January 30, 2012

A Sign?

The friend who hosted me in Hollywood Hills spends a few hours each day writing in cafes around Los Angeles. Today, in a cafe in Los Feliz, she happened upon a drawer containing notes from former patrons. She sent me this an hour after my last post:

Interesting coincidence.

(Also, is that money in the drawer? Hm...)

72 People?

When its 100 degrees in New York, it's 72 in Los Angeles. When its 30 degrees in New York, in Los Angeles it's still 72. However, there are 6 million interesting people in New York, and 72 in Los Angeles.

East coast, west coast. Subways, freeways. New York, Los Angeles. Of all the differences, Neil Simon's three-sentence observation hits the nail on the head.*

Few bother with the similarities. LA has their Hamptons in Malibu; Big Bear is their Poconos; Las Vegas their Atlantic City (in terms of equivalents, NOT quality). Coney Island’s Boardwalk is not unlike Venice Beach (the latter openly advertises its “medication”). Both cities value healthy lifestyles, have a good mix of locals and transplants, good social cultures, good sushi. Both are beautiful cities.

Many differences - positive and negative - are accounted for. Rent is less in LA, sure, but the savings are offset by car payments/insurance. A month of gas costs as much or more than a Metrocard. Instead of subway delays you have the longest rush hour in America. No, you can’t get a good slice on any block, but the worst fish taco crushes anything in New York.

I’m five years out of college, over four spent in a job I don't like. I have three screenplays generally considered above average. This was my third time in The City of Angels, and I had a great visit. LA is a movie town. So why am I not packing my belongings?

To start… LA’s city-planning. No, really, it’s an issue for me. In New York, Chinatown is different than SoHo, K-town different than Murray Hill, with everything from the architecture to assimilating corporations (Citibank signs written in Chinese) contributing to its character. In LA, you know you’re in K-town because neon signs advertising Korean BBQ screams “this is K-town!” I know we’ve left Sherman Oaks because we’ve passed “Studio City Massages” on Ventura. The Hills were designed, I’m convinced, by a child playing Legos, dropping houses here and there, and turning them every which way.

Beverly Hills. Los Feliz. Silver Lake. Few other towns in LA had a distinct feel. It’s intangible, sure, but so is that New York feeling of walking from tree-lined West Village brownstones through midtown’s concrete jungle. Clay rooftops and palm trees are gorgeous, yes, but the repetition isn't conducive to writing.

Nor is it conducive someone who learns a city through geography. As a teenager new to the city, I lived and died on the grid system. My dorm was on 10th  and 5th., so if placed in a random part of the city – say, 34th and 1st – I’d walk south until I hit 10th, west until I hit 5th. Eventually street counting was unnecessary, and the confidence led me to tackle the subway and outer boroughs.

In a city that blends together, where towns snake through mountains, where do you start? OK, so Hollywood is between East and West Hollywood. East Hollywood is just west of Silver Lake (right?), which is just west of (I hope) Los Feliz and then, um, Studio City? Yeah, I haven't digested that all too well. Fourth time’s a charm? I don’t know. People say I’ll get it, but I truly never understood the geography of northeast Ohio.

And that’s a big reason I love New York: I feel more comfortable here than anywhere else. It's not just the geography, but the culture and the sense of belonging. Where else can a discussion on foreign films evolve into football? In LA, I feel like I heard the same conversation about pitches and character arcs and beat sheets seven times. It was uninspired and uninspiring, not unlike like the architecture. I discussed this with a new Angelino who correctly pointed out that - like anywhere – LA has plenty of self-serving people, but it’s not without intelligent people in pursuit of success in Hollywood with good intentions.

What would it take to make the move? I usually list the differences of the two cities, but I should consider the differences for myself in the two cities. New York is home and is home to many people I care about, but has little industry; LA has an abundance of industry, and…people I am destined to dislike? That’s a little too easy.

One of the many things on Wall Street that bothers me is “post-work drinks”. It’s never really a time to socialize and loosen up, but to talk shop, or make and solidify connections. People are always on. I question whether the idea of “being on” bothered me, or if it’s my disdain towards finance; I wonder if I myself would always “be on” in the film industry. If I have a fear, it's  becoming another talking head in a town where uninspired ideas are currency.

But again, who knows?

The truth is, LA is a big question mark and will always be until I move. I’m not saying I will, but 2012 is the year where I have to be open to that possibility. It could end up being the worst move of my life. Or maybe I’ll find a new city, success, and – if I’m truly lucky - one of those 72 people Neil Simon referred to.

*OK, Simon is a tad outdated. New York's population has increased by 2 million (33%) since he was quoted. Taking that into account, LA should have roughly 96 interesting people by now.

January 19, 2012

2012: A New Hope (For Direction)

Starting a blog must be a common New Year's resolution. Granted, I haven't heard it used, nor is it among the "lose weight", "get rich" variety. But if a resolution is an attempt to strengthen an aspect of your life, blogging makes sense for a writer attempting to strengthen or even showcase their skills.

So yeah, that's one reason I'm doing this. I often feel compelled to offer a viewpoint on certain topics, and want a platform to discuss the next ______ [Bin Laden killed/Occupy Wall St./Tim Tebow], sports, film, and (seldom) political insights, and just general random musings. I also want to do this to track a time in my life that has a number of possibilities and changes(hopefully)

The number one thing that needs to change in my life is my 9 - 5. I tell people I hate my job, but generally that's to avoid talking about it. It's a well-paid position that's given me new skills and opportunities out of college, and, yes, I am lucky be employed. But both the environment and job are dull and uncreative, and being here four years (and realizing that fact) has affected my general inspiration. It's time to go.

But where? Maybe I'll move to LA to work for a production company. Maybe I'll take the Michael Arndt route, stay in Brooklyn, and live off my savings to write and market screenplays. There are downsides to both, sure, but each is a step towards achieving my ultimate goals.

The year itself is as open as my next move. I am submitting Katie55 (a feature film I produced in '11) to festivals. The LA question - job aside - burns stronger than it did when I came out of NYU. I hope to write a new screenplay, but I currently lack a firm idea. Should I go to grad school (if so, to study what?)?

These questions will turn into goals this year. It's difficult to be dissuaded when I have direction, and it will be interesting to see where I go. 

And it's fair to say this blog mimics my life. And until we both find direction... here's the all-too-common sports/politics/film blog!