I’ve gotten this question quite a lot over the years when I talk to people about being a screenwriter. To me it seems hard to imagine why anyone would bother asking such a question.
Of course you don’t have to move to Los Angeles to be a screenwriter; people have succeeded while living in other places. However, if you’re serious about being a screenwriter why wouldn’t you?
Look at it this way: the chances of succeeding as a screenwriter are slim to none even if you do live in Los Angeles. If you live outside of Los Angeles you’re chances are a lot less than that. If you’re serious about something why not do everything within your power to try and make it happen?
There’s nothing like living in Los Angeles to keep your screenwriting juices flowing. Virtually every time you go to a Starbucks in Studio City you’ll see someone reading a script. The local L.A. news pays way too much attention to the entertainment business. When you’re out and about you’ll often drive by one of the major studios. While these may not seem like tangible advantages the proximity to the business can’t help but to rub off on you and keep you inspired.
But more importantly if you live in L.A. many of your friends will be writers, directors, and actors and they’ll be potential collaborators and connections which can help you get your script to the right people. I’m about as anti-social as anyone I know and I knew no one when I moved to L.A. but I still have many friends who are in the “biz” and have helped me on many of the projects I’ve worked on. And I’m not talking about nepotism or unmerited favors. I’m talking about making real friendships with people who share your dreams and aspirations. These people can help you and you can help these people. A talented director needs a quality script to direct. The greatest actor in the world isn’t so great unless he has great material.
My good friend, actor Jeffry Stein, has worked on several of my projects. I met him years ago while waiting in line at an open call for extras. He had just arrived in L.A. and so had I. He’s starred in two feature films I wrote, as well as countless shorts and we’ve collaborated on several scripts including one that was produced as a stage play in Burbank. I know his acting style and I know what he’s good at and I can often write certain parts with him in mind – and I know I can get him to be in the film since he’s a close friend. He’s helped me out as well – both scripts we collaborated on he found producers for and got them optioned. He ended up producing and getting the money for the stage play we wrote together, so I got a nice writing credit just by helping him re-write his script.
Most of the directors and producers looking for material live in the L.A. area and if they see that you do too they’ll take you more seriously.
I optioned a film noir screenplay called Inheritance many years ago to a special effects company in Hollywood and I ended up spending quite a bit of time working with the director on re-writes. Over the weeks we became good friends and have continued to work together on other projects. If I didn’t live in L.A. he might have optioned the script from me but we become because of the day-to-day, face-to-face interaction.
It’s pretty simple: Living in L.A. is an edge and you’re going to need every edge you can get to sell a script.
For specific information about getting established in Los Angeles read my post, Moving to Los Angeles and preparing for the long haul.