This weekend, as a part of the reunion/commencement ceremonies at my alma mater, I got to see Akiva Goldsman talk about life as an Oscar-winning screenwriter. I also got to see a certain presidential candidate, but I’m going to be a good blogger and stay on topic.
I’ve seen a lot of writers come back and give advice to the masses. Goldsman talked a lot about failure. He was a failed novelist, a mostly-failed textbook writer, and he happened to, by accident, sell the first screenplay he ever wrote. His advice was, in a nutshell: “Write write write write write write write. And then write.”
Someone asked him about going to Hollywood. He said that Hollywood was a club of “about 500 people, with everyone trying to make sure it’s not 501.” He advised aspiring filmmakers, writers, and actors to develop their skills elsewhere, and then bring those skills with them. He said that LA was no place to find yourself – you have to bring something to the table to have success.
The talk reminded me why I chose a small market like Boston, where I can form bonds with people at all levels of the production process. I once was trying to coordinate a shoot with a woman in LA, who tried to get me to sum up where I wanted to be in 5 years. I gave her a very vague, philosophical answer, and she said “No. You need to KNOW now. Do you want to be a technical director? A location manager? What?” I’m lucky enough that I’ve been a location manager, a script supervisor, a producer, an editor. . . all from the same desk chair. I should hope that if I ever get to make money solely as a writer or producer, knowing the whole process from start to finish will serve me well.