It’s not what you know but who you know. They may as well make that the official slogan of Los Angeles.
Take the freeways for instance. The entrances and exits of these are an in-joke of almighty proportions. If you can find the entrance it will have a sign the size of a postage stamp. Seriously, the yard sale poster stapled to the telegraph pole was easier to read.
As for getting from the 10 to the 110 to go to the 101 north… good luck. You literally need someone to sit down and explain to you which lane to be in at which time of the day so that you actually end up remotely close to the place you were heading for, as opposed to… wherever the hell I end up half the time.
Despite this I manage in my first week here to make it to the writers conference up at Universal Studios where I started my LA voyage.
Writers love these things apparently. Whether you pump out one logline a year or 20 whole screenplays, you can come to one of these conventions and feel like part of the brotherhood. See, actors meet each other at auditions and in classes. Directors meet each other at cool director functions. Producers meet each other on yachts.
But writers spend their days alone and unloved in front of laptops; lonesome warriors of the night. So a convention comes to town, and it’s like one big support group for most of the writing community who’ve never had a thing produced. A Writer’s Anonymous meeting if you like.
So there I am, sitting in a discussion called, “How to get your first film made”. But sadly, the panel are using it to tell war stories and further depress everyone in the room. However there is one guy who is asking great questions and I make a note to go and talk to him later. Turns out his name is Lee.
Me: Hey there mate, you seem like the smartest guy in the room.
Lee: Are you Australian?
Me: Yeah, I am. From Sydney.
Lee: (excited) Really!? I love Australia. I was on tour there for a year!
Me: Are you in a band?
Lee: No, I used to be the lead clown in Cirque Du Soleil.
Clare 1. Karl 0.
Lee, I discover, is the clown I was fated to meet. And he also becomes my first friend in LA. And what a first friend to have. Lee took me under his wing and showed me all the places to go. Here’s where you take people for meetings, this is where the best parking in this area is, this is the coolest live show in town, this is the best coffee etc. Lee literally first opened LA up to me.
The thing with this town is that unless someone shows it to you, you will never know it’s there. In any other city in the world you walk and just you know, find things. Or people call you and say, we’re at such and such, come on down.
LA is all about destination driving to something that you booked the person for three weeks in advance. So unless someone shows you, you don’t know.
And in keeping with Lee’s track record the guy lands me my first real for real meeting at a studio. He’s recommended me in there and based on his say so, they read a script I just finished and have me in for my meeting.
So there I am at The Studio, in the outfit that took me three days to pick out. These are the people who did Men in Black, so it’s a pretty serious operation. But thank God for advertising, I’ve done a million meetings so I do handle myself well in a room.
And it’s a love-fest. I am the witty, well-travelled, deeply talented Aussie who regales them with jokes that pass the afternoon. They are the only people in the studio system who know I exist. The very fact that they have let me in the room makes me want to get all their names tattooed on my forehead. I will lick those boots, you just have to ask.
We talk about a development deal, web comics as a precursor to the film itself. I am giddy. They ask me who I see playing the lead. This is the first time I have answered this question to a person and not my mirror. And they really want me to have a look at one of their properties that they are developing internally into a comic launching next year, and they want an idea of how to adapt it into a film, and would I mind?
I believe I can spare a few moments in my day. I don’t have a job after all.
So I sweat bullets for two weeks. Every day up at 7am and writing till my fingers bleed. I barely leave my apartment. I grow a beard. I have questionable hygiene. But I finally settle on three directions that I’m going to present.
I return smugly, because I know they are going to love me and treatment 2. Or 3, 3 is pretty good. Maybe 1. Probably all. Yeah, probably all. This is going to be the meeting that gets written up as the day Karl Dunn was officially discovered. I wonder if I’m going to set some kind of a record from landing at LAX to standing ovation at the Oscars.
Back in the room, I read. And they listen. And they laugh. And they make copious notes. And then they ask me a rather interesting question.
The Studio: Those are some really great ideas. I guess though, we’re wondering why they don’t have anything to do with the two comic books that we’ve already written for this title?
Me: What comic books?
They look at each other for a moment, then back at me.
The Studio: Did we not send you those?
I see plague and pestilence visited upon them. I see the earth rupture and spew forth liquid magma from its core that burns them alive. I see a bathtub of their blood in which I bathe.
Me: (smiling my sweetest, desperation tinged smile) Ah, no.
Now these feelings are nothing new. I used to get this all the time in advertising. You’d give clients what they asked for and then get the, “didn’t we mention… ?” thing all the time. The difference now is that no one is paying me a stupidly unjustifiable wage to do it. And there’s no one else on the drive home to bitch about it with.
But with their comic books tucked under one arm and one backwards glance over my shoulder at The Studio building, I uttered the words of our great Governor, “Ahll be bhaack.” God I wish I still smoked, I could totally have Snake Pliskined my exit.
I call Lee and tell him the story, and he laughingly replies in the worst Australian accent I’ve ever heard, “Welcome to LA mate!” So it’s back to my desk and back to the drawing board.
Now where’s that fucking freeway entrance?