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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, November 25, 2005

When it Rains, it Pours; or: Renewing Focus

December is always a slow month for "the industry" here in LA. I remember, two years ago, my first December in LA, I literally had no film-related work the entire month. And only one month in to my life here. Not only did I take a hit in the wallet (or bank account, as it were), I also was extremely unproductive personally.

Last year, I planned ahead. I knew things would be slow, work-wise, and decided I wanted to focus on my own writing, so I could be productive then. I was moderately successful, and also did actually have some work during that month as well. But I still wasn't as productive as I wanted to be, so I got angry at myself. It did, however, force me to truly focus my energies and knock out my D2DVD-type horror script in 15 days during the month of January (with one quick revision). That script still awaits a more solid (but hopefully still quick) revision, but it was still an accomplishment of which I am proud.

Then comes this year. Things had been going well for me overall, with a new part-time job (started back in May or June or something) taking some of the monetary pressure off. I still had a good amount of work, but I knew that there was still the possibility that my reading work would slow down. Then it rained.

I got word at my PT job that I was no longer needed, at least not until after the holidays. Their work also slows in December. And to make matters worse, I was only given a week's heads up. This upset me, because when they hired me, it wasn't presented as a "temp" position, for just when they needed me. It was presented as a permanent, part-time position. I had no reason to expect that things might change, and they weren't unhappy with my work, so I was taken by complete (and unpleasant) surprise when they told me this.

Still, I decided, this would be a great opportunity in some ways. I was forced to recognize the reduced workload I'd have in December with extreme clarity. And I noticed it early, before it really hit. So it gave me the opportunity to try to ensure that I was productive through the next month or two. I began organizing my life with two goals in mind.

Firstly, I'd get back to writing more on the scripts, with the goal of getting them all in good enough shape to start taking out early in the new year. But I also decided to renew my focus on freelance writing. I currently write regularly for scr(i)pt magazine, and I've occasionally had other things published and/or had other freelance writing gigs. So I decided to make a target list of publications for which I might be able to write, and began to start thinking up story ideas to pitch. Many were film or writing related, but some focused on other interests I have. But I figured if I could get 2 articles a month, along with my other work (such as reading), I'd be in pretty good shape financially. My expenses, after all, are thankfully not that high.

Then it poured.

In a sense.

I got woken up this morning by my friend Jason, from whom I sublet my room. Jason is someone who used to live in LA, then moved to New York. When he found out I was thinking of moving to LA, he set me up with an apartment. He lived in LA, with my roommate, and since the rent in this apartment is really cheap, he wanted to hold onto the room in case he ever wanted to move back here. So he sublet the room, to other people previously, then to me. It did make for a weird situation, where I would send my rent check to NYC, and then Jason would send his check back to my roommate here in LA (since the roommate is the one on the lease). But it made no difference to me. So I was fine with it, especially because my rent was so damn cheap. Just what I could afford!

But when Jason called this morning, it was to tell me that he'd decided to move back to LA, and was going to want his room back. So now, I not only have less work (and therefore less income), but I also have to find a new apartment, most likely one that will cost me more overall. Ugh. Too bad I couldn't have lost my apartment in the same way that forced Julie to move.

So, what to do? I could allow this to distract me, as I've let similar things do in the past. But I know that would be bad. Instead of letting it get me off track, I need it to force me to redouble my refocusing efforts. Getting my scripts into good shape so I can get them out there has become even more important now. So has finding new sources of freelance income. Of course, I'll also look for an appropriate replacement job. But the bottom line is, I need to maintain, and even intensify, my focus. And hopefully, all the other pieces will fall into place as well.

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Anonymous David Anaxagoras said...

That's bad news but a great attitude, Joel. If I still lived in LA I'd say my door is open to you!

Your post reminds me to appreciate my job for the security it provides, rather than the energy drain and distraction from writing that it can be. After three years of barely hanging on in grad school, I vowed to put a solid foundation under my feet. I'm building an emergency six-month cash reserve and eliminating all my consumer debt within the year. That's just for starters.

I'm also coming to realize that, whatever choices you make, there is always a price to pay. Grad school left me broke but gave me time to develop my writing. Working has detracted from writing, but will provide the financial stability I need to continue honing my craft.

I am hoping that I will come to a place soon when all the gears will mesh, and these different parts of my life will actually support and enhance each other. Synergy and all that. Is that a pipe dream? I'm not sure. I am certain of one thing -- there will definitely be the occasional storm. We might as well follow your example, and learn to write in the rain.

9:13 PM  
Blogger John Donald Carlucci said...

Sorry man, that is a double punch.


9:57 PM  
Blogger writergurl said...

Wow, dude, bummer.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

If Julie can find another roof, so can you.
Good luck with it Joel!

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Best of luck Joel. I know that with your postive attitude you'll make it through this in no time. Who knows, maybe you'll find a better, cheaper place and a job that pays more.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous Moses said...

My heart goes out to you Joel but as everyone else said you got the attitude to surf through it. It typically makes it worse to tense up and keep waiting for the falling sky to knock you out cold.

I've always taken comfort in the fact that things always work out. For better, for worse? I like knowing it's up to me to decide. Not the victim of circumstances type thing.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous chris soth said...

I DO live in LA and can offer a couch for the odd couple of days, bro'. Even a spare room when my little girl's not using it. But...OUCH.

As to December, yes, I load a lot of writing up at the end of the year, and then there's that pi-yatch circuit.


12:30 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Thanks, all, for your words of commiseration. But I'm really not worried. Jason isn't rushing me out, I have plenty of friends to crash at if I need to, and I don't even expect to need to. I've already gotten a few good leads. So we'll see. But I do appreciate your kind words! :-)

4:19 AM  
Blogger oneslackmartian said...

This is a good time for Bukowski.

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Leif Smart said...

Sorry to hear about all the bad news you're having at the moment.

Perhaps you could turn the whole situation into a basis for a script? Just the rent situations and being thrown out on the street sounds like an opening to a comedy of some sort.

In any case, things will pick up again soon I'm sure, just hold in there until it happens.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Grubber said...

Was going to say you will have to morph into Cunning Joel for a little while, but you got it sorted quickly....I suppose coming from NY that should be expected ;-)

Best of luck anyway FJ!

Here is one for a giggle.

Here is another famous FJ.


1:12 AM  
Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

My thought comes from Batman Returns. Why do we fall down? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Yeah, I know it doesn't help but it's the only encouraging thing that came to mind other than that they are bringing back McRibs at McDonalds!

5:25 AM  
Blogger Kira said...

Gack, your winter sounds like my summer. But your attitude is way better than mine was ;)

Clearly nothing's going to dim your spirit, Joel. Excelsior!

5:41 AM  

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