Should I leave Los Angeles?
March 10, 2008 11:36 PM   Subscribe

I live in Los Angeles. I'm close to signing an option on a screenplay. But I desperately want to live somewhere else, should I...?

Early twenties. Graduated from LA based film school in May. I wrote a script with a roommate. In October it won an award. We've been working with some producers, and it's a fair bet this sucker will get bought and maybe even made. Only problem is I haven't written anything on my own yet, nothing that's ready to show agents or production companies. So while I have an inkling of a career, it's predicated on what I write and finish in the near future. I don't have a job in the industry, although am surrounded by tons of people who are. That's what's keeping me.

For the last year I've consistently found myself yearning to be anywhere else but LA. I don't hate the city, but I grew up in an East Coast metropolitan area and I miss walking places, public transportation and vegetation that isn't cacti or palm trees. I'm thinking of moving to NYC or hell, I don't know... Amsterdam is where I'd love to live for a while. My lease ends soon and I have to decide quickly.

How badly would I screw whatever "career" opportunities I have out here if I left Los Angeles to write for a year and then came back to try and pick up where I left off with my hopefully awesome spec scripts?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, LA (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of people are going to suggest you follow your instinct and jet off to places unknown, explore, travel, write. I am not one of those people. Don't listen to people on an internet message board -- ask an agent or a manager. I hope you're in the process of talking to one or both right now.

So you're in a pretty good position (although don't get ahead of yourself, and don't count your chickens -- really). You think the heat's going to start coming soon. In Los Angeles, it's all about heat. Momentum. When things start to bubble, you want to be there, and you want to be ready to capitalize on the shit that goes down. Because it will go down, and it's a roller coaster that gets really fast really quick, and you don't get many rides on it, so you gotta make the best out of it. You leave, then you threaten killing the current momentum that you have with the producers, and you also threaten being in the wrong place to capitalize on the heat that will build when/if the script sells. Trust me, you will want to be in town on that day.

So what to do now? You need an agent -- a real one. Or a manager. I've had throngs of agents in my career, and one, count 'em one, manager. You need to decide if you and your roommate are going to continue to work together. If you write comedy, I'd say it's a no brainer, you absolutely should. If you're more a genre writer, then that's harder to say. You should start writing something else. Right now. And make sure it's good. If you're going to continue to write with your roommate, then make sure you write the spec with him. If you're not going to write anything else with the roommate, then write the spec on your own. Don't slack, don't piss away the time. Churn out a spec, then do another. Figure out which one is best, then rewrite it to the fucking bone. Seriously, just rip it up and build it back together again. Be mercilous, and be dedicated, and never stop.

Yeah, you could leave town, go find yourself, that sort of thing. It might be very fulfilling. I did the same thing at your age, it was great. It also was a significant setback to my career. The best place for a screenwriter is Los Angeles, especially a young screenwriter. If you hate it, can't stand it, and your hatred of Los Angeles outweighs your desire to be a filmmaker, then consider alternative ways of making films outside of Los Angeles. That road aint' no picnic, but it isn't impossible either.
posted by incessant at 12:54 AM on March 11, 2008 [5 favorites]

You might also find the following two previous AskMeFi threads interesting:While the topics of these threads don't directly address your question, both contain interesting comments that discuss whether living in LA is important.
posted by RichardP at 1:25 AM on March 11, 2008

incessant is completely right. Yes, it would be a horrible idea. I'm an east coast native too, and this place does get on my nerves a little bit more each day. Unfortunately if I moved away, I'd lose the momentum that I've built up in my own career and might have to start at the bottom too.

You have to think of what will be best for your career at this point. I'd suggest trying to get a month-to-month lease until you sell the script, then jet away for a few months to write, or just hole yourself up in your room and get cracking.
posted by Derek at 2:22 AM on March 11, 2008

i was in a similar position in singapore of all places - i didn't like the place at all, but managed to score a recording contract there. i finished the cd, then took off immediately. i eventually discovered a) everywhere has it's drawbacks, and singapore isn't half as bad as i thought it was (i still go there frequently) and b) i totally set back my career quite a bit by leaving when i did. it was a bad idea.

it would have been better to have seen things through to their final, logical conclusion, and parlayed the success to a better position somewhere else later down the road - with a few more credentials/contacts/success stories under my belt.

careers in the arts (including, no, *especially* film) are much more competitive than regular businesses. if you've got an opportunity, make the absolute most of it, as good opportunities are generally few and far between, especially when you're just starting out.
posted by messiahwannabe at 3:45 AM on March 11, 2008

I was in your position about ten years ago, except I was living in London, England. I was flying backwards and forwards to LA and seriously considering moving there to leverage my first screenwriting job. Went and looked at houses in the canyons, started my green card application, and so on.

In the end we decided to move to Canada instead. Now I live in a rural area where I built a big house with the proceeds of writing, 20 minutes from ski hills, world class mountain biking, fantastic schools, a wonderful place to live.

I've never regretted not moving to LA. It's possible my screenwriting career would have been more glamorous, but it's also possible I'd have ended up writing a lot of crap having my chain jerked by executives. Being out of LA and from 'somewhere else', especially somewhere kind of interesting, gives you a cachet of exclusivity. Never underestimate that in Hollywood. It also gives you something to talk about during the small talk part of meetings. You're an exotic for not living there.

The key thing is to make sure your career is underway first. Get a lawyer, an agent and, if you're going to move away, a manager. The manager and agent will keep each other honest. If you just have one, they'll forget about you. Make sure everyone knows that you will get on a plane to take a meeting at the drop of a hat. "I can be there in four hours".

In fact, I almost never go to LA now. Once a year, maybe. I pitch on the phone (a headset is essential) and everything else is done by email.

This advice relates to features. TV is a different world.
posted by unSane at 5:02 AM on March 11, 2008

writing something good, then getting ready to travel the world before finalizing the sale seems like a bad start to your dependability record. "yeah, this kid is good, I wanted a second meeting with him but he decided to go to amsterdam". ? I think you should roll with the momentum you've got going, advance your career, and travel later
posted by white light at 7:54 AM on March 11, 2008

Stick with this. You can always move after the opportunity has made itself happen.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:18 AM on March 11, 2008

See it through. You might not get an opportunity like this one again. Give yourself one more year in LA and in the meantime take lots of mini trips and see where else you might want to live. Also, consider switching neighborhoods-- which neighborhood you live in in LA can change your whole experience.
posted by np312 at 10:11 AM on March 11, 2008

industry person here. how important is career vs. everything else to you? you arguably have what a couple of hundred if not more writers around you desperately seek - connections and an 'in'. there are two things you can do now: either leave town and hope for the best or stick around and work as hard as you can. don't go wishy-washy on me here, pick one and put everything you have into it.

if you think making it in the industry is more important: put everything you have into it. go all out. work, work, work. see living in LA, which really isn't as bad as you make it, as something you have to do for a bit to get to where in your career you want to be. see it as a temporary sacrifice for a greater good. it could be alaska, you know. set yourself a few goals and don't stop before you've ticked them off.

if you think the east-coast thing is more important: do it and do it now but don't be disappointed if it turns out to be poison for your writing career. it was a conscious decision you made and there are other things out there. who know, it could work, all I am saying is don't be disappointed if it doesn't.
posted by krautland at 11:22 AM on March 11, 2008

a lot of writers live elsewhere. once you have an agent, and something more tangible than "working with some producers, and it's a fair bet...", go live wherever you like that's not in another continent, and fly to L.A. for the occasional meeting and stuff
posted by matteo at 11:37 AM on March 11, 2008

Yes, you should move. As a native Angeleno, I've come to hold firm the idea that any transplant to L.A. who does not want to be here should, by all means, leave. This may sound harsh, but your own displeasure doesn't help make L.A. a better place, only worse for those who want to be here. I think most transplants would be surprised to realize how much their kvetching about L.A. is frowned upon by locals.

L.A. is crowded enough, and in this day and age, you can write from anywhere. So you really shouldn't feel like you're throwing in the towel by moving. This isn't Day of the Locust, either - you're not a set painter who has to be here physically. More and more shows are being shot in Canada than in L.A. anyways, so if you have secured enough contacts (and it sounds as if you have), you wouldn't be jeopardizing your career by moving at all. Unless being unhappy helps you write, in which case, you should stay put. Just stay off the I-10 west in the mornings, because my commute is bad enough!

Seriously, though, I know you'll make the right decision, and I hope, in the end, you'll be happy, whatever you decide. Good luck. :)
posted by Lillitatiana at 11:43 AM on March 11, 2008

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