In a few months it will be two years since I have left Los Angeles for Vienna, and yes, it took me this long to outline, write, and finish an entry that I started writing back in my Hollywood flat. Luckily, the delay comes from a good place: I have been busy building a professional writing career in Austria, so stuff I have to write has gotten in the way of stuff I want to write. Not really though, since most of the writing I have to do these days gives me pleasure. Especially if I know it’s going to pay the rent.
I spent one and a half years in Los Angeles, strolling the Walk of Fame like any other sad soul. Because I’m a writer (which is still a scary and preposterous thing to admit to myself) I feel the urge to put my experiences into words. This particular one, I offer to you, the anonymous readership, out in the ether.
My experience was a very specific one, that of a white European female in Los Angeles, and thus only offers a very narrow perspective on things. It will probably not speak to you, directly. My writing doesn’t claim to be the truth, nor a universality, nor a how-to prescription, nor a how-not-to cautionary tale… it’s simply how I see it, through my own eyes, and in my mind and heart. It’s my truth and should be understood as such. May my iterations bring you diversion, kill lots of time, make you think, appall you, bore you, make you smile, make you frown.
As odd as I find it that you are here reading this, you are, so something must’ve peaked your interest.
A bit about my background, if you don’t know me: I’m relatively well travelled, have laughed, cried, and fallen in love with people from all over the world, moved to New Orleans in 2011 to get my MFA in Screenwriting, and ended up in Los Angeles in 2014.
And here’s where the story begins.
Armed with five more or less solid specs I had written at uni, I arrived in LA with the plan to get to work as a screenwriter, land any sort of story internship, meet the one person that was going to believe in me and carry me up into movie heaven.
Because it’s a competitive industry, people try to get acquainted with the most “useful” human at any party. This useful person, for a screenwriter, can be an actor who happens to fit your protagonist’s character ID in your script, or it could be a director looking for that exact story, or – in my case – it was mostly producers.
There’s a handful of producers and a director, all males, who have considerably shaped my experience of LA. I’d like to arrange them in three blocks: the initial enthusiastic months, the drought in the middle, and the climactic ending of my sojourn. The timeline is a bit off because those people intersect, as I was still working with one while the next was becoming a thing. For the sake of my writing and your reading, I’ll keep them apart.
I want to keep the names of most of them anonymous, not because I believe they could accidentally read this, not because I’m afraid to burn any bridges, but because in this day and age, it is apparent more than ever that there is no such thing as bad publicity. And they simply don't deserve having their names in my blog.
And here’s where the story really begins.
I had safely arrived in the city, had been to a couple of unsuccessful job interviews, had worked here and there, meeting an array of nice (but "useless") people, and had decided to attend the screenwriters’ world conference.
I participated in a pitching fest, a sort of speed dating event for writers and producers during which you have five minutes max with every producer to pitch your idea, get a yay or nay, hear a gong, and move on to the next table. It’s scary as hell and I learned more about pitching within the first two minutes of this event than in three years at uni.
This is what it looked like, very unglamorous:
At that pitch fest, I met the first producer who would leave his imprint on my initial months in the city of angels. (Let’s-call-him) Stu was quite fun I have to say. He laughed a lot, was moderately witty, and most importantly, he appreciated my approach to storytelling. He said so, anyway. He took my business card and info and called me back a week later.
He really liked one of my scripts and said he wanted to try and see if there was a possible future collaboration in the making. We arranged a meeting where we, yes, suspiciously, would meet at his flat.
What happened there is also the reason I keep stressing that myself and associated pussy are European. I don’t think things would have escalated so quickly had she and I been American.
Stu was a small man with small feet. There was an odd tension from the beginning, undeniably. I thought I was there for business, whereas little Stu quickly relaxed into dating mode on his couch. But he held back, bless his little heart. The meeting went well enough, and we agreed on a couple of routines we could collaborate on.
He brought me to my car in the garage, and there we stood while he revealed that he would not only like to collaborate with me, but also ideally copulate. He felt there was something between us that needed consummation. Also, I was – as he noticed – European and that’s apparently what we do in Europe: We fuck colleagues without letting it get in the way of the work. We’re so much more grown up than Americans about these things, and he really liked that about “us”. Also, he found me attractive, which should help facilitate the work-fuck arrangement.
Here’s the thing: Although I’m aware I’m not deformed, I never considered my looks to be an asset, especially not the field I work in. I’m small and stocky and not getting younger. Unlike the green witch, my curves are no longer defying gravity. I’d like to think I make up for my growing outward deficiencies with wit and humour, and I’m happy that my writing output is in no correlation to if and how much my weight rollercoasts. I am one of the least prudish people I know. I like sex, if only for that brief period of post-coitus (depending on the quality of said coitus, of course), where I feel truly beautiful and at peace with my surroundings. So I’m not too stingy with my sexuality, but my morals are mostly intact. I choose my sexual partners based on attraction and not politics, and never ever have I used my vagina for the sake of personal advancement.
This however, I was informed, shouldn’t be my motivation to hit the hay with him anyway. Little Stu made sure I understood that sleeping with him wouldn’t lead to any career advancement. Needless to say, it was the easiest thing in the world to turn such an offer down, least of all because I was still in a relationship at the time that I thought was going places.
Stu would have deserved to be punched in the balls, but instead, I thanked him for the offer, politely declined, saying I didn’t think it was a good idea. He nodded, sensibly, but quickly confirmed the offer was still on the table for later, when I had changed my mind.
The biggest surprise for you is perhaps that I kept working with Stu for several months after his initial snuggle attack. I actually became his reader, which is something I genuinely loved doing. I got to read heaps and heaps of unproduced scripts, and what’s a better way to get an understanding of what producers are looking for than being right there in the middle? Stu also urged me to start out on a script that both he and I were passionate about. His input remained shallow and uninsightful, but I would have never written it had he not planted the seed in my head. Stu’s invitations to the spa got fewer, the replays of “When are we gonna fuck?” decreased, and his unrequited sexual attraction to me eventually cooled down. When he didn’t approve of my first draft of the story I was writing, he phased me out of his life completely. I have to admit it wasn’t a very big loss.
Stu was that guy who showed me how easy it was for me to accept regular sexual harassment as a necessary evil. If I’m emotionally capable I will try to learn something, anything from every disappointment and heartbreak I go through, so over time, I have trained myself to see the silver lining in any situation. This one has a bright and shiny one, indeed:
Had Stu been smart enough, he would have made me sign an NDA at some point. But he wasn’t, and he didn’t. So, this very script has recently been optioned by an LA based production company and has an adorable (female) producer attached.
Thus is the end of the beginning – sorry it's such a downer. Thanks for sticking around and thanks in advance for continuing to do so.