Time does fly when you're having fun because, somehow, I've been in Los Angeles for a month now. I’m a British writer and I feel as if my feet haven't touched the ground from the second I got here; maybe because they haven't. I've been rushing around — like the proverbial blue-ass fly — going to scriptwriter meetings, conferences, networking events, workshops and lunches with people I might be able to work with in the future.
Being in L.A. is, obviously, a much faster-paced environment than Fort Bragg, the small town in beautiful Mendocino County I lived in for four months in northern California; I had a tiny log cabin in the middle of huge Redwood trees. It was a place to go for solitude, for a big change to my previous life in the U.K, and to write a new novel.
I originally come from a small town in the southwest county of Dorset in England, where cider was first invented many hundreds of years ago. And, after moving to Charles Dickens’ birthplace, the city of Portsmouth, and working there for 14 years as a PR consultant and writer, I decided to sell my house, become homeless and fly to America.
I reached Fort Bragg, which was fantastic because it healed me of many emotional issues I’d had after a tough relationship break-up, but it also provided me with the great opportunity to volunteer at the local film office, thanks to the wonderful film liaison officer Debra de Graw. Mendocino was where the TV detective series "Murder She Wrote" was filmed, along with other movie classics such as "Summer of ’42," "Forever Young" and James Dean’s "East of Eden."
The Mendocino Film Office have a special 40th anniversary of the coming-of-age film "Summer of ’42" this August. Look up Film Mendocino on Facebook for more info.
And, so, my volunteering at the film office has led me to the Big City Lights of Los Angeles. Now, I've worked in London before, but L.A. is completely different; a "whole other ball game," as you wonderful Americans might say.
Aside from the hot sun, it's hard to describe how — to me — L.A. has a paradoxical feeling of both a "chilled out" approach to enjoying life (the Californian way) but also one very much of "work yourself hard … all the time!"
Most of the meetings and conferences happen at night and at the weekend, so you have to be prepared to be at places — talking to people — until after midnight and then be ready to get up early to do it all again the next day. But, you know what, that really is fine with me because I'm here and grabbing the opportunities L.A. can offer me with both hands … whilst I'm here; I can catch up on sleep when I retire.
Or, as Mr. Bon Jovi once said in a song, "I’ll sleep when I’m dead."
And so, not only have I been learning how to constantly sell myself at meetings (which is actually very tiring and a concept us British are not particularly adept at — we generally prefer, sadly, to watch and moan about what other people are doing), but I've also had to adjust to driving across immense freeways in this huge city for my meetings, which can take hours. The traffic here is disgustingly busy.
I've discovered the 405 was actually created by the Devil so he could watch us sat in our cars going nowhere and laugh. The evil bugger.
But, that's fine, too. The traffic is the negative trade-off for being here (think along the lines of yin and yang), because L.A. has a certain vibrant, creative energy about it that draws you in. There are thousands upon thousands of people who have all gathered here to entertain and better themselves and that communal expression of creative energy gives Los Angeles its feeling of dreamy optimism, hope and makes it full of real possibilities to succeed in your chosen art.
Aside from the fact that I had a pretty bad crash on the freeway last week (where a dumbass student smacked into the back of my pickup and gave me whiplash), and the fact I got a police ticket for parking the wrong way on a two-way road — which isn’t illegal in the U.K. — and "more than 18 inches from the sidewalk" … aside from this, I love Los Angeles.
I'm developing a very good Bulls— Radar (BSR) being here too, because there are a lot of people who say they're doing this project, that project, working with Leonardo DiCaprio or working with Steven Spielberg … and they're clearly not doing anything of the sort. I tend to ask these people "what're you working on right now?" which has become my Bulls—-Finding question. The majority of them stumble and say "not much at the moment, but I am trying to do this…"
I really don't understand the mindset of wanting to lie about what you're doing, when you're not doing it; I was brought up to be honest. I want to achieve many things here in L.A. — including writing scripts on a TV series, producing and directing my own films – but I don't feel I'm going to do this without being truthful to myself and others I meet. I want people to know that I'm genuine and, yes, I've had lots of writing experience in the U.K. producing work for major book publishers, radio stations and the BBC, but I also very much want to learn afresh here and produce projects in an American style.
I want people to know I'm a clean slate, open to advice, guidance and learning. Who doesn't love learning new things, right?
And because of this openness, so far I've managed to become a Multi-Media Man (think of a slightly less muscular Superman without a cape, but with the Clark Kent glasses) and get myself involved with a lot of projects.
Some of these projects have included: recording a voice-over for a training video; going to a secret weekly scriptwriters meeting; going to a Disney Fellowship writing workshop at Universal Studios; meeting the writer of Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" movies; meeting Michael Winner's cinematographer; talking with writers who have written for TV series such as "Ugly Betty," "Glee," "Dexter," "House," "South Park," "The Simpsons" and "Sex and the City"; attending a scriptwriters monthly meeting at 20th Century Fox Studios (in the building next to where they film the TV series "Bones," meaning I'm getting closer to my goal of meeting Stephen Fry because he stars in this series!); having a great laugh with the very funny and talented actress Leah Allers, daughter of Roger Allers (director of "The Lion King"); and talking with a producer about filming my own work, too.
And, with all this film-like energy around me, I've been inspired to write a short film. It's called "Dark Angel" and I'd love to produce and direct it. I'll provide more information about it when I've let it rest for a while and re-written it.
Just from being here a month, I think I might like to stay in L.A. a little longer (my current visa runs out at the end of June … aaah!), so I’d love to get a writer's job on a show as that would be excellent and, also, a massive help in my career for when I go back to the U.K.
If there are any showrunners reading this who need a British slant on your writing, please drop me a line.
To get this type of job, though, I've been given the advice that I have to write a "spec script" to demonstrate my writing skills for a particular American show. So I will be writing an episode of Charlaine Harris’ and Alan Ball’s darkly-excellent vampire series "True Blood" over the coming weeks.
So, thank you for listening, I'm off to find myself a "True Blood" script to read at the Writer's Guild of America screenwriter's library, and continue in my goal to conquer Hollywood. Feel free to take a look at my work.
And, until next time, stay well and keep dreaming. Wink.