Screenwriting : Where you have to live to sell a screenplay... by Laura Dulin

Laura Dulin

Where you have to live to sell a screenplay...

Time to ask for opinions again. :) I'd love to hear from a diversity of people about the idea that you have to live in LA to sell a screenplay. I've heard this from many people. The reasoning being that you have to make the right connections before anyone will even look at your work. In this day and age when people can communicate so easily over the internet, it's hard to understand how this can still be true. It makes sense if you want to write for TV, staff writing, etc, but to sell a screenplay?? The idea of picking it up and moving to LA hardly makes sense. I'd be so broke trying to afford to live there, that I wouldn't have any time to write. I'd be busy working 2 jobs to pay for rent. Plus, I often write about the things that I'm exposed to in life. If we're mainly around people and scenarios from LA, that's eventually what I'd start writing about, and I would think that this material wouldn't be interesting to the rest of the USA for long. What to think??

Anthony Cawood

I'm guessing that it's certainly easier to break in if you live in LA... but it's not impossible to do it from elsewhere, plenty have. Why not try it from where you are for a year, then evaluate and decide on next steps. Anthony

Vincent Paterno

It helps, but it's not a prerequisite. Being online also can work, though it may help to visit Los Angeles at times to make connections and "seal the deal."

Laura Dulin

Good suggestions. thanks

Vincent Paterno

I moved to LA last July, but for a variety of reasons in addition to pursuing a screenwriting career (film history research, a desire to live in a large city I like, etc.).

William Martell

The problem is, a screenplay is a job application for a writing assignment (a job), and they kind of like their employees to show up for meetings at the office. The average year only about 100 screenplays sell (we've had as few as fifty something recently), but many many more writers get assignments working for a producer. There are people who live out of town, but it's tough to do. One of the things that happens is your screenplay will go out wide, and you'll end up with (let's say) fifty meetings spread all over town. Each of these meetings is a job interview for a potential writing assignment, and (just like with actors) there are callbacks and a bunch of follow up meetings at each of those fifty places. I have friends who come here on 2 week vacation and do all of their first round of meetings and then do follow ups on Skype, but you loose some of the face to face personal touch.

Patrick Freeman

I live in LA county. So far I've had two works produced. One was a short film produced by a 17 year old kid in Oklahoma. In the electronic age we live in contacts can be made with people anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse. Almost daily on here I get network request from all over the globe. Plus, productions are coming out of every state in the US. Anything can happen anywhere at any time.

Laura Dulin

Thanks for the detailed explanation William.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Defer to Bill Martell on considerations for being working writer. That said, I live in NYC and have sold two features. And there was nothing local about those sales. I could have been living in Dakar and made the same sales. One man's experience. Maybe I'd have sold ten by now if I lived in LA.

Laura Dulin

I gave some thought to what you said Kerry. It seems you are referring to whether or not one wants to work full-time as a screenwriter or have another job and try to sell a screenplay every few years (God willing) in your spare time. I think this is a good question to ask yourself in terms of your ultimate goal.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Right. I guess you move to LA if you're going all in. Depends on life circumstances... Take me: I have a family to support (including a wife who grew up in LA and hates it). While I'd love to ultimately make a living as a screenwriter, it'd be reckless to turn my life upside-down and risk everything by quitting my day job and moving cross-country. My approach is the low risk/low reward approach of churning out scripts, peddling them, and hoping to get a sufficient breakout to parlay that into a career. If I were still a 23-year-old bachelor, my approach might be different. (And when I was 23, I had other goals that kept me in NYC. And good thing, because the scripts I was writing back then were God-awful.)

Laura Dulin

Yes, this makes sense. Moving to LA is about going all in. As I read more about the industry I see that my goals are more to create little by little than to go all in. Frankly, I just don't like to sit my butt down and write all day (or all day and night if you're all in). There are too many other things I enjoy as well.

Laura Dulin

Funny description. This is why I mainly write for my own pleasure. No sense in whipping oneself for nothing.

Monique Mata

Chris Sparling, writer of Buried, lives in my home state of RI. He was living here when he sold Buried. He chooses to live here because his family is here. He sustains a writing career without being in LA. Depends on what you envision for your career depends on if you move to LA or not. If you want to write for TV, then it's essential to live there but not if you're looking for that spec sale.

Steven Hopstaken

Sold to screenplay options from Minneapolis.

Laura Dulin

I appreciate the time you gave to explain your opinion Steven. I'd rather hear what people really think than to give false hope. I went to the LA Story Expo and heard from a lot of writers that made it. The best way to sum up their advice is that anything is possible with your screenplay. Get your best work out there, float it around, and see if anything comes of it. I think people should understand the difference between possible and probable, and I try to keep grounded in this.

Jeremy Kriss

You want to write for TV, you have to be in LA. Movies -- it helps, but is not mandatory IF you can get out to LA three, four times a year.

Owen Mowatt

That`s what happened to Kelly Marcel after her treatment for, Terra Nova got picked up Stateside.

Sean Frasier

I see a lot of people on here mentioning if you want to sustain a TV writing career to be in LA (especially) or NYC. Completely agree, but uprooting without some produced writing is still rolling the dice with odds I wouldn't like. For screenwriting, my own Los Angeles-based agent has shrugged off the importance of geographical location. It has helped to be located in NYC a few times if Manhattan or Brooklyn-based producers wanted to grab coffee and discuss one of my scripts, but 90% of my correspondence is through e-mail and I sold a script to a company in the UK strictly using e-mail and Skype. To me the most important things are: 1) Writing a good script. 2) Be memorable. 3) Play nice. 4) And most importantly, make them (producer/agent/manager/audience) give a crap. You can do that from anywhere with enough dedication, the right words, and a helping of luck. The university I attended brings me back each Spring to speak with graduating screenwriting students as a sort of "Scared Straight" program to prepare them for the horrors of post-grad job searches for writers, and location is a question I get more often than how to pitch your own work. You write the script, you polish your pitch, and after your product is as sharp as it can be you worry about location. Just my personal feelings on the subject.

Margaret M Hall

I think, if you are not in LA you would be somewhere else. If you are young why not move to NYC or Hollywood areas? I say go for it.

John Charnay

My personal opinion is: It's all about creating an excellent original script and on virtual as well as on-ground networking...and on self-promotion traditionally and through social media. If your script is excellent enough, and original enough, and people are aware of it, people will come to you instead of the other way around! Do not get hung up on where you are situated. Leave "location, location, location" to the real estate industry and just focus on "script, script, script." (And, if you are ever in Los Angeles, let your contacts in the area know!!!)

John Charnay

@John Hunter: I very much agree that an agent and effective networking can greatly help (I already mentioned the networking!)! ( I just don't want to see people to move to L.A. or NYC thinking just doing that will solve everything!!!)

Krishnapuram Subramania Iyer Nagarajan

In this age of internet and multilingual film script writers need not go to every part of the globe to sell. I am a social activist researched on dirty money, money laundering, malnutrition, lack of education, health care etc and I have found a desirable democratic awakening solution. This solution will be welcome by those suffering malnutrition & those who are causing. They all want to leave a civilized world to their own children. This is the message in the script. I am looking for a producer or a group of film professionals to contribute share capital to share the perpetual dividend while serving the society. I am 67, retired Electrical Engineer from ONGC. Thank you, Yours K.S.Nagarajan Chennai, India.

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