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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : California Dreamin'

Be Mused

California Dreamin'

Dear Muse,

Hollywoodn'tI'm a writer — a screenwriter. Okay, so I've never sold a script, but still in my mind I'm a screenwriter (and with 15 scripts in my desk drawer, I think others would agree with me). Here's the catch: I live in Indiana — not exactly a hotbed of Hollywood goings-on. And since they say making it in "the business" is all about who you know, what can I do short of packing up all my stuff and moving to the Golden State to chase my dreams?

I do have a wife and kid and a good writing job after all. Any ideas? — Disheartened Screenwriter

Disheartened, I wouldn't change a thing — except, maybe, your outlook. The truth is, you already have access to those Hollywood insiders; you just don't realize it. Before I get to that part, let's dispense with the visions of capped teeth and palm trees.

Leaving your good writing job and moving your family clear across the country is quite possibly the last thing I would recommend. Here's why.

In 1998, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only 4,830 writers and editors eking out a living in Los Angeles. I know "writers and editors" is pretty general, but you can bet at least some of them are professional screenwriters. They made an average of $53,370 a year at that time, and that money doesn't go nearly as far in California as it does in Indiana.

A comparison of Los Angeles and Indianapolis by Sperling's Best Places reveals that the cost of food, housing, transportation, utilities, and health care in Indianapolis are all below the national average. The overall cost of living in L.A. is 40 percent higher than the national average. L.A.'s cost of housing is particularly ghastly — 99 percent higher than the U.S. average. The cost of housing in Indianapolis is almost 15 percent less than the national average.

With 15 completed scripts in your desk drawer, you sound like someone more interested in the craft than the glamour anyway. That will serve you particularly well.

If you have access to the Internet then you have access to the Hollywood insiders. Now maybe your modem got fried during that last big thunderstorm — or maybe you don't have a computer at all. No problem. Odds are good that your local public library offers free access to the World Wide Web.

I should warn you that there are plenty of on-line "professionals" willing to evaluate your scripts — for a fee. Steer clear and start with these free and friendly sites instead.

From amateur to pro, screenwriters gather at www.zoetrope.com to discuss the trade, offer critiques, and expertise. Here you can post your original screenplays and read plenty of others, and, perhaps most interesting, industry professionals often read posted scripts when casting about for new material.

According to its creator, John Painz Stiles, wordsfromhere.com is "a meeting place for all kinds of writers, from screenwriters to novelists to short story writers." Stiles adds, "My final goal is to have a sense of community for writers, coast to coast. I think it would be refreshing to have contacts all across America, professional and amateur alike, to communicate with." To that end, the site offers peer review groups and links for all kinds of creative types including actors, poets, musicians, novelists, and, yes, screenwriters.

Finally, visit screenwritersutopia.com for daily industry news, and, who knows, you might start to think of yourself as a Hollywood insider who just happens to live in Indiana. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

Susan M. Brackney Need a little help finding your way on the road less traveled? Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion will try to solve your creative quandaries. More »