My goals for myself were slightly more modest: I wanted to live somewhere other than New York, and, to paraphrase Buffy, "rain bad, beach pretty." But I did have some Industry inspirations: I imagined that being out here would enable me to get to know the Hollywood world a little better. I've been reading Entertainment Weekly and cruising entertainment sites, and commenting here and in other places about pop culture for years. But here, I could talk to the people out here who make it all happen, maybe visit a few sets and befriend some writers who were on different levels, from struggling (I've found a bunch of those) to successful (I've encountered a few of those, too, but they're harder to find in the Pico-Robertson Jewy Jewworld). Then I'd figure out what to do about the now geographical juxtaposition between my writing and that industry that's known both for slaughtering the souls of innocents and entertaining the hearts of millions.
So that's what I've done this year. I've talked with writers for sitcoms past and present, forged a slightly strange relationship with one of the co-creators of "Arrested Development," and tried to learn content, political and creative lessons from showrunners for "Weeds" and "United States of Tara." I even managed to get to one degree of separation from Joss Whedon (all hail, He Who Conquers Television and Internet) on several occasions. I'm learning.
For instance, I've learned that while some people think it's all "who you know" in Hollywood, others say Hollywood is all about spending the time doing the work to develop your craft. At the recent Digital Hollywood conference, a representative from Writers BootCamp (which "Sex and the City" writer Cindy Chupack recommended to me when I interviewed her years ago) noted that their program requires writers to devote 10 hours a week to writing in the goal of writing 3-4 spec scripts a year - the overall process would be six months long, toward 11 drafts, representing 240 hours of work.
At the same conference, I cornered writers Liz Craft and Sarah Fain ("Dollhouse," "Lie To Me") - writing partners who met in high school - and asked them their advice for the TV writer who's just starting out, and they agreed it was having a writers' group of people who were also motivated and working at the practice of writing. "Treat it like a business," Craft added, "and be really fucking serious."
Right now, I'm serious about writing, just not specifically focused on writing for television or film. But I could be. The number of hours is doable, but it would take tremendous willpower and commitment. The Writers BootCamp classes are expensive and, from what I saw at the information session, incredibly intense. I know writing is hard work, but I don't want to lose touch with the fun factor.
On a questionnaire Writers BootCamp distributed, they asked what you want to be doing five years from now. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but I remember being unhappy with my response. I know I'm supposed to aim high in my prediction - "writing for a highly-rated, well-respected TV sitcom" - but I think that's unrealistic (although lack of realism didn't stop me from mentioning Joss Whedon). What do I want to do? I want to make a difference. I want to make people think. I want to make people laugh. Those are the external wants that are constants without a timeframe - I also want to do work that I'm proud of, in an environment surrounded by creative people who are driven to achieve not just for personal glory or satisfaction, but to elevate the collective. I want to work with people who make me laugh and challenge me to make them laugh, I want music to inspire me, I want creativity in abundance.
Five years ago, no one saw technology - with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Hulu, etc - coming. The medium isn't the thing, because it may not exist - or may exist differently - in five years. I don't know if I'll be writing for books, TV, the screen, the web, for mobile devices, or some other venue that might not exist yet. My five-year plan may seem remarkably unfocused to those who hear me speak it, even as I am personally committed to the certainty. I know I'll be involved in producing content. Whatever the context, I know I'll be writing.
Other Digital Hollywood posts: