A former student wanted help breaking into the entertainment industry. Her plan included calling studios and setting up appointments with studio executives.
I’m mystified why people imagine they can navigate the entertainment industry with ease. Particularly my students. Haven’t I warned them enough? Didn’t I tell them repeatedly they need a body of work before they come to L.A.? And none of it matters if they don’t have the right introductions. And none of that matters if they don’t have the right experience.
Make your own path, I pled. Shoot your own films. Get a presence that draws talented people to you. Then network the hell out of yourself.
Don’t come to L.A. for Christ’s sake. People fail. You are not an exception.
Outsiders don’t understand the work, or the business. People fail upward. Promising projects get lost for years in options and meetings. Scripts get stolen. There is no justice. This is a business of exceptions in an unreasonable town.
It reeked with the rotting remains of billions of dreams.
Soon after I arrived in L.A. I worked in development at a small, but reputable production company. I developed screenplays with writers at Warner Brothers and William Morris before it was William Morris Endeavor.
Writers were neurotic. Producers were cruel. Agents were gods.
Executives were emperors.
Each creature was a black hole circling and spinning. Sucking and ripping.
It was no place for Alice.
It reeked with the rotting remains of billions of dreams. I smelled it in the stagnant heat. It rose off the pavement and stuck in my hair. It was in the dust. On the bushes, the trees, my car. I couldn’t scrub myself clean.
Until I quit. And faded into the pavement cracks. I flattened myself against the edges of the city. Hid in isolation.
Executives were emperors.
I doubt my choices daily. Because I’m not successful. And I may never be. That possibility stops my heart. But most people aren’t. I’m not more special than they.
I met a TV writer currently writing on Empire. Before that she wrote on Justified. She was charming and funny and my age. Self-deprecating and a little self-loathing. We could’ve been friends. I made her laugh over beignets and chardonnay. We talked makeup and age and the perils of a sugar detox.
In the end she didn’t say, “Give me your card. I’d love to get together.” And because she didn’t, I couldn’t. She’d have felt I wanted something from her.
I would actually. A friendship would be nice.
Everyone is clawing and scratching and climbing. Relationships are utilitarian. Nobody’s ashamed of it. They work and when they’re not working, they worry.
Writers are near the bottom of the feeding chain. Unless they can direct their film, or produce their original TV pilot. And it gets picked up. And it’s successful.
Each creature was a black hole. Circling and spinning. Sucking and ripping
The girl I spoke with has her eye on show running. We talked about it for a bit and then I said, “That sounds intense, demanding. Is it satisfying?” She said, “I don’t know. I never thought about it like that.” She paused, “Maybe I should reconsider. I haven’t met any happy show runners.”
Before Justified she was one of the many who didn’t make it. She purchased her ticket home and packed her bags. She was out of money. Then her manager called. The guys from Justified liked her script and wanted to meet her.
No one really succeeds. Everyone has almost failed.
After speaking to me, my former student decided to put off her move to L.A. She’ll study in NY, a 90 minute drive from her house.
If I can save one person’s dreams from L.A.’s violent shores, teaching will have been worth it.
As for me? I don’t know. Remaking your life in the middle of it requires courage I don’t have every day.
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to be trampled to death. I didn’t have the personality to take it and recover.
I wanted the freedom to shout from the rooftops without judgement. I just never thought it meant shouting into a void where no one listens.