The last act is always the shortest. You’ve nearly made it. Thank you for your perseverance.
My last months and weeks in LA were pretty good, as I got to spend time with people I was very fond of. Two most lovely guys, Aaron and Kenji, formed an illustrious pub quiz team with me. At our weekly get-togethers at Barney’s Beanery, we looked like a shiny happy Pepsi commercial, if you know what I mean.
I eventually moved out of my flat in Hollywood and settled in with a couple a bit further West down Santa Monica Boulevard during my last few weeks. I had met them both a while back in Austria via friends. The male half of the liaison, Bernhard, was an Austrian chef who had opened up an Austrian sausage bar in downtown LA. He was ever so generous, letting me stay in the Spare Oom of their beautiful house in Westwood. The female half, Cindy, was an interior designer and beautiful lass from all over the place, and we easily connected via our shared love for anything British. I recognised in her a kind and kindred spirit and continue to do so.
It was perhaps two months or so prior to my move that I finally met that one person who was going to believe in my storytelling craft. Actually, that one person was two persons and actually, they were two gentlemen, Edi and John. How did they find me, you ask? Just like any other fool in Hollywood, I was lucky: I happened to be at the right time in the right place, wearing my Dirndl.
Here’s a picture of that one fateful night, featuring an absolutely stunning Cindy and myself:
I went to the opening of Bernhard’s Bierbeisl Imbiss in downtown LA where I connected with Austrian producer Edi. We chatted, had a couple of sorely missed Austrian beers, and nothing much else happened.
One week later, I received a phone call from Edi. My name had been mentioned in a production meeting and they were wondering if I had time to pop by the Hollywood office for a chat.
Of course I had time. At Edi’s office I met him and his lawyer/producing partner John. They told me about this historical project they had been developing with another writer. They weren’t really happy with the first script pages they had received and figured in order to make this project better they needed 1) a female writer, who 2) wrote in English and who 3) had extensive knowledge of Austria.
It has been my experience that women (as opposed to men) have to first prove themselves with a monster CV and killer writing samples. A man may get the job because he is assumed to possess all skills required because he is perhaps (very broadly generalised) better at selling himself and said skills. For women it’s not enough to wander around claiming to be writers, they have to prove their expertise. I have seen and experienced this often enough to know there’s a grain of truth in it.
Yet in my case, beautifully, the producers treated me like a man and took a blind chance with me. They sent me the first sixty script pages to review. The writer was obviously a seasoned writer (he had written for Battlestar Galactica in the 70s) and had done an amazing job creating harsh and gritty images, but I felt both language and tonality were off for this story that would take place at the Austrian imperial court and would follow the struggles of one of the most influential female rulers in Europe. It didn’t have enough depth. I told the producers my concerns, they agreed with me, and placed the entire project in my trembling hands.
So that’s how I landed my first paid writing gig: I was type cast, fitting the producer’s wish list like the metaphorical fist in the eye socket. And as competitive as LA is and as replaceable as writers usually are, there wasn’t anybody in LA at the time who would have fit their job description better than I. It was such a specific niche. Of course, I’d like to think I was also hired because I know something about storytelling and can write.
I believe it worked out because I stopped wanting it so much. Somehow the knot of desperately needing for some kind of breakthrough to happen loosened, and things fell into place. My silver lining gave way to a full-fledged sunrise.
Edi and John were real sweethearts throughout the writing process, incredibly supportive, inspired, urging me to do ever so much better than I thought I could ever do. I’m really proud of this script and its epic proportions (of 150 pages). Although the production is still hanging in the air a bit, it was this gig that convinced me I was not entirely wrong in this madmad world of screenwriting and filmmaking.
And it was Edi and John who instilled in me enough confidence to move back to Europe – “You can write on top of the Großglockner if you want, we don’t care.” they said. The Großglockner is the highest peak in the Austrian Alps.
So I returned to Vienna at the end of 2015 and am most privileged to say I’ve been a working screenwriter ever since. The fact I can say I studied and worked in New Orleans and LA has been an incentive for many directors and producers to hire me. It seems to bestow upon me me an odd air of authority. My hair has grown back, too, that certainly helps. And I have my first smart phone now, with internet and all modern features connecting me to the world. But it’s always on silent.
If I could turn back time I’d do LA all over again because it got me to where I am now, as a human being and as a writer. I am certainly the better professional for it. I’m so grateful for and in awe of every single soul that accompanied me along the way, on both sides of the ocean. I’m thankful for Stu, Mitch, and Draco – they made me realise much about myself and my place in the machinations. They taught me that “No” and “Fuck you” are phrases I should use more often and much earlier on.
As anybody’s LA story, my view was through a tiny, narrow lens, and my experience was a very specific and personal one. I’m sure had I been a European male, my story would have fared differently. The sexual tension would have been less annoying, but I also wouldn’t have been able to tap into this niche of female writers.
Thank you so much for bearing with me. I hope there was something in my convolutions that kept you from falling asleep. Please do not consider this a disheartening tale – if anything it's meant to be enheartening. I'm enheartening you to go out, do your own thing, and make your own memories. And then share them with us, please.
I hated and loved LA and its industry squatters as much as I adored and cursed the constantly blue sky. I miss it, and I don’t. I flew high at times and scraped my knees bloody at others. So I’m going to end my iterations with three of my favourite lines by the wise men of Aerosmith:
I'm major in love,
But in all minor keys,
'Cause falling in love is so hard on the knees.