Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't tell me what I can't do.

When I was in art school many moons ago, we would get guest speakers in to tell us all about the real world. And they all, without exception, would tell us of the hardships of being a commercial artist, the low wages, the menial jobs, the arduous and uncertain road to success. They told us not to get our hopes up, and not to expect too much, certainly for the first five years, if we make it that far.

What assholes. I would get a rising fury grow inside me as they discouraged and depressed my classmates. As soon as they left, I would make my way around to each and every one of those sad little faces and tell them not to listen to a word! That just because the speaker is bitter, jaded and unsuccessful, doesn't mean this will be what happens to my talented and bright fellow students. I heard years later that only 10% or some equally pitiful number of students ever made it in the arts. And these kids were a talented bunch, let me tell you. I shouldn't have even been in the course, but I think they took pity on me after I begged to be allowed in.

It always stuck with me, that outrage of a stranger telling me what I can't do. For the record, they were dead wrong too.

This week I've been reading a lot of articles online. I seem to have gravitated to a particular theme. Do you have to be living in LA to be a successful Hollywood screenwriter? The more I read, the more of a sick feeling I got in the pit of my stomach. Most (all?) of them said an unequivocal and resounding yes. Forget it if you don't live there. If you can't take a meeting at any time, and schmooze the exec at the corner Starbucks, you'll never make it. (I'm getting a tee-shirt printed that says "I'm a writer, not a schmoozer.")

The first thing I don't quite understand, is how do they think people who aren't Americans can live in LA in the first place? You need a work visa. And as a Canadian who worked in the states for 7 years, I can tell you this is not as easy as it sounds. It's hard and expensive to get a work visa there. Maybe they aren't even considering that someone who isn't from the US could become a Hollywood screenwriter.

The second thing I don't get is why many of these industry people look down their noses at the online services that are available now to market your scripts. Why? I've found them to be pretty freakin awesome, thanks. I've made contacts and gotten my scripts read through online services.

And then I get that fury building up inside me. The same one I felt in art school. I'm hearing them try to tell me that I have to work as a reader for a studio, or fetch coffee for an exec to learn the ropes and get my foot in the door, and then maybe one day, if I kiss enough ass, then I might meet someone who knows someone that might get my script sold. If I'm lucky and if I last that long.

Who are these people? These nay sayers. "I did it this way, so that's how you have to do it." Or what, I say? I'm learning a lot about how other people have made it, and I'm getting a lot of good tips and I'm formulating a plan, and maybe one day I will move to LA again.

But I still hate it when people tell me what I can't do. It just makes me want to prove them wrong.

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