Last week I signed with a brand new, small, but strong literary agency and it was the culmination of two years of struggling. I am not complaining at all, just explaining my situation. Since I moved to Los Angeles I:
a) almost got arrested for driving a car without updated tags
b) lived in three different places, each with varying degrees of roommate drama
c) had a fire in my last apartment where I nearly lost everything I brought with me from NYC
d) have not had access to a car
e) have been struggling to pay bills on a regular basis
With all that, me signing onto an agency was a bittersweet moment because there's no guarantee that anything will change in my writing career, but it does feel good to have someone outside of your personal circle validate your work.
I moved to Los Angeles in Sept of 2008 in the middle of the worst economic climate in the U.S. since 1929. Not only that, but I moved here a year after the Writer's Strike that shut down Hollywood film & TV for several long months. For those outside of the business, whenever there is a strike of any sort, the people already working within the business will receive some kind of compensation - either financial or labor oriented. Usually the studio executives are left pissed off to no end and the writers walk away with a little more respect than before.
However, for the new writer, this situation is deadly because the executives in charge of hiring writers will go out of their way to find ways to circumvent new people breaking in while keeping costs low. So while they might hate the A-level established guy with many credits and the 12 million dollar bank account, they can find a B-level established guy with no income and pay him half of what he's worth and that guy will be happy for the gig.
They used to say that Hollywood was like a castle with a moat surrounding it filled with Alligators, Crocodiles, Sharks and Giant Squids fighting each other. Now, its more like a steel fortress with land mines, killer bees and laser-guided missiles behind an electrified fence around the border. I'm not kidding, it really seems like that.
Add to the mix liars, fakers, phonies, flakes, opportunists, morons, leeches, parasites, racists, sexists, elitists and a whole other batch of douchebags and assholes, and you've got 21st century Hollywood.
So what did I do?
Instead of packing up and rushing back to my cherished alcoves on the East Coast (NYC and Baltimore), I dug my heels in and refused to give up. Despite the fact that I hate Los Angeles as a city, and I miss my friends and family, and I can't stand the weather, I decided that following my dream of being a working Hollywood screenwriter was worth the two years of displacement, hunger, discomfort and loneliness.
When I was a kid in Baltimore, and things were going sour with my family situation from time to time, the one place I could go was the movies. I would go and watch STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SUPERMAN, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, GHOSTBUSTERS, ROCKY, MISSING IN ACTION, KARATE KID and a bunch of other classic stuff at my neighborhood theater. While I had no idea what the words "directed by" or "written by" really meant, there was a part of me that wanted desperately to be a part of that world. After all, it takes something powerful to entrance the heart and soul of an only child on the streets of Baltimore in the mid-1980s when the crack cocaine explosion had turned my city into a giant casualty.
Even when I was making close to $60,000/year teaching high school in NYC public schools, my heart cried out for something else. I knew that I had a serious choice to make, either become a principal, go to law school to try to address the serious problems affecting the educational system or take a big chance to shoot for my dreams in Hollywood at the ripe old age of 34 (which is like being 70 in Hollywood years).
So with nothing more than $2,500 and a few old connections in place, I moved out here to face of a world of uncertainty, doubt and fear. And Lord knows, I was scared.
On Thursday (11/18), I will get some news from my agent about a major group of people being interested in my work. Even if they decide to pass, it means that my work has been seen by some big time players in the Hollywood game and that's progress. Considering that over two years ago I was standing in the middle of a classroom in Harlem teaching economics and government while confusing my co-workers with talk of box office receipts, screenwriting structure and obscure movie quotes I don't think I'm doing that bad at all.
So whatever it is that you wish to do with your life, find it. Find that passion and let it govern your existence. Don't be satisfied with just living and paying bills because life goes by fast. And as Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
The same thing applies to your dreams. Before you know it, all the opportunity and passion could blow through your life like a summer breeze. Fleeting, warm, sensual, and sweet, but impossible to replicate.