Monday, March 16, 2015

Questions that WILL not die: YES you need to move to LA to be a writer!

I probably would be a terrible teacher because after five years of covering the same material with successive classes I would likely be at the end of my rope at having to answer the same questions again and again, year after year.

Running a screenwriting blog, I've found there are certain questions that will. not. die. Sometimes this is because it's a basic question and other times because the answer is unpopular and people keep asking in the hope of finding exceptions.

Top of the list? "Do I need to move to LA to become a screenwriter?"

YES YOU NEED TO MOVE TO LA TO BECOME A SCREENWRITER!

I don't care that you think technology makes it possible to do your work from afar and build your career. I don't care that you may have put down roots somewhere and have a desperate need to believe that you can enter a few contests and compete on the level of people who have come to down, done the legwork and done a far better job of landing in the right circles.  This is a reality of the business. If you are serious about being a writer, figure out a way to get out here.

"But, what about---" NO. Shut up and read this post covering the subject. Read the other posts linked within it.

Then go watch this video.

I know my audience, and I know that there are people ready with one or two exceptions, as if that impeaches my entire premise.  Yes, there are people who managed to get repped from afar via the Black List, and that's great. There might even be one or two sales there - that's also great.

I'm also not going to pin my hopes to that. I've got a friend who got great representation via the Black List, but as he's currently living and working out of town, he's ended up trying the routine of flying in for a week once ever four months or so.  His reps are good at packing those weeks with meetings, but I know he's gone on a fraction of the meetings that local writers have. Those meetings are what build relationships and relationships are what really provide the foundation for a long career.

Once you've written a couple half-billion dollar blockbusters for the studios and you're the first guy or gal they're calling for every assignment and rewrite, you can move to Antarctica for all they care. But those writers have earned the right to be so remote.

But I can hear you. You're still about to tell me about the exceptions. So let me tell you a story. Have you ever heard of Amy Purdy?

Amy Purdy is an Olympian. She won a gold medal for snowboarding in the 2011 Olympic Games. If you don't follow sports, you might also remember that she was the runner up on last spring's cycle of Dancing With The Stars.  Pretty impressive, right?

Amy Purdy also did all of this with two legs that had been amputated below the knees. Yes, she won a gold medal and a dance competition while using artificial legs! Her competitors, despite not having the handicap of needing to learn to walk all over again on leg prostethics, still got their asses kicked!



It's an inspirational story. It's an exceptional achievement. But does it mean that everyone who has their legs amputated will be able to hit those heights? No, of course not. Amy is an incredible exception.




When you tell me you don't believe me that staying in Sioux City, Iowa is making things harder for yourself, what you're basically saying is that you think you're Amy Purdy. When you get your gold medal and get to the finals of Dancing with the Stars, I'll tell you I was wrong about you. Until then, my advice is always gonna be "Get to LA."

25 comments:

  1. So where would I need to live to improve my proofreading skills? Obviously not LA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You found a typo. Congrats, your penis must be HUGE.

      Delete
  2. Well... it can be done (somewhat) from NYC and perhaps Austin... but your point is still very apt. It definitely gives a person an edge to live where the work is. If you don't live there, expect to work twice, if not ten times harder than anyone else (which, granted, one should be doing anyway).

    Interestingly enough (tho' just for me) I went to college in Sioux City, Iowa.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Depends on the script you are writing, no? Does L.A. "represent" the whole of the film industry? I certainly hope not. Does all the wheeling and dealing happen there? Probably. But I think it's time for some wheeler-dealers to retire and let in some new blood. I'm so sick of the remakes and the lame comedies, the sequels and prequels. Where's the creativity? Buried under bullshit profits. That's it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's sad to see how misleading this post is. You do NOT have to MOVE to LA. I have 2 friends who write from San Fransisco and Vancouver. Both fly into LA when the HAVE to. They both have very comfortable lives. You don't need to live in LA. Get real.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I got my agent being in the middle of Canada. He's in NY. My manager is in LA. If there's examples proving your point wrong... then you're wrong. TV writer: Yes. You totally have to be in LA. But not so much for feature writers. It's possible, and people are doing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have an agent, so I ask you: how many meetings have you been on? How many options have you sold? How many sales have you made? How many films have been produced?

      You have an agent, that's great. Now tell me about having a career.

      Delete
    2. Thousands of writers have reps who don't make money. That's just a baby step in the right direction -- I learned that the hard way.

      Delete
  6. What if you're over 40 -- should you still move to LA to pursue writing, or will doors never open because of your age?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My experience is that age discrimination is less of a problem than having great material and the means to get it into the hands of the right people.

      Delete
    2. There are certain managers who constantly harp about age on Twitter -- as in, they want clients under 30. Have you seen that, too? (I won't call them out here, but you have been retweeted by a few of them.)

      Delete
    3. I hadn't heard of that. I must not be following any of those guys.

      Delete
    4. Hint: One of them keeps retweeting the answers to your latest blog about moving to LA.

      It'd be great if you could write a blog post about the ageism that over 40 writers who are trying to break into the business experience. Ageism is illegal, but it happens. A LOT.

      Delete
    5. Just speaking for myself here, I've not been in a position to directly witness any such ageism. I don't personally know any writers who have talked about ageism as a barrier in their own careers. So as a result of that, I don't have anything to bring to that conversation that I can back up.

      And honestly, looking at who wrote some of the movies for companies I've worked for in my time out here, I can think of plenty of exceptions where writers over 40 were employed, sometimes repeatedly by the producers.

      When I was reading for agencies, there was never any official or unofficial criteria in terms of the writers' age. We were reading based on the material.

      If I had the testimony to back it up, I'd blog about it, but I don't like repeating industry myths without at least some foundation in my experience.

      Delete
    6. Would you be open to asking people on Twitter to share their experiences of ageism with you?

      Delete
    7. I'll consider it. The thing is that I've found when opening up a question like that, you'll often get "confirmation bias" rather than actual proof - people certain that they were passed over for age, but who can't prove it.

      And as you say, it's illegal, so even if someone in power was passing on someone due to their age, they'd have to be pretty stupid to state it outright. So in this case, the only valuable evidence really is a manager or agent saying they they only want young clients, or some other documentation saying that the age was the reason for the pass.

      If there's an agent who's bluntly stating they're not accepting clients under 30, they're pretty stupid and I'd love to see where that person went on the record with that.

      Delete
    8. They're saying they PREFER clients under 30. They're walking that line of legality... but one can infer that if you're over 40, that agent/manager is not for you.

      Delete
  7. Okay, let's face the difficult facts here, people. Maybe there are a few small exceptions. But at what point in the history of art and literature have we not seen passionate artists and writers move their acne-covered asses out into central locations or trending art capitals? Time out of mind, from Shakespeare to Rimbaud to Beckett and beyond, artists have fled in their droves to places like London, Paris, New York, etc., etc. Why? Well it wasn't because the lads wanted an extra few spondulix at the weekend for a pint down at the local inn. Shakespeare worked with and wrote within the group, The King's Men. I can't imagine Hamlet getting sent up by carrier pigeon to London from Stratford because The Bard was too busy tilling the land and getting it ready for growing season. People, like me, you'll just have to accept the truth of the matter!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Couldn't disagree more with the premise of this article. As an opinion, I support your right to have it, but there's no basis for reality, at least when writing film. Is there an advantage to living in L.A.? Perhaps, but the advantage is clearly outweighed by the cost of living, housing, crime, traffic and overall stress levels. Television? Yes, if one's goal is to be on a writing staff, this may require one to move to L.A.- or NY, the ATL, Dallas, Raleigh, Miami, Toronto, Mumbai, Tokyo any one of the other hundreds of cities and countries where TV shows are shot and/or produced. It's been my experience that the only ones who have this opinion are either FROM Los Angeles, currently LIVE in Los Angeles, or already have plans to MOVE to Los Angeles (may be something about "misery loves company")! Having lived 25 years in Los Angeles- from Beverly Hills to Sherman Oaks- the quality of my life has never been better, my writing career has never been more successful, and I've never enjoyed more connections in the industry than I do now- six years removed from that state.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful! So how many sales have you made? How many options do you have? How many projects are in development!

      This whole article is about the fallacy of believing that a few exceptions disprove the truth that being in LA is far better. If you're going to hold up your experience as contradicting that, you'd best be working as steadily as the majority of working writers here.

      Delete
    2. Even if a show shoots in another city, it doesn't mean the writing room is there. Majority are in LA and a couple in NYC.

      Delete
  9. Why does everyone who makes this statement always use Iowa as the alternative? You do it. William Goldman did it in his book. I think I've seen this like half a dozen times.

    I love how people still try to debate this with you. And they're right. You can be a writer anywhere. But if you actually want to sell something...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I don't think there's any reason for people to lose heart if they're not in LA right now, or in a position to move out here anytime soon. Sure, you want to write scripts, write them. Submit them to contests (Nicholls, Austin, Sundance), or Blacklist. See how you do.

    But when you start to get traction, you can only help your chances by getting out here, if only for a year or two. I've had two meetings rescheduled at the last minute this week, and a third is likely to shift before the end of the month. If I'd booked a ticket out here for these meetings, I'd either be here now without the meetings or I'd be rescheduling at a significant change fee cost.

    I dialed into a free "breaking into screenwriting 101" seminar a while back, just to see if there was anything I could learn, and the instructor made a huge deal about how screenwriting can happen from anywhere. If he hadn't been charging $500+ for his web classes, I might have taken him more seriously. But he really needed his audience to believe that they could pursue this from anywhere, in order to get them to write a check. That in and of itself makes me more than a little distrustful of the "geography doesn't matter" version.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Bitter, as a fellow proud Angelino writer, I completely agree with you but these people are framing the question wrong. I have no idea if this will reduce pushback from people who have a strange objection to moving to an awesome city, but what the hell:

    What do you actually -want-? Do you want to maximize your chances of getting paid to write movies and TV? Assuming you'll write the same amount, of the same quality, in any location, moving to L.A. is the straight-up easiest way to dramatically increase your chances of getting paid to write TV or movies. Or, for that matter, of getting access to awesome crew and cast to shoot your indie feature or digital series.

    No. You don't -have- to move to L.A. But if having a TV or screenwriting career is your end goal, your chances are just way, way higher of getting that here than they are anywhere else in the world.

    It's like you can have 5 lottery tickets, or you can have 200 tickets, for the same price. That's just kind of a no-brainer.

    Counter-question: L.A. is a pretty cool city, with awesome people, and no more expensive than any other major city. Why -don't- you want to move here?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I would say only move to LA once you're past a certain level in terms of your writing.

    Living here means nothing if you can't write your way out of a paper bag...

    ReplyDelete