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Monday, January 11, 2010

Getting Ready PART 4 Going Back to Cali

Going back to last week’s scriptchat this one is for kingisafink, AKA the fabulous filmmaking duo of Julie Keck and Jessica King who asked “If you have the chance to spend 3 months in LA with a handful of scripts, what's the best way to use that time?”

A very tricky question and one that has a very different answer for Ms. Keck and Ms. King than it does for the average aspiring screenwriter.

First let’s answer the question for the average screenwriter looking for his break. There’s usually two ways of getting that big break, from in LA and from outside LA. From outside LA it’s like lobbing artillery shells from long range. You write scripts, enter it in contests, send out queries, and occasionally attending conferences and pitchfests. Inside LA is relatively easier. You make contacts and learn the business by getting jobs and internships or sometimes just by hanging out. The 3 month period sort of combines the drawbacks of both with the benefits of neither. Actors often head to LA for 3 months out of the year because there’s something called pilot season and you can generally get an audition just by showing up and having a pulse. There is no pilot season for undiscovered writers.

3 months is not enough time to get acclimated to the city, its geography, its traffic, its neighborhoods. 3 months in you’ll still be looking at a map to tell you how to get from Burbank to Hollywood to Culver City. It sure isn’t enough time to find work in the industry. There’s a chance you could scoop up an internship your first week there. They generally last only a few months. But the odds are against that happening and you’d be leaving just as things were starting to make sense. Meanwhile you’re out of your comfort zone and probably finding it hard to write or concentrate on your scripts. When I first moved out, I think it was about my fourth month before I really tackled anything new. And if you think agents and managers are more willing to see you just because you’re in LA, you’re in for a wake up call.

There is a way you CAN make a 3 month trip to LA payoff big time but only if you’ve done your prep time in advance. You should already have people to see before you take off. You should already have people who are interested in you as a writer or as a person or both waiting for you in LA. You should have contacts. You don’t have any contacts? Get some. Check out the local filmmaking clubs or your Alma Mater. Those are good places to start. There’s always this internet thing. It’s all about making connection. Hell, it’s past time people used chat rooms for good!

Seriously my mom got Julie and Julia for Christmas and I watched it with her and what I learned is that one of the most famous celebrities of the 20th Century got her start with the help of her pen pal whom she’d never met face to face until she came to New York. And that was back in the days of pen and paper correspondence.

Aside from social networking you should be professionally networking. Every pitch you make at a pitchfest, every query letter you send out isn’t just an attempt to get your script read it’s an attempt at making a contact. Even if they reject you, you want to make enough of an impression that they want to see more from you.

Also you can do yourself a favor by timing your 3 month trip to coincide with the major pitchfests and screenwriting conferences that occur there. You may also want to check out Jeff Gund’s infolist and the Sherwood Oaks Experimental College for their lists of networking events in LA.

Now here is how King and Keck are different. They are filmmakers with actual films in the can and out in festivals. They’re not just aspiring screenwriters, they’re aspiring writer/directors, the pinnacle of the Hollywood writing career alongside TV showrunner. And while every single person in LA has a screenplay, not everyone has a completed film (although the percentage has increased since Youtube.) Agents and managers who might snort at meeting unknown writers aren’t so easy to dismiss unknown directors. If they have any festival honors, that would increase they’re chances. Then there’s always the expensive definitely attention getting tactic of renting a small theater and showing their films. (Dear Julie and Jessica, if you do go this route, don’t skimp on the publicity. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it…)

Finally they would do well to schedule a few meetings with some publicists. Again unknown screenwriters are nothing special but undiscovered filmmakers are a different story. Publicists can be expensive but so is staying in LA for 3 months.

Julie and Jessica, good luck with your trip and enjoy the sunshine. Unless you go in June in which case there won’t really be any. I’d explain but you’ll find out when you get there.


  1. Wow, excellent advice Mike. Have no doubt that Jessica and Julie will take every ounce of it and when in LA, hit the ground sprinting! Thanks again for yet another useful and informative post.

  2. Great Advice... I now live in Los Angeles and feel like I am not doing anything with that.. but I am looking for a full time job right now while doing freelance graphic design and there is no time for networking.. :( totally sucks! but i should get to that as soon as i have my FT gig set...

  3. Fashionistaratti,

    Don't get too down on yourself. Networking can sometimes just happen if you put yourself in the right position for it to happen :)


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