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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Q. I'm about to start looking for an agent, but as I'm Canadian and want to (eventually) write for US shows, I'm trying to determine a course of action. I read on one of your previous posts that a Toronto agent can't get you work in LA, so would I get both a Toronto agent and an LA-based agent? Is that possible? And can I get an LA agent without being in LA? Hypothetically if I did get one, I'd be OK with taking the occasional trip there for meetings, but since I'm Canadian I'd need a Green Card to actually move there. I assume that if I did get some US credits first, an LA-based company would be more likely to sponsor me moving there.
You really need to decide whether you want to start in LA, or Canada.

The most important resource you have is your writing ability and your scripts. Your second most important resource is your connections. If you make Canadian connections, they won't help you in LA. I've got a reputation up here; down there no one knows me. If I were to go down to LA after the strike, I might get some polite attention, but I'd have to spend serious time down there to get to know people who might want to hire me. I'd probably be lucky to get work as a writer-producer staffing a show. A good friend of mine has occasionally thought about going down to LA to try his luck; he would actually move there for a year to see if he can break in. An "occasional trip" won't cut it.

At a bare minimum you could get an LA agent in one trip, and then come down later for staffing season, but you would need to spend all of staffing season in LA.

LA credits will definitely help you in Canada, but you still won't know anybody. So pick the market you want to work in.

It is generally easier to break in in Canada, provided of course that you are Canadian.

I don't know how you get working papers in the States, since I've never had to do it, but there is a whole community of expat Canucks in LA, so it must be possible. Anyone want to weigh in?

Q. Well, which do I do? I'm a feature writer. Do I move down there asap as soon as I have a couple scripts under my belt (written, not sold)? Do I write until I sell something, and THEN move to LA? Do I try to get a movie made in LA while writing in Toronto?
If you're a feature writer, it's less urgent to move to LA. You can get a feature agent without living in LA. You'll be missing the meetings with development people, but those never turn into anything anyway until you've sold a script.

On the other hand, you learn a lot from being in LA. You absorb a sense of showbiz. If you work in an agency as an assistant, you get a sense of the biz. If you work on a set, you get a sense of the biz.

Canada's more nurturing, but it's a kiddie pool compared to LA. If you like to swim in the ocean, and don't mind undertow and sharks, go to LA. If you want swimming lessons, and a lifeguard, stay in Canada.

There's no right answer. People come out of the Canadian Film Centre and start working in the Canadian biz, and make a good career here. People go to LA and become Jim Cameron. People go to LA, spend 5 years, can't get arrested, lose their dog in the divorce, come back, and are big successes because they absorbed a work ethic and creative standards that blow the competition away. People go to LA, fail, and become embittered real estate agents in San Berdardino.

You gotta ask yourself a question ... "do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya?

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3 Comments:

I was reading that question, wondering if it was the one I sent you a while back. Then I spotted 'television' and knew it wasn't me. I love television, but mostly because it's where all the good writers are nowadays, resulting in decent entertainment compared to modern movies.

I'm kind of in the same situation - I'm canadian, living near toronto, yet I want to write movies in LA.
The whole shmeel seems complex to me. Do I move down there asap as soon as I have a couple scripts under my belt (written, not sold)? Do I write until I sell something, and THEN move to LA? Do I try to get a movie made in LA while writing in Toronto?
Agh.

By Blogger Carlo Conda, at 10:24 PM  

You'd think because of all the MOWs and TV series shot in Canada, that there would be some kind of crossover or ability to get noticed by US studios from Canada. But I've not yet heard of a Canadian writer working in Canada and then breaking into the US :/

By Blogger wordsmithy, at 10:57 AM  

Here's some advice from Terry Rossio [Mask of Zorro, Shrek, POTC]:

http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp33.I.Love.LA.html

Hope that helps.. & happy writing Jay Julian Payne :)

By Blogger Jason, at 4:07 PM  

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