Monday, April 18, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 172 - East Coast vs West Coast

It is, without a doubt, a different ballgame trying to launch a writing career from the East Coast than it is from the West Coast. For all intents and purposes, "East Coast" in this argument can be expanded to include anywhere not LA. Now, though, we'll stick with the East Coast, and New York City in particular, because that is what I know and where I am trying to kickstart my career from.

I've done a lot of thinking about this recently - whether a beginning writer should be based in Los Angeles or not - and the cryptic answer that I've allowed myself is that it would probably help. Whether it makes an actual difference in terms of results at the end of the day is harder to determine. The fact is, a good writer with a strong script and the know-how to get it seen can get his or her script into the industry from virtually anywhere (and by "know-how," I don't at all mean "connections"). With the internet, geographical location is less crucial than it used to be. 

Take my experiences thus far, for example. Once I believed my script to be ready for agents and managers to read, I sent a dozen email queries. I was particular - very particular - about where they went. But I was also consistent, sending a few a week for about a month. Part of why I only sent twelve (many how-to guides or teachers will tell you to send a hundred or more), is that I specifically targeted New York based representatives. That naturally required me to cast a much smaller net. I knew, though, that starting from New York meant that securing New York based representation was a sound idea - not only would their contacts be in New York and LA, but they would be here for me to meet with. I liked the idea of having direct, personal access to my first representative.

My line was in the water, and a fish bit it. That wound up not working out, and within six months after first meeting that rep, I was with an LA based manager. Two years have since passed, and my lease just recently came up for renewal, so I got to thinking, "Should I move to LA?"

I was tempted... to a degree. To be honest, I don't really want to have a car, my friends and family are here, and I'm reluctant to move anywhere without a friend coming with me. At the end of the day, I find it's easier to have someone I know splitting an apartment with me, and I don't want that to be someone I met through a Craigslist posting. But that's just me. More realistically, though, I also don't have any concrete reason to make an official move west yet. My job allows me to write and I have a solid understanding of what the workday has in store for me, so any large change to that routine would jeopardize my writing. And at this point, writing is the thing I need to do every single day. To throw that into flux would be a large mistake. 

Do I think it would be easier if I was a West Coast aspiring screenwriter? Sure, sometimes I do. Right now, my manager is looking into whether or not I should head west in a couple weeks for a few meetings. The meeting slate isn't huge, but there are a few producers and directors who liked my writing and would be worth taking a general with. However, they read the script in question half a year ago, and there's little doubt in my mind that if I was out in LA, I would have already had face-time with them. And maybe work that came out of those meetings. Is New York killing my chances? No, I wouldn't say so. Would opportunities have arisen if I was there and not here? Probably; I think they might have. 

At the end of the day, the decisions is a big one, and it's something that each of us who is not currently in LA has to grapple with. Maybe the advice I got from the chairman of my writing department in college will clear things up for at least someone out there; "don't go to LA until you have at least one ready script, a treatment for another, and a pitch for a third. It can be hard to make a life out there, and you risk losing all the free time you have to write."