Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Anyone here from out of town?

Screenwriter John August has an interesting post about the reaction to an earlier post that argued that screenwriters from outside of L.A. have no right to be frustrated when no one takes them seriously. It's definitely worth reading for any aspiring screenwriters who secretly hope they can merely work from their home in Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, etc. (the Midwest is usually employed for this example) and never have to worry about moving to L.A. I understand why this is a popular fantasy - if all the person is doing is writing, why can't they just conduct business by phone and email?

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Mr. August. Like it or not, screenwriting is a career tied to an industry centered in L.A. It's extremely unlikely that any writer will be able to establish himself if he's not in the thick of things. One has to be available to take meetings with prospective producers and agents. One needs to be able to network and make the connections that can lead to meetings that would open the door for that next job. A lot of screenwriters make their living "on assignment" - usually work like rewrites and in cases like that, a producer or a studio is likely to go with a commodity they're familiar with, or at least one they can feel out. It's hard to establish that sort of connection from out of town.

I don't doubt that there are working writers who live outside the L.A. sphere, but I'd bet that the vast majority of them paid their dues and worked in town before retiring away outside of California. Having read plenty of scripts written by writers who live all over the country, I can attest that there are talented writers bred outside Southern California - just as there are an even larger number of writers whose work is amateurish and sub-standard. (That isn't terribly remarkable, though... L.A. is filled with wannabe writers whose work is just as bad.)

Given the current economic climate, I don't recommend anyone moves to Los Angeles on a whim unless they have enough money saved to survive for at least 6-8 months, should it take them that long to secure work. Instead, hone your craft. Read as many screenplays as you can, study them inside out, and apply what you learn to your own writing. Then, take a good hard look at your abilities and as yourself if they're on a par with professionals. Once you reach that point, then you're ready to come to L.A. and hit the ground running. Make friends, get to know people in the industry and do everything you can to get your work in front of people.

Wannabe writers living in L.A. aren't always taken seriously, but they're definitely taken more seriously than wannabes outside of L.A.

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