In LA no one has a real job. Angelinos can be seen in coffee shops and on freeways in numbers and at times of the day that are unimaginable in other cities. Cos we’re in the biz man.
And though we will never admit it, it makes us very, very nervous. Compare two writers side by side in a jam on the 110. Same laptops, same Gap wardrobe, same new iPhone, same Mustang convertible (lease, baby, never own). But one has a three picture deal and a Palme D’or, the other, a spec he’s been working on for three years. He’s up to page 32.
They look the same, but the realities are very different. So in order to equalize the equation, and make us all feel that we are further away from being a homeless person pushing a VONS shopping cart up the street, we have created a range of coping mechanisms.
The first one is obviously to find a real gig with real actors and real directors on it. The fact that I’m now writing a script for Jeremy Sisto has bought me so much cred on the street, that I wonder if I’ll even give myself the time of day anymore. It’s weird to think that basically people think I’m successful because I’m writing a spec script for someone who’s done a shitload of great work in their life. And I’m only on page 32. But hey, this is the currency in which we deal on the west coast.
Failing this, you have a few other options to give the illusion of imminent success and fame.
1. Pride through Prejudice
When you meet people in LA who have real jobs, and there are a few, ostracize them immediately. Make them feel like the freaks that they are. At a party you will often see scenes like this.
Biz Person: So what do you do?
Real Person: I’m a baker.
Biz Person: Sorry?
Real Person: I’m a baker. I bake bread.
Biz Person: So you do catering for movie sets?
Real Person: No. I just bake bread.
Biz Person: Do you bake for anyone famous?
Real Person: I don’t think so. I just bake, out the back of the shop.
Biz Person: Oh my God, so you’re really like, a baker!
Real Person: That’s what I said.
The biz person then turns to the gathered throng of people scouring the room to see who can help them with their careers, and shouts…
Biz Person: Hey Everyone! This guy’s a baker!
The baker or plumber or accountant or whatever else the poor unfortunate might be, is then paraded around the party like a native captured and then brought back from the colonies to be viewed by the royal court.
People poke and prod and laugh at the gentle naivety of this odd creature. They call their other Biz Friends:
“Hey, I’m at this party in the Hills and …. No, not really, there’s some guy here that used to be on Who’s The Boss?…. Oh I don’t know, but he’s like a hundred now…anyway, there’s a baker here….No, like a baker, that makes bread…..I know, right!? So freaky!”
2. Slash Town
This is another trick that really helps you feel like you’re putting in the hours. No one in this town is just one thing. Everybody has at least three jobs.
For example, at the same party where the Baker has been transformed into an organ grinder’s monkey, you’ll meet an array of Biz Folk.
At any one event, there will be the Actor/Singer/Dancer who is talking to the Writer/Producer/Director who is trying to get the attention of the Actress/Model/Singer who really wants to shag that Composer/Musician/Artist who needs to get his CD to the Manager/Producer/Executive Producer and so on.
And when you introduce yourself, you pronounce the slash. It’s only the people who are just starting out or really at the top who do just one thing.
When I say I’m a writer, I say it with a resounding full stop that has the weight of a cannonball. Writer, (BOOM!). The next thing people will ask is, “Have you done anything that I’d have seen?” I used to say “No,” or a desperation tinged “Not yet.” Now I reply with an enigmatic, “Soon…,” and leave them wondering.
The next question is, “But you want to direct too right?”. They need to hear the slash, they want the slash, join us in the slash.
And of course I want to direct, but I’m not ready to have two pretend jobs just yet.
3. “I’m faking a Meeting”
This one is by far my favorite.
If you are having coffee with your friend, even if they are just a baker, you are taking a meeting.
If you are eating dinner and having a catch up with someone from out of town, you are meeting overseas investors.
If you are driving home to see your parents in Colorado, you are location scouting.
And if you go away on holidays somewhere, you are in discussions with foreign distributors.
In LA you can never just “be”, you must always “am” and “are”.