Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's Harder Than It Looks, Part the Second

See Part One below.

Editor's note: For the next couple of posts (or whenever I feel like adding more) I'm going to excerpt here an article I wrote a few months ago. You'll immediately see why it's so dated (for one thing, the strike was still going on). But I think I'll be revising it for submission somewhere eventually.

…I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me

A few months ago, I did one of the stupidest things imaginable. I moved to Los Angeles to try to make it as a screenwriter. Within two weeks of my arrival, the WGA was flexing its righteous might and no one was pitching anything, no one was taking meetings – hell, no one was even supposed to be writing, period. I’m not a member of the WGA (although I hope to be one day), but as Hollywood takes as its credo “Fake It ‘Til You Make It,” I decided that it couldn’t hurt to behave as if I already was. Any time a solicitous family member calls to ask how close I am to selling a script, my response--that I’m no closer than the day I arrived--is met with incredulity. Why?! All those writers are on strike! Why can’t I use this golden opportunity to get in like Flynn? My explanations about the exigencies of this labor negotiation fall on uncomprehending ears; family and friends in Minneapolis honestly have no idea why this [theoretical] short term gain might spell a serious long-term screwing of my Hollywood career. After all, they reason: you don’t have a career now. Why not try to grab one, even if it disappears soon?

My Midwestern family and friends are not rubes, and neither am I. None of us seriously thought that someone could just choose to be a successful screenwriter—as if it’s a bona fide career option that doesn’t depend on truly staggering amounts of good fortune. I’ve been a writer (creative and academic) for a long time, and I’ve yet to make a living at it. The average working writer makes something like five thousand dollars a year. And that’s in markets that don’t have nearly the cutthroat competition of the screenwriting business. When I stepped off my discount Sun Country flight in October with a fraying messenger bag full of scripts, blinking into the bright sunlight of a southern California morning, I was ready to pay my dues. Good thing, too. Everyone seemed to be chanting the same refrain.

Five years, my writer friends said. Give it five years. You need at least five years of knocking yourself out before you even start knowing this business well enough to know if you should stick with it. Five years.

Couple of months in, and I already know I’m terrible at it. But at some point in the time I’ve been here, I’ve reacquainted myself with something else that used to be important to me: eating regularly and paying my car insurance bill. I’ve run through my meager savings and am staring indigence in the face. Something has got to be done.

The employers of the great state of California don’t seem to share that opinion, however, as my resume can’t seem to get a second look and I’m not wowing anyone in the few interviews I am able to land. Things were, and are, looking dire. At some point, I’m reminded that a writer writes. No word on content. Just: a writer writes.
And that’s when it hit me: internet porn. I would try to get my hands on some of that sweet internet porn money.

Up Next: Part Three -- Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

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