Q. Just finished my first quarter at UCLA and I'm still jazzed. Can I asked you a couple of questions? What do you think was the best thing you got out of the UCLA program and which professors influenced you the most? Lastly, why did you decide to go to Canada, rather than stay in Hollywood?
The best thing I got out of the program was my first job, which I discovered on the UCLA job board. I got an assistant position with an independent producer, and as I learned stuff, moved to "Vice President," which means number two guy after him rather than number three guy. I kept that job for four and a half years, learned about contracts, packaging, meetings ... oh, wait, you probably want to know what I learned inside the program, right?
That would have to be the course I took with Richard and Barbara Marks in editing. They're professional editors; Richard was nominated for at least one Academy Award. Their course was so good, I took it three times. The only specifics I can remember are "cut on a movement" and "get in late, leave early," which also apply to screenwriting. But I learned the rhythms of editing.
By and large I did not learn as much in film school as I learned out of it. That's because UCLA is all about being a director, and lessons about being a director do not help you learn how to get 220 amps out of three-wire. That's why I say work in the biz before you go to film school; go to film school when you've hit a wall professionally
, not just to get your foot in the door.
The best screenwriting advice I ever got was from the late Sterling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night
): "don't get divorced. The alimony will kill your originality." After his divorce, he never wrote another spec script. Too busy doing high priced hack work (The Towering Inferno
Why Canada? Because I had hit a wall, and when you hit a wall, you try to climb over it, and if you can't climb over it, you try to go around it. I'd been "up for Roswell
" a couple too many times, and I couldn't catch a break. I thought I might be able to do better here. I was right. Canada is a much more nurturing creative environment. The government is actually trying to encourage
culture. Imaginez-vous ça.
Would I go back to LA? Not if I can avoid it. I found it to be a cold, unfriendly town without seasons or soul. The friends I thought I had weren't real friends; I only have one friend left from my 14 years in LA, as compared with maybe eight good friends I still have from high school. If a show I created here got bought down there and they said, "OK, but you have to set it in LA and shoot it here," I'd come down for that, duh. If someone read a script and wanted to hire me on to something, I'd find it hard to turn down the opportunity to learn how it's done in the major league. But you won't see me floating around during staffing seasons hoping to catch a wave.
Labels: breaking in