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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Do You Need To Live Here?

In a recent post, a reader asked some very good questions. Let's tackle a few.
Is it necessary to live in LA in order to be taken seriously as a new writer? Do you have to have an agent? If not - how do you get the right people to read your work?
- Tommy.
Okay, first of all, I know the guy. He's one of my best friends from high school. But it's still a great question. The answer is easy. No, and No. and Yes and Yes.

A writer doesn't have to be in the basement of Paramount to write a screenplay. They can be anywhere, that's the beauty of it. Write your beautiful piece of work at home, on the road, on a plane, on a train, anywhere Doctor Suess has written about. Once you have a good finished piece of work, you can do something with it. If you can't complete a script outside of Hollywood, what makes you think you'll complete it within the city line? I have a friend who says that's the greatest challenge to any writer. Finishing. He's Right.

Now, there are great advantages to being here. Not just the new address on the mailbox, which is cool, but a very large group of people doing the same thing you are doing. That's a lot of access to ideas, experience and support. But in the end, without a script, what are you doing wasting your time chatting about scene length in a cafe?

The agent. Very important. When I wrote my first few scripts I had no rep. Who's going to rep. you without a script? So you have to start writing without one, and make that your calling card. But once you complete something, you have the thing that turns them on. And if it's good, all you have to do is bang your head against a lot of doors and someone will eventually read it. If you're lucky, they'll recognize your god given gift and sign you. If not, they may "hip pocket" you, which means rep you on just that script, and if things go well - maybe continue with you. But at least that means you're in the door - because in the end, the script is king. And your life will be a lot easier if you have an Agent who is jacked into the industry network who will try to sell it for you, or send you scripts on open writing assignments, or set up meetings to discuss open writing assignments/pitch said re-writes, etc.

And if you're script isn't King - write another. Because if you're a writer, that's what you do.

Then, when you get the attention you deserve, you will probably decide to move here.

because Hollywood is a social town, more than that, it's like an old fashioned mediaeval town in one sense - if you're not within the city walls, it's like you don't exist. Not that execs and writers are hanging out with us at bars all the time. They're not. And it's not like cell phones, PDA's and blackberry's haven't made connecting easier. They have. But waltzing into offices, taking meetings, doing drinks, lunch, taking conference calls who's start times get changed three times in the course of a week, or a day, producers and directors knowing you're "in town" (which means you're available). all has significant psychological impact on the way you're perceived. Maybe it has something to do with the math associated with different time zones, and certain minds not being able to do it. But if you're not in town, unless you're on the A-list, it's pretty much like you're off the planet.

Now maybe you just want to write spec. scripts and mail them in from an undisclosed location. That, actually, would be fine. If you want to engage in the more loony world of writing original pieces for the studios, or re-writing them, you need to be here.

So moving here, to get famous enough within the industry, so that you don't have to live here, is one of the odd things associated with the craft.


Blogger The Moviequill said...

I plan on moving there once I get my entire leg soaked (I don't think having my toe wet is going to cut it). But I already got the go-ahead from the wife, she says she'll come along for the ride if it should happen. Part of me can't wait for the networking end of it. Joining a local writer's club, hanging out with my fellow scribes on a mission to Borders or Script Stores or hell, knocking back margaritas at someone's pool reviewing movies...

Monday, July 11, 2005  
Blogger John Donald Carlucci said...

I enjoyed sitting at Canters and talking writing. The Abbey was also a good place for lunch and dessert (Gods, the desserts).


Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger DarrenS said...

I'm considering moving out of LA and into the Valley. Is that too far? (kidding) Seriously, the thought of moving to some distant desert town, putting the blinders on, and just writing for a year sort of crossed my mind. But alas, I'm already here, so... here I stay.

Monday, July 18, 2005  

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