Advice for 2010 Grads Coming to LA; 15 things

The Bitter Script Reader posted some advice about how to survive to move to LA.  I tried to comment over there and it won’t let me, but this is what I said.

1) Get settled so that you’re as comfortable as possible — living out of boxes makes everything seem transient. Have roommates or whatever, but make sure that you’ve got a space, however small, that is yours. Spend some time driving around the city and getting to know places. Find the studios. (Have a car!)

2) I really love Glendale, it’s safe and cheapish. Frogtown is super cheap. North Hollywood is becoming a lot safer, the parts closer to the 134 are totally fine for a single girl to live in.

2) I would say you probably need at least 7k in the bank before coming out here and at least two finished scripts and some outlines for more. Basically, you need enough money that you can go several months without making much money at all and enough written that if you’re too discombobulated to write, you’ve got something to work with. I applied for internships and jobs for 6 months before I moved out and it still took me 3 months to land a part time paid gig, though I did have an internship lined up.

3) Apply to every job you can find, do things for free, take an internship in the industry if you can afford it and then work at whatever you can in the rest of the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s an industry job, making contacts of all sorts is important, life experience, all that jazz. I’m not super social and I don’t like to drink, but working on other people’s projects is a great way to meet people and learn useful skills.

4) Find something else you can do in the industry besides writing. Can you edit? Can you gaff? Find a way to make yourself useful. Pursue every avenue. Learn to script supe, that’s easy and low impact.  Find something you like to do that isn’t writing.

5) A lot of people would say find a writing group. I personally am not in one, but I have a large group of friends who I can get advice from. Writing groups are pretty useful if you don’t have that.

6) Apply selectively to contests, but do apply. I’ve definitely gotten contacts from agents and managers and earned some street cred by placing in contests people had heard of.

7) Mandy.com, realitystaff.com, and craigslist are your new friends. I personally don’t really like the UTA job list, but it’s out there too.

8) Figure out a way to make your commute worthwhile. A voice recorder is great if you can think outloud for writing purposes. I listen to a lot of audiobooks.

9) Do things that have nothing to do with film because people who only talk about film are boring. Read books, magazines, go do stuff that’s got seriously zero to do with film and then you’ll have something interesting to talk about. The reason Hollywood loves young blood is because they have experience outside of the Hollywood system and they haven’t quite yet been turned into normal LA people who can only talk about themselves and movies.

10) Write genre scripts that can be produced cheaply if you’re really out to make a sell.

11) Don’t ever be a douchebag. Don’t have a temper. If you talk shit online, don’t use names.  (Unless revealing scam artists!)

12) Conversely, if you’re working for free, you have the right to be treated well and to learn something from the experience. Don’t be afraid of anyone. And don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, just don’t be aggressive. Along these lines, know how much you should be getting paid, even if you’re not being paid that. This is useful info.

13) Be on the look out for scams. Not all competitions are worthwhile. Not all agents are legit. If someone asks you for money upfront to be your agent, that guy is a scam artist. (google Eddie Kritzer)

14) If you’re a lady writer with a girly name, I’d recommend using your initials. That sounds terrible, but there’s genuine gender bias out here and I’m super lucky that all the other Ashleys out here are guys. This is especially true if you’re replying to internet ad, because internet people are super creepy.

15) Give yourself deadlines so that you’re not constantly second guessing yourself and make sure they’re reasonable. I, for example, haven’t always been totally sure LA is the place for me, but I’m only allowed to seriously think about moving during the month of August. So I don’t dwell on it in general.

(I never had a problem with the tap water, don’t know what people are talking about)

20 good posts for a new blog on writing

I have a friend who is thinking about doing a weekly blog about writing for a newspaper.  She started IMing me because she wasn’t super confident about what she should write about or how someone went about doing a blog like for real people, not for like friends.  (Her example being that she couldn’t post things like “I found a picture of poo on the interwebs”)

So I came up with a list based on a few things.  1. People like lists 2. People like hate 3. People like advice.  Copied from the IM window.

1st post has to be who you are and what you write and why
2nd could be a focus on say a particular genre and what makes it unique (she is focusing on a YA Sci Fi story)
3rd post about how to pick a topic or location that you’d be good at writing, so that’d be about research and why it’s set wherever
4th post about the difference between YA, kids and adult fiction
5th post about an author or person who gets YA literature absolutely wrong (I picked YA over SciFi because SciFi authors get torn apart fairly regularly)
6th post about if it’s possible to separate the author from their work (See Orson Scott Card)
7th post about struggling with the second act
8th post what to do when you have several different endings that could work
9th post about creating a world that is different from modern earth
10th post about something full of rage and hate — maybe how online fiction isn’t taken seriously, or you know, something angry
11th post should address different mediums and how to write for them (short story, long fiction, online, print, TV, film etc)
12th post should be about an author you loved and inspired you to get into writing with some heartwrenching bs
13th should be about whether it’s OK to include messages or to write “message fiction”
14th should be a response to reader questions, which you may have to make up
15th should be about how there’s not enough respect for minority of your choice in fiction at large
16th make fun of Mary Sues
17th 10 ways writing is like poo
18th 10 ways author-you-hate’s writing is like poo
19th a controversial opinion piece like how coming out stories are boring or how cancer made my life better stories are bullshit
20th what’s hardest about writing for you coming up with ideas, or plotting or whatever and how you get around it

Finally, a parody post where you just put in different options that another blogger could simply highlight to tell their story “How my minority status/disability/difficult childhood helped/hurt my writing career”

I will now consult her blog, should she start writing, and check things off the list if she uses them.  Maybe I’ll write a couple too…

Eddie Kritzer Cont’d

His response to my email: “Which incorrect blog are you talking about?”

Boy does this say a lot.  I think he just saw my blog and sent me a blanket threatening e-mail that he sends all blogs that say bad things about him.  And there are quite a few*.  Which makes sense, since nothing in his e-mail actually applies to me or our discussions.  In other words, he saw a blog saying things about him and sent the e-mail without bothering to figure out what his behavior towards that person had been.

To be more specific: He never offered me notes on my story.  He asked for a $600 advance to just read it.  I told him that was against the WGA policy for Agents and Managers, and not something I was interested in.  I told him over e-mail and phone.  He called me again, and again I explained to him I was not interested.  So, telling him I was not interested did not end the phone calls.

As for credibility and credits, I’ll let his words speak for him.  And this page can speak for me.  Take whichever side makes more sense.

* Just do a Find search on Eddie Kritzer or Scam on any of these pages:

http://www.thoughts.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1739

http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2005/02/youd_think_anyb.html

http://207.5.19.9/boards/showthread.php?t=40257

http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/archive/index.php/t-33766.html

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32362

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090608123451AA80wfq

http://www.writers.net/forum/read.php?f=10&t=1547&a=1&

Photoshop Liquify Tool: Makes everything better

Seriously.  I could stare at this for hours.  I mean, I have to actually use the knowledge to fix my painting, but you know, it’s kind of cool that I can just fix it on the computer instead.  And make an awesome annoying animated gif, 1998 style.

Photo0260small

Nicholl: What I’ve learned so far; 15 and 16

What I’ve learned: You don’t break into the industry with a Mockumentary.

People really enjoy reading them, but no one wants to make them or believes you can write based on them.  Which is weird because there’s a screenplay sitting there that they really enjoyed, but despite the success of The Office and Best in Show, and reality style in general, Mockumentaries are apparently too difficult to set up in Hollywood.

I wrote the screenplay because I liked the story and I love mockumentaries, I really never thought it’d be getting attention from Hollywood.  From small indie producers, maybe.  Maybe I hoped Christopher Guest would somehow find it on his reading list.  But I didn’t figure Hollywood would be interested.  And I was wrong in that they seem to have liked reading it enough to stay in touch with me, but not enough to take it on board.

15: Congratulations on your recent 2009 Nicholl Fellowship success! We read about you and would love to read your script BIBLE CON.

At *** Entertainment we manage about 50 writers in television and film, and produce feature films as well.

I’ve attached our **** Entertainment release form, and need it filled out for each piece of material being submitted. Despite its stringent language, I can assure you this is an industry-standard release form. Please fill out the form and either scan and email with the script, or fax the release to *** and then e-mail the script, or you can throw it all in the mail as well – our address is in my signature below.

16: I actually got this a long time ago and missed it

Congrats on your script being a semi-finalist in the Nicholl competition!
Sounds interesting–may I read it?  My company manages screenwriters and playwrights and we are always reading new screenplays to find potential clients we can introduce to the Hollywood studio system.
Can you email me a copy?

Lots of Twitter Visitors

Where are they coming from?  I obsess over the stats on this blog way too much.  Probably human nature.

In other news, I went to the best restaurant, Panda Inn in Pasadena.  Yum.

Go Into the Story’s Scott Myers answers a question I asked about how to turn a contest placement into an agent.

Inktip Update; Logline published in Newsletter

I just received an e-mail from Inktip that impressed me quite a bit, mostly because I’m always surprised that there are people making sure the website is running the way it should.

Subject: Regarding ‘Bible Con’

Dear Ashley,

Your script was chosen to be published in yesterday’s industry newsletter, along with six other loglines. This is a newsletter received by thousands of our entertainment pro clients and is designed to garner more exposure for our writers.

In any case, though we do not judge our writers’ materials, I did notice that you placed your award mention at the bottom of your logline. I thought it might be beneficial for me to tell you that when those are posted higher (at the top of the logline), they can tend to do better. In other words, what’s at the very top of your logline will get read the most, because it requires less reading and no scrolling–currently, your great achievment [sic] is hiding below the scroll.

I hope that you got some hits from yesterday’s newsletter, and please let me know if you have any other questions or thoughts.

Best,
Gato Scatena

Take it as a lesson, people, impressive awards first, actually content second!  :)

EDIT: In response to my thank you e-mail I got this.

Hi Ashley,

No worries for the tip. One other thing I see work: keep a close eye on the successes every week to see what kind of materials are currently getting picked up. It’s never a bad idea to modify or shape your logline to accomidate [sic] current successful trends–the ultimate goal with the logline is more about getting them to read your script than it is convincing them to buy the script without reading.

Have a good day and let me know if you have any questions.

I <3 this person.

Advice: How not to Audition; 18 things Actors shouldn’t do

I acted as Casting Director for the Thesis Films my last year of grad school and experienced the scariest audition ever. I would like to share the story, as a warning to other actors. Do not behave like this. Ever.

We called this actress, MKS, like 2 weeks before we landed in LA. She’d sent in her headshot and we’d thought her credentials at least earned her audition, but she never returned our call. When we land in LA, Scott, the casting assistant, has like 2 messages from MKS. Before we can call her back, she calls again.

She says she doesn’t know what the project is because her agent submitted it (even though she submitted through an actor’s site). So I explained what the project was and she said “That sounds dumb.” But she still scheduled an audition. I warned her that we were without internet and didn’t know how long it would be to get her the sides but that it’d probably be tomorrow.

That night, perhaps 3 hours after the initial call, she called again because she hadn’t gotten the sides yet.

During the next day’s auditions, she called like 10 times. In the last message, she said that she was going to have to cancel because she still hadn’t gotten the sides and didn’t think she’d be prepared, which was a shame because she’d be great for the role. Later in the day, Jess, other Casting Assistant, called her and said that we were in auditions and it would be much later that night that we’d be able to get her the sides. She called again to complain sometime that evening. We sent her the sides that night.

The next day, she was about 15 minutes late to her appt. We went to bring her in and she rebuked us, saying she wasn’t ready. She came in a few minutes later, loaded down with enough stuff to build a tent and give a power point presentation inside it. She set her stuff down.

She handed me her portfolio, which is really more of a modeling thing, not an acting one, but I obliged her by opening it, only to see a picture of her totally naked, full bush. I really wasn’t prepared for that. I immediately closed it and refused to pass it to my other casting staff.

Then she hands us three different resumes, one on pink paper. By each film, none of which have I heard of, “Blockbuster box office hit” is written. Other highlights include her age (19) and her skills (cat-fighting). Also, she put a glove on to go through her stuff, I guess to protect her from the paper.

She can’t find her sides, so I end up giving her my copy, which she takes with her instead of returning. She says that she’s uncomfortable doing something with so much “action acting” in it, which is why she brought some monologues she’d like to do. We say she doesn’t need to worry about the miming, just the emotions. She gets up and starts acting. Stops us a few lines in to start over. Second go through she tries to kiss the reader over the table. When she stops us again to tell us she could be so much better at it, I tell her to sit down before the reader’s girlfriend tests those previously advertised cat-fighting skills.

At some point in all of this she tells us that she’s pretty damn good and is perfect for the role. When she finally makes it through once, we say thanks. She tries to read her monologue and we all collectively go no thanks. She then makes sure we all get her business cards which are just pictures of her half naked jumping with her name on them.

After she leaves, we see her walk by once or twice while we’re holding auditions, like she’s pacing in the hallway, and Jess goes and checks to make sure she can’t find her. Tom and I start writing a horror movie about a crazy stalker actor because the other two say I can’t post the video on YouTube and no one will believe how awful she was. After a couple more auditions, Scott goes to get us lunch, an hour and a half passes, and I have to go use the restroom.

I open the door, and she is there, simply standing and waiting. “I need to talk to you.” Serious shades of Fatal Attraction here and I’m freaking out. But, I decide I really have to pee, so I go into the stall. “Do you mind if I talk to you while you’re in there?”

At this point my ability to not be sarcastic has stopped existing.

Me: No. I guess I can hear you.

MKS: It’s just that, I think I could do a lot better if you let me do this monologue. It’s Orin Ishii.

Me: Well, I think we’ve gotten what we need. The director will certainly be able to see whether you’re right for the role.

This exchange goes back and forth in various iterations. I come out of the stall.

MKS: Do you think I’ll get the part?

Me: Well, to be honest, the director is looking for someone a little bit older than you.

MKS: How old?

Me: Mid to late twenties.

MKS: Well, I know on my resume it says I’m 19, but I’m actually 23.

Me: … ok… well, its not about the number, it’s about how old you look.

MKS: But it’s just that I’m actually 23… let me show you my driver’s license.

Me: I don’t need to see your driver’s license. It’s about how old you look.

She starts going through her many bags.

MKS: Also, I’m sorry for how I look, I just started taking Accutane and it makes your skin break out before it gets better.

She rambles on. I am getting anxious and want to leave. She shoves the license in my face. I take it.

Me: Great. I’ve gotta get back to the auditions.

I hand her the license and start to leave. There are a couple of actors waiting, because I’ve been in the bathroom for like 10 minutes at this point. She comes up behind me.

MKS: Well, if he doesn’t cast me because of my age, that’s stupid. Because I am this character. I am just like her and I am great actress.

With that she leaves.

Lessons Learned:

1. Call casting people back faster than two or three weeks later
2. Don’t lie
3. Don’t call the project stupid
4. Don’t call people 15 times in one day
5. Don’t threaten the casting people
6. Don’t be late to an Audition
7. Be prepared for your Audition; don’t take 10 minutes into the audition to be settled
8. Don’t hand the Casting Director naked photos
9. Don’t print your resume on pink paper
10. Don’t have three different resumes
11. Don’t restart; if you want to do it over, ask at the end
12. Don’t try to physically touch the other reader; don’t try to kiss them
13. Don’t tell people how great you are, they won’t believe you
14. Don’t hang out outside the room after your audition is over
15. Don’t stalk the Casting Director in the bathroom
16. Don’t stalk anyone in the bathroom
17. Don’t talk to people while they’re peeing
18. Don’t lie on your resume

8 things not to do in rejection letters

It frequently happens that you get rejected in this business.  9 times out of 10 the rejection comes in the form of no response.  Occasionally, it comes in really patronizing, mean, or embarrassing e-mails.  So, if you ever have to write a rejection letter, here are 8 pieces of advice.

1. Do get the name of the person right.  For example, if their name is “Ashley” and it says “Ashley” 3 times in their e-mail, don’t begin your rejection with “Hi Arlyn”

2. Don’t insult their current line of work.  For example, if they work as a logger but have sent you a long list of credits in other fields don’t say, “I see you are a logger and therefore not qualified.”  That’s like saying Einstein wasn’t qualified to talk about physics because he worked as a patent clerk — refer to the relevant experience.  Which leads me to the next one.

3. Don’t insult their experience, if they aren’t what you’re looking for, just say so.

4. Don’t offer them a pity internship.  They applied because they wanted money.  If you need an intern, post for one.

5. Do have a website and an e-mail that doesn’t end in hotmail or yahoo.

6. If you want to be treated like a professional, act professionally  Every person you insult is going to be a person who says bad things about you and refuses to work with you in the future.  Yes, you went to Film School and worked on the latest direct to DVD film of a fallen, embarrassing starlet, but you’re still trying to make good contacts.  Don’t burn bridges.  You never know.

7. Craigslist is where you find affordable up and comers, not experienced industry professionals.  Experienced professionals don’t work for 1/6th the going rate.

8. Don’t admit your name is a synonym to “doofus”.  That’s just going to make them giggle.  Initials exist for a reason.

douche