Saturday, January 06, 2007

LA Stories

By overwhelming request [thank you schmucks - I mean the blogger 'schmucks' not... well you know what I mean!] I thought I would tell a little of my adventures in LaLa Land. The ones that are printable that is. They won't have much to do with screenwriting but may be a way for people to avoid the same mistakes. did I get there? I was living in London but through a series of events ended up with LA agents/managers. It was a partnership, one was a big time agent and one a studio exec. They had the idea of having a combined agent/manager operation, which sounded like just what I needed at the time because I knew I was green as grass both in terms of writing and the business. I just didn't realise how green.

They were about to put a script of mine out wide and asked if I'd be prepared to come over for a few weeks to take the expected meetings. I'd been scratching a living doing all sorts, including selling second hand furniture [mostly my own] and decided the time had come to take a leap. It was the beginning of the summer holidays. The lease was up on our house. Sod the few weeks. Let's just pack up and move. I had 5 or 6 scripts and top notch agents and managers, surely one of those scripts would take in a few months.

Oh dear.

Two days after I arrived I found out the partnership had split up. The agent had gone back to the agency she came from and I was left with the manager. The fact that the agent hadn't fought to keep me as a client of hers instead should have told me something. I just figured they must have flipped a coin or something. And I didn't really know the difference anyway. Representation was representation. See what I mean? Green doesn't begin to describe it.

There followed a couple of weeks of abject inactivity where I couldn't even get a meeting with my now 'manager' only. This didn't seem good so I decided to try and make things happen myself. I got in touch by phone with the prodco of an actor who I felt would be good for one of my scripts. I explained I was a represented writer just to try and get me a bit more of an 'in' . Ten minutes after I put the phone down my manager called. What the hell was I thinking calling up prodcos myself, especially personal friends of hers. How unprofessional. There followed a blazing row and me slamming the phone down.

End of representation.


Three Months Later


I'm working in the most run down car wash in The Valley. I'm the only non- Latino, apart from a couple of Indians and one Russian army deserter. I'm also the only guy working for tips only because the Indian owner hates the British. Something to do with him not being allowed into Britain after Idi Amein chucked the Asians out of Uganda. But I needed the job and with the small matter of no work permit you take what you can get. The work was brutal, seven days a week, 10 hours a day. And this was a hand wash, not machine. But that's what I had to do to make the 2 or 3 hundred bucks a week I needed to live on.

With my last cash I had leased an apartment 3 months in advance, paid my DWP deposit and bought a second hand computer. Of course when my up front payment of 3 months on the apartment was up I was screwed. I had already missed a payment to the DWP who a day later cut off my electricity. I tried to put it to them that was a bit unfair as I'd only missed by a day and they were holding a $200 deposit. Tough they said. Pay up or stay cut off. I was pretty fed up by this time and had already discoverd that with the use of an extension lead I could power my computer from a plug point in the apartment block hallway and bought a torch from the 99 cent store.

Fuck you. I'll stay cut off. Send me the deposit back. So until the lease ran out I lived by the glow of my computer and a cheap torch.

When the lease expired Mikael, the army deserter who didn't fancy a tour of Afghanistan offered a solution. A room had become vacant in the house he shared around the corner from the car wash. He had an annexe which he shared with his older girlfriend Irena [a fantastic cook] and her jailbait daughter.

So my routine became - up at seven. Start work at 8. Work til 6. Shower and dinner. Then most nights write from 8 to whenever I couldn't keep my eyes open. I wrote two and a half screenplays in 6 months.

They got me a few meetings and a few interesting phonecalls. Even potential representation. But then something happened that so pissed me off that I finally chucked it in. That's for another day.

During my time there I met some great people. My flat mates, including Vitas, the Lithuanian dentist who had been ripped off by a movie starlette/hooker and lost his house. He found out it was my birthday and insisted on taking me out for a meal.

Mikael and Irena with whom I had many happy nights eating and drinking Russian style on the veranda outside the house with the scent of oranges from the garden.

Dave the Mountain Dew addict and computer whiz who pirated a trial version of Final Draft and cracked the time expiry code. Just for something to do. When he discovered I was a writer he gave it to me and I used it happily for a couple of years.

The guys in the car wash, all living hand to mouth but always up for a laugh. They'd share their last Burritto or pinch of 'stimulant' to get you through the ten hours. Some movie people who took time out to provide help and information. Some of the car wash customers, like Steve the car hire guy who became a friend and got one of my scripts to the producers of Batman.

So what did I learn? I learned that you can always find time to write if you really have to. I learned that there is a lot more to this business than just writing. And I learned that most of what I learned about writing and the business I could nowadays have learned from staying at home and getting good advice from the internet.

Was it a great experience? You bet it was. Would I do it again knowing what I know now? Not in a million years. Next time I go it's with an invitation.


Schmucks with Underwoods said...

Great post ED! Funny stuff :-)) Well, at least you gave it a shot mate and I'm sure that if you had managed to stick it out there longer you would have met with some success. Yeah, I agree, LA per invite is the way to go. Best.SWU.

English Dave said...

Thanks schmucks. lol. There's a movie in their somewhere but I'll have to change the third act to the producer chasing me to the airport with my hot script in his hand, rather than the unknowingly transporting coke to Russian gangsters in Sacramento and getting turned back at the Canadian border which actually occurred.

Danny-K said...

"...and one Russian army deserter"

Ferkin' hell! Laughed like a drain! Very funny.

P.S. Truth be told - haven't most of us got/had a pirate copy of Final Draft at some point?
(Got my 'copy' from eBay - £10).

English Dave said...

Good point Danny. I think the real Pirates are FD and Microsoft.