How to Make it as a Screenwriter When You Don’t Live in Los Angeles

It’s next to impossible. There. I said it.

For those of you, like me, who simply CANNOT move to Los Angeles now or ever, you would do well to follow this heartfelt advice:

Whenever someone starts talking about how you must live in L.A. to even have a chance at making it as a screenwriter, put your fingers in your ears, squeeze your eyes shut, and sing CAMPTOWN RACES at the top of your lungs.

The single most frightening aspect of screenwriting to me is that it just might be true that I won’t make it if I don’t live in Los Angeles. The two things you absolutely MUST have to make it as a screenwriter are a strong, compelling script with intriguing characters AND you must know someone in the business who can help you get your foot in the door. It’s quite possible that you can spend many years on the former (16 years and counting here…) but without the latter, it may not matter. You could be sitting on a gold mine of a script that could sell for six figures, but if you don’t know the right people, you shall wallow in obscurity for an eternity.

I exaggerate. But not much…

I try to keep this blog as positive as I possibly can, but I do ask your brief indulgence for just one moment while I get something off my chest. We shall return to our usual perky, upbeat blogging after this important vent:

To everyone who arrogantly says in their expert blog, guru book, writing seminar, newspaper article, message in a bottle, or Dead Sea scroll that people who don’t live in L.A. are amateurs who don’t take their screenwriting career seriously, I will explain this one time and I shall forever hold my peace. 

1. I am a wife and a mother of two children and I have parents and a sister who live here on the East Coast. If you don’t understand why this means that I can’t move, I feel very, very sorry for you. I can be BOTH a dedicated mother, daughter, and sister AND be serious about a screenwriting career. The people with NO screenwriting experience or effort whatsoever who hop on a plane to the West Coast are NOT serious. They may get their half-assed scripts read, but they’ll never sell. They haven’t done any homework and they don’t know what they’re doing.

2. I cannot afford to move. I do not have the money for even a plane ticket, let alone to move out there. If I even tried it, I would lose everything in my life that is dear to me. I would be HOMELESS. Do you get that? It may sound artsy and romantic to fly out to live in your car in an effort to make your dreams come true. It’s not. It’s selfish and stupid, especially when there are other people in your life depending on you back home. Besides, we only hear about the success stories of people who do this. Want to hazard a guess on how many times this “plan” didn’t pan out for people?

3. Lots of people move out there, only to move back. Because they did not do what I did. They did not spend years honing their craft, enduring criticism, joining writers groups, reading, learning, writing, writing, and rewriting, tearing their work apart and rebuilding it, studying story structure, dialogue, plotting, reading screenplays, reading books, and learning everything they possibly can in an effort to push themselves to the absolute limit be the best writer they can possibly be. You know, take their career seriously….

4. For the record, we now have phones, fax, email, blogs, twitter, facebook, Skype, iPads and other magical computers that let you write from ANYWHERE in the world and there are planes, trains, pontoon boats, and soon they will invent a teleporter, I just KNOW it, so the idea that everyone in the entire world who wants to work as a screenwriter or actor should flock to one state in the union that’s only going to eventually get socked by a giant earthquake and break off and float off into the Pacific Ocean is preposterous.

Okay, nice blogger me is back. Whew, I’m a little lightheaded…

The best screenwriting advice I can give you is this…FIRST, do # 3 from my rant above and don’t cut corners. Figure out what the hell you’re doing and learn to be a real screenwriter. SECOND – move to Los Angeles. If you can do it, DO IT. If you can move to L.A., then these links are for you:

To Live and Not Die In L.A 

Living in L.A.

The Moving to L.A. Issue

All is not totally lost, however. The truth is, Hollywood is always actively seeking quality scripts. And maybe the boss’s best friend’s nephew’s dogsitter might not have written the best script in the world, even if it does get read. If you’re outside L.A, don’t give up. Keep writing, keep working, and KEEP AT IT. If you do write an amazing script, it won’t be easy to get it read. But it’s not impossible. It only takes ONE lucky break. No one really knows how this brand new era of social networking is going to change things. That kid you went to grade school with who you just reconnected with on Facebook, just might know somebody who knows somebody…

How To Break in if You’re NOT in LA

If you can’t move there, avoid ANY article that concerns moving to Los Angeles and how you’ll never make it as a screenwriter unless you do. It will break your heart and destroy you. It will only discourage you and make you feel like all your efforts are worthless. If you have a dream in your heart like I do, it won’t make you give up but it will depress the hell out of you. If you can’t move to L.A, you’ll just have to make do the best you can.

Camptown Ladies sing this song

Doo-dah, doo-dah

Camptown Racetrack’s five miles long

Oh, de doo-dah day 

The long tail filly and the big black horse

Doo-dah, doo-dah

They fly the track and they both cut across

Oh, de doo-dah day…