Carlo is a university student and teacher in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has a “safe” job...but would “much, much rather” move to L.A. to be a screenwriter. He wants to know if he must live in L.A. to write. If he moves here, what are the risks? What kind of money will it take to live here? Here’s what I had to say:
No, you do not need to live in Los Angeles in order to write. You can write from anywhere in the world. My questions, Carlo: Do you have two or three really great scripts in your briefcase? Not decent scripts—great scripts; scripts that will thoroughly impress the movers and shakers here in Hollywood. If those scripts aren’t top notch, you might as well stay in Toronto. (By the way, I’ve kinda covered this ground already on my website and in this blog. If you have yet to read through them, I suggest you do so at once.)
The fact is, there’s a ton of competition here in L.A. The good news is, about 99% of the budding screenwriters in this town have scripts that are various shades of dreadful. If you’re one of those 99%, you have no business being here. If you’re of the one percent that actually has a really great script (one that screams: “I AM A MOVIE—MAKE ME!!”) then you have a pretty decent shot at some sort of success.
As for life in L.A.: Well, it’s darn expensive. I don’t know what kind of rent or mortgage you pay up in Toronto, but a 2-bedroom apartment pretty much anywhere here in town will run you roughly $2,200 a month. Sure, you can find areas that are cheaper (and some that are even more expensive!), but not by very much. The median price of a home in L.A. hovers around $500,000. In Orange County (south of L.A.), the median price is roughly $425,000. So, not exactly cheap.
Then you have transportation. Everything is so spread out around here, so you’ll need a car (and lots of $3.30/gallon gas to go in it). Sure, we have buses and a subway and train system here, but it’s only so effective; not exactly practical, especially if you have a family.
Speaking of family, you’ll want to settle in a “safe” part of town. They exist, but ya gotta do your homework. (I’m a big fan of Simi Valley, just over the hill from the San Fernando Valley. Very safe, very clean, very family oriented.)
Anyway, I think you can see where I’m going with all this. My advice is to get those scripts written, save a ton of cash, do some major homework on L.A., Ventura County, and Orange County, then get your tail down here. By the way, did you say you were married? If so, only make the move if your wife is 100% behind you. If she’s not, divorce her immediately. (Just kidding.)
I truly think it’s important for all of us to go after what we MUST have in life. If writing movies and/or television is something you absolutely MUST do, come on down and give it 110%. Life’s an adventure; if you’re just gonna play it “safe”...well, um, let’s not even go there.
Thanks for the question, Carlo. Good luck!