Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why I don't fetch coffee


As you know, I am a schoolteacher. I don't work on big fancy sets. I don't have access to backlots. I don't fetch coffee for anybody important. Actually I don't fetch coffee for anybody because I don't drink coffee and if the Beefcake wants coffee he makes it himself.

Anyway, the point is, I don't work in the business.

I say this because I've noticed a lot of people who plan to come to Hollywood think they have to work in the business in order to break in. I haven't broken in yet so you may think I'm totally full of shit, but I will. Of that I have no doubt. And in the meantime I pay my bills and work a job I mostly like and have 4 months off a year to write.

I've had a few people tell me I should take a job as someone's PA or a writers assistant job or something equally low on the totem pole to get my foot in the door. And it's true, if I was 21 when I came out here and fresh out of grad school I would have gladly taken a job running around in the sun fetching this and that just to get on a set. But I wasn't 21. I was 26 and I had spent the years after grad school managing a classroom and answering only to a man who never left his office or yelled at anybody, except that one time when I told my students that Catholics think Pentecostals are "weird" without realizing one of my students was the child of Pentecostal missionaries with no sense of humor. I was forbidden from talking about religion in class anymore ever. We were reading Siddhartha at the time.

But I digress.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was in my 20s before I knew it wasn't novels I liked to write. Sometimes even when we know where we're going, we're not sure how to get there.

As soon as I knew what I wanted, I came here. I had a degree and a skill so I traded on that to pay the bills, and working as someone's errand girl never appealed to me. I admire the people who do it. They work their asses off for very little pay and I have several friends who have spent years of their lives making shows run, some of whom have moved on to better things.

And there's the rub. I've been here four years and I'm just now starting to get somewhere. I have an MA in creative writing and I wrote my first book at the age of 9 (it was about how girls can get boys to like them and an ugly girl bought it for 5 cents) so it's not like I suddenly looked up one day and decided I would be a writer. I've been practicing.

Still, four years and I'm still gleefully hoping these two managers read my script soon. If I had been somebody's PA, more than one industry professional would have already sent my script on to his boss by now.

Maybe.

But it hasn't stopped me from making connections; I just make them slower. I still meet people because of this blog and parties and friends of friends. I rarely miss an opportunity to hang out with people I like because you never know when something you say starts a conversation that leads to someone handing you a card and asking you to email them your script. It's probably a million times harder if you're shy.

My point in writing all this is to say, you don't have to take an industry job. If you can, do it, but it's okay if you can't. The thing that finally convinced me to move out here after months of pondering was this comment from some random person over at Wordplay: "In LA you can't spit without hitting someone in the industry." They went on to say that if you move here, you will make contacts. And it's completely true.

You just have to be willing to go to a lot of parties.

13 comments:

  1. Where are these parties. I want to crash them.

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  2. Just drive up into the hills on a Saturday and go into the house with all the cars. Bring a bottle of wine and be all like "Hey! OMG How ARE you? So how's your latest project going?"



    *do not do this. Or if you do, let me know how it goes.

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  3. what a great post, thanks for writing.

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  4. Thanks. I hope it helps.

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  5. Drive up the house in the Hills in a very trendy Hollywood car, bring a bottle of wine,* and be on the arm of someone really attractive...



    *Very expensive wine. Heavy on the expensive.

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  6. I'll never be someone's bitch.

    Be getting my ass to California would certainly help...

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  7. i am unwilling to go to parties. any parties.

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  8. But there's free booze at parties.

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  9. Gabriel10:27 AM

    I'm a librarian/aspiring screenwriter and I feel the same way. I've often wondered if I need to get a job fetching coffee, but something always holds me back - must have something to do with student loans, wanting to trade on my skills and not live on ramen the rest of my life. Besides, all the industry people I know think it's kind of quaint when they meet people who don't work in Hollywood. Maybe it's an advantage.

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  10. Oh definitely, Gabriel. At parties everybody wants to ask me about my job. It makes a great conversation starter.

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  11. Hey, great blog! Check out my post on this. I think that writers are taken advantage of all the time as PAs, and damn right, you should be teaching if that's your career, but it's true, you make connections in this industry by being on set. It's like trying to be a doctor and not working at a clinic. You know? You can still do it, but will you make a living?

    Jonathan Barnett

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  12. If your screenwriting is half as entertaining as this blog you've got nothing to worry about.

    Write on, girl.

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