar they'll end up having story with for 20 years or so.

When I hear people refer to soaps as an actor’s training ground, I laugh. That’s like calling the Indy 500 Drivers Ed.

To order How Did You Get That Job, go to!


Mariann said...

Hi, Susan - I just scrolled down Alina's blog past my column, today, and read your article...Fabulous!

In fact, I'd started to leave you a comment about how I got my job on "Edge of Night," when I realized that it had the makings for my next week's column. So thank you...

And stay tuned! :-)
XO, Mariann

Esther said...

I got my copy of the book already. This looks amazing and right now, I need help getting out of this career pit I've gotten myself into. Thanks!

Oakdalian said...

By the time you get the connections necessary to land a soap writing gig - a feat in an industry that just rotates the same group of writers from show to show for decades - will the soaps even be around?