Category Archives: Moving to LA

16 great shows: buffy the vampire slayer (1997)

(Bitter Script Reader challenged their followers to make a list of 16 Great Shows that have influenced them as writers and viewers. This is my list.)

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I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2000, during its fourth season, widely regarded as one of its worst. But it still hooked me. I spent the summer catching up on episodes and started fresh with Season Five, which in my mind is one of the best seasons.

Since then, Buffy has been the epitome of good television to me. 17 years later, I’m still finding new things to love about this show. I’m still picking up on references I didn’t get the first 42 times I watched it.

Anyone who knows me knows I regard Buffy as the foremother of today’s peak TV. Without Buffy, would we have the complex female characters we have today? Probably, but would they be as nuanced? Would it have taken a little longer to get here? I think so.

And it’s not just about Buffy as a character. As a show, it paved the way for complex storylines and mixing of genres. That’s not to say no other show had complex female characters, complex storylines, genre mixing, but Buffy did it so beautifully and so consistently well. And against all odds, it survived seven seasons. In a time where shows weren’t allowed to be risky. In a time when Firefly was canceled. In a time when any science fiction or supernatural or fantasy show was immediately deemed as “weird” and “nerdy”. This was pre-Lost, pre-Game of Thrones, pre-Harry Potter. Somehow it survived and became a part of the zeitgeist.

The way Joss Whedon blended humor, action, and fantasy is something that had never been done on such a large scale and so successfully. Not to mention his use of allegory. High school as both a figurative and literal Hellmouth. Bigotry and racism through the lens of demons and monsters. Addiction to magic is addiction to drugs.

Along those same lines, I’ve always been fascinated with the character development in Buffy. In particular, the character of Spike. Spike is a character that has never been fully evil. He has his demons (both literally and figuratively), but so many of his actions are driven by either a fear of abandonment or a fear of inadequacy. His fear of abandonment also goes hand in hand with his own brand of love. He’s not as selfish as Angelus or Dru or Darla. He does evil things, but not always for evil reasons.

When he was human, he was a shell of a man. He had no confidence, he couldn’t stand up for himself, and he had no friends or real identity outside of his mother. Then he is transformed into a powerful monster and in that transformation, he begins to find himself. By the time the series ends, he’s become the man he’s always wanted to be.

In order to become a man, Spike had to become a monster.

And if that’s not engaging television, I don’t know what is.

Buffy herself is the most inspiring of all, though. She was one of our first lipstick feminists. I liken her to Cher Horowitz. She kicked ass, took names, and then went to go fix her lipstick. Buffy made it okay to be an independent woman and also care about how you look. She mastered the balance of encompassing elements of both traditional gender roles.

Again, she paved the way for modern day feminist heroes.

And this is why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the most influential show in my life, and I believe one of the most influential shows in television history. It’s worth watching, even if some of it doesn’t hold up, if only to know where we came from and how we got here.

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Dazed and Confused

I’m not an expert on Hollywood.

But I’m as much of an expert as I believe I can be at this point in my career.

Meaning, I’ve done the research, I’ve asked the right questions, I’ve put myself out there.

So while I’m not an expert, I think I can safely share a revelation I’ve had recently.

I’ve wasted a lot of my time here.

I’ve lived in LA for 482 days. That’s approximately 16 months. In fact, I’ll hit 16 months next Sunday.

When I moved here I felt pretty confident. Four years prior I had moved from Tucson, AZ to Portland, OR where I had no job and I knew no one. I survived that. I could survive LA.

Because I knew plenty of people. And I knew I could get a job (I got a great paying nanny job three days after I arrived in LA.) I also had more money saved up this time.

And I really did know people. I knew people who are pretty well-known in the comedy scene. I knew a photographer who knows pretty much everyone in LA. I knew someone who’d been a writers’ assistant on a show. I had friends from Tucson whom had moved to LA when I moved to Portland. Even though they didn’t work in Hollywood, they knew plenty of people who did.

And I knew people from Twitter. In fact, it’s where I found my mentor. He took me under his wing and introduced me to people; he submitted my resume; he invited me to his writers’ group. He’s been my greatest ally.

It should have been easy. Because I’ve always risen to the challenge.

But this time was different. I’d miscalculated. Sure, I’d miscalculated how hard it would be to break in to Hollywood, but more importantly I’d miscalculated my connections.

I was a Freshman trying to get in with the Juniors and Seniors.

And this meant I would forever be three steps behind. This wasn’t good for my self-esteem and it wasn’t good for my career.

At first glance, it might seem as if I had the right idea (and the right connections), but here’s the thing. It’s great to choose a mentor who’s a Senior, but as for choosing friends—it doesn’t work. At least not organically.

Because they already have their friends. Friends who can give help just as much as they receive it. Friends who know what it’s like to worry about your career beyond just finding a job. Friends whom they can vent to and not feel guilty. There’s a symbiotic nature in those friendships that will never exist between Freshmen and Seniors.

They’ve built their social network. And breaking into that is difficult and oftentimes futile. Not that it can’t be done, but should it be done?

I came to this realization when I attended my first mixer for feminist assistants (mostly women, but also people all along the spectrum).

Truthfully, I’d been slowly coming to this realization, but the mixer cemented it for me.

Here were my people. People who knew (and remember) how much it sucks to be at the assistant level. People who had ambition and know-how, but hadn’t quite gotten that break.

Because it is a break.

I heard so many stories similar to mine.

Women who had the experience, know-how, and the references and still didn’t get the job. They nailed the interview but they still didn’t get the job.

They should have gotten the job, but they still didn’t get the job.

It was relief to know I wasn’t the only one.

I still met people who could be great resources. People who hear about jobs, people who could give advice on how to further my career, people who were just slightly further in their career than I am.

But when it came down to it, they were still Freshmen like me.

And man did it feel good to know I wasn’t alone.

Because being surrounded by people more successful than I had the opposite effect. It made me feel more alone than I ever have before. I didn’t have anyone who truly understood what I was going through.

And maybe now I do.

And maybe, just maybe, if I’d figured this out sooner I could have saved myself a lot of time and strife.

So hopefully if you’re reading this and about to move to LA or just moved here or even if you’ve been here longer than I have and you’re wondering why you haven’t gotten further in your career—maybe this can save you some strife as well.

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Moving to LA.: Setting Down Roots

Sometimes I can be a little selfish. (Aren’t we all a little selfish?)

So I hesitate to post this bit of advice, but what’s this blog about if not a record of my experience and hopefully a guide to others in my position?

The real secret of surviving in LA is….

Setting down roots.

Okay, so that wasn’t actually a reveal because that’s the title of this post, but whatever.

The most common and helpful piece of advice I’ve received from friends is to set down roots. A year ago while visiting the area, an old friend of mine told me, “Don’t move here with the idea that you’ll be a writer in a year. Move here because you like the area and you want to be around people who have the same interests and passions as you.”

Then on my second day in LA I attended a community group through a local church (Reality LA–I highly recommend attending this church if only because their services are held at the Glee high school). The host of the community group turned out not only to work in the industry but happened to have worked as an AD on The Fosters. This is important to note because I’d recently had a conversation with The Fosters EP Peter Paige at ATX where I’d viewed the season premiere on the big screen with none other than Peter Paige and actors Teri Polo, Sherri Saum, and Kerr Smith sitting directly behind me. As fate would have it, my new friend was the AD on that particular episode which was written and directed by Peter Paige himself. This is where I say it’s a small world. Because it is.

Anyway, this new friend gave me a lot of advice that night and when we had coffee a few days later, but the thing that stuck with me the most was when he said, “You’re doing everything right. You’re setting down roots. And that means you’re more likely to stay here and stick it out.”

How do you set down roots?

I’ve detailed a lot of this in previous posts, but some of it bears repeating.

Work. Work as much as you can, make sure you can afford to still live here. The closer the work is to what you eventually want to do the better.

Live with people you like. This doesn’t have to be your best friend. But if you live with someone you like in an area you are at least okay with, if not prefer, then you’re more likely to stick around.

Make friends. Whether this be in the realm of “contacts” or actual friends, a mixture of both is good to have. Keep up with your friends as much as possible, go to their shows, support them. This is another area where I hesitate to reveal my secrets, because I don’t have much going for me (having no experience in production and not being a terribly charismatic person), but I’m good at making and keeping friends. But then I remind myself that if someone isn’t good at making and keeping friends, my telling them this is the secret to success is not going to make them any better at making and keeping friends. Instead, this bit of advice might point out something that a reader might not have put much thought into or not realized is a strength. This is a strength, especially in a place like LA where so much of the culture is independent living. I’m an introverted hermit, but even I realize how important it is to not live completely independently. Which leads me to…

Build a community. This is only slightly different from making friends. Obviously, it involves making friends, but it’s also about building a community of people that support and encourage each other. This is where going to friends’ shows comes into play. Support your friends and they’ll support you (or at least that’s the hope). Beware of one-sided relationships, though. The goal of any relationship is never to be selfish and expect support, but it can also be unhealthy if a friend is happy to take your support but not offer any of their own. This is an important life lesson for anyone, not just those trying to make it in Hollywood.

Tangentially related to the last two points, meet up with friends of friends. These people come with built in personal references, and actually that’s most of the friends I’ve made so far. Depending on where you’re moving from, you might have a wealth of people in your immediate network that you can meet with and see if you click. I’m about 2 for 2 right now, but I’ve met a bunch of people through those 2 people I clicked with, so it’s been fruitful.

Get to know the area. Go to restaurants, walk around, go hiking, find some good hangout spots (coffee shops, creative workspaces, etc), visit neighborhoods, anything that will endear you to the area. I still have yet to do this, but I’m excited to start.

Go to live events. Outdoor movies, podcast recordings, conferences, festivals, concerts, tapings, anything that will get you out into the world. Here are some resources I’ve used to find fun things to do in the area:

wgfoundation.org

nerdmeltla.com

sunset.ucbtheatre.com

franklin.ucbtheatre.com

laweekly.com/calendar

Please comment below if you’ve found additional helpful resources.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you set down roots, but just that you do. I loved living in Portland and didn’t want to leave, but I couldn’t let myself dwell on this. I needed to accept that I will be living in LA for the foreseeable future. Probably at least the next 10-20 years. So this is my new home. This is where I will achieve my goals. This is where my roots are now.

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Time to Commit: Moving to L.A.

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Mother: Maybe you should wait to move until you get a job.

Thankfully, I was able to politely dismiss this with the sound argument that I didn’t even have a job in Portland anymore (both my jobs were student jobs and since I’d graduated, I was no longer a student). Plus, it’s practically impossible to get a job in Portland (we have the highest unemployment rate in the country, last I checked).

So with no job and no permanent place to live, I mailed my books and packed my tiny Prius C to the gills with the rest of my belongings (getting rid of about half of my belongings and the few furnishings I had to my name) and drove down to LA in a day and a half.

I was as prepared as I felt I could be. I’d saved what I could (though the term savings is debatable — I owe thousands of dollars in 0% APR credit card debt and school loans) in preparation of paying a deposit and first month’s rent. I’d leased a car in Portland, where sales tax doesn’t exist (this also made moving prep much easier in my final weeks). I’d sent resumes and cover letters out to production offices. I’d networked via twitter and in person at conferences and festivals (including some promising conversations with three EPs that would be a personal dream to work with). I’d reconnected with old friends and made new friends in LA I’d built up a decent portfolio and a great pool of references. I’d read almost every blog, listened to every podcast, soaked up every bit of information I could find about living and working in Hollywood.

But it wasn’t enough.

There’s no such thing as being 100% prepared for living in this town. During this series, I’ll attempt to provide information that hopefully be helpful to anyone thinking about moving to LA.

Some of the topics that will be featured:

Finding a Place to Live

Finding a Job

Setting Down Roots

and more to come.

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