One screenwriter takes on LA
I like living in the South. I really like to make films. But I'd
really, really like to get paid for it.
For us non-LA, non-independently wealthy filmmakers, I think one major
question continually plagues us: If I'm serious about filmmaking,
shouldn't I move to Los Angeles? (Editor's note: Or New York.
See this month's feature wherein local filmmakers Kasia Kowalczyk
& Tal Harris list their reasons for abandoning Atlanta for the Big
|Ah, the beauty of LA's crystal clear skies.|
(photo: Nathan Flood)
It's a tough question, one I've wanted to tackle myself for
quite some time. So with that question in my frontal lobes, I cashed in
some frequent-flier points and headed out West. Why? Screenwriter's
Expo, an annual conference for screenwriters looking to make it big and
wondering how to do it. SE is three days of non-stop seminars, pitches
and parties with thousands of other "emerging" (the term they
used to put a positive spin on my plight) screenwriters.
So. What did I learn?
At the seminars, the presenters offered up nuggets of wisdom, everything
from how to scrape out a living as a screenwriter to how to write that
next great screenplay. Now I'll be the first to say these guys knew
their stuff, but I couldn't help but think many of them were themselves
struggling/ex-screenwriters hawking their new book/DVD in order that they
might scrape enough money together to allow them time off to write. I
learned that the more successful the person, the more likely their view
of life in LA was through rose-colored glasses; that, plus the fact that
they no longer lived there. LA's a tough town and you better get
used to it if you want to make it.
The pitches had something to teach, too. Picture thirty-plus production
companies all in one room. Now picture yourself with twenty-nine-plus
other emerging (cough) screenwriters behind a gate, waiting for
the bell to ring. The bell rings. Set free like frenzied Wal-Mart shoppers
at the opening of the Day-After-Thanksgiving Sale, you scurry to the table
of the production company you signed up—and paid—to pitch
to. Now you have five minutes to rush through your story to a first-rung
company rookie, praying they'll find something redeeming and give you
their card for a follow-up email before the bell rings and the next shopper
in line gets their chance. I learned you'd better bring something new
to the table, because they've heard it all a million times. Like I said,
LA's a tough town and you better get used to it.
And then there are the parties. You should have seen them, hundreds of
screenwriting geeks (and I say "them," as I am in denial of the fact that
I'm in truth one of them) exchanging "business" cards, trying to catch
a glimpse of Shane Black or William Goldwyn (for those non-screenwriter
types, think Lethal Weapon and The Princess Bride, respectively)
and strike up a "casual" conversation with them. Pretty sad, really. Screenwriters
certainly aren't the hippest kids at school, a rung or two up, at best,
from computer nerds. I learned that everyone's aching to get his shot
at the big time. LA's a tough town and… well, you get the idea.
|Learning the trade at the Screenwriter's Expo.|
(photo: Nathan Flood)
Overall, making it in LA is no different than making it in Atlanta—or
anywhere else for that matter—no matter what the job is, since people
are the same all over. If you're good enough, people will find you,
because everyone wants to be a part of something great. And if you're
not good enough yet, it helps to know people. Because everyone likes to
play with their friends. The difference with LA is, there's a lot
more people to play with.
So? What now? I'm on the plane back and the guy next to me is holding
a new David Mamet script (if you don't know who he is, don't
pack your bags for LA just yet). We strike up a conversation; he's
a producer who used to live in LA but decided to move to Atlanta and commutes
back and forth now for projects. He's currently finishing one up
and is contemplating his next. After a while, he gives me his card and
says let's talk more when we get home. My best LA connection, and
he happens to live here in the South.
Nathan Flood is an editor for CinemATL and a local screenwriter currently working on his second feature length script, "Science Fair Project."
Screenwriter's Expo 4:
November 11-13, 2005
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Out On Film: Duncan Tucker
Urban Mediamakers Film Festival
LA Screenwriter's Expo
National Film Challenge Diary
King Kong Benefit Screening
Two Independent Theaters Open