Sunday, April 26, 2009

... and you left that for this, idiot!

I came here to be a screenwriter, which on the face of it is a dumb reason to move anywhere because you can be a screenwriter in Hoboken just as well as you can in Hollywood. The real reason for being in Los Angeles is not the writing part but to network with people in the business and, one hopes, make contacts that will help advance your career.
Lots of people will tell you that you're better off in Hoboken, or wherever else you came from than you are in Hollywood. People here all read the same newspapers, talk the same talk and generally feed from the same media trough as their fellow screenwriters. If you're in Peoria there's a fair chance that something or someone will inspire or influence you to come up with a more original idea than all of the other writers hunkered down at the local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf tapping away on their laptops. But let's face it, if you're at all serious about making it in the film industry this is the one place on Earth to be. New York has just a fraction of the film and TV industry that Hollywood has. And Los Angeles has much better weather than does my native Northeast state.
The trouble is, once you get here, unless you're connected, you've got to start at the beginning like everyone else who comes here and as you probably know, almost all beginnings are tough. Especially if you're leaving a corporate communication job that was unsatisfying but high-paying and the company was a stable one.
One of my first jobs in L.A. was that of an extra on a network TV show called "Better Off Ted." I sat in the room reserved for extras with all of the other 100 or so middle-aged folk who got hired for the one-day gig. The guy in charge of the extras was a sparkplug who liked to keep things lively during the extended downtime between shots. He led the group in a number of games, such as name the one movie you'd take with yourself to a deserted desert isle ("Double Indemnity"). At one point he went around the room and asked each of the 100 what kind of work they had done in the past. Some had done temping, some were retired -- there was a general consensus that most had done actors' jobs, like waiting on tables and delivering pizzas. When he got to me I announced that I had last worked in corporate communication. There was a stunned silence. I could only imagine the entire room collectively thinking, "And you left that for this, idiot!"
Yes, I did, but that's a topic for another rendition of this silly little blog.