Kelly Jo Brick is a television and documentary writer and producer. She wrote the Telly Award-winning film PAUSE and the Frank Lloyd Wright documentary The Jewel In The Woods. Kelly Jo is a Sundance Fellow, winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a member of the WGAW Nonfiction Writers Caucus and Women In Film – Los Angeles. Prior to moving to L.A. in 2013, Kelly Jo grew and developed her writing career while working in television and radio advertising in her home state of Wisconsin. You can follow Kelly Jo on Twitter: @KellyJoBrick
It comes as a hard truth to many, but if you want a career as a television writer, you’re going to have to make the move to Los Angeles. It can seem like this huge, monstrous, overwhelming journey, but it doesn’t have to be. Before you pack up all your stuff and trek out to California, there are several things you can do to make for an easy transition.
Explore the city: Make advance trips to Los Angeles to get to know the area. Los Angeles can seem like this huge imposing city with insane traffic. The traffic is a reality, but you’ll discover that it won’t take long for you to stop white knuckling it on the freeway and get comfortable with the slow go and craziness of traffic. The city is made up of many communities. Santa Monica has a very different speed and feel than Sherman Oaks. North Hollywood is a lot more budget friendly than Brentwood. Travel around. Check it out. Get to know what works for you.
Budgeting: Los Angeles is an expensive city. You are going to have to save and save a lot. It can take months to find a job. Rents are high. To put it in perspective, rent for my one-bedroom apartment in Burbank cost more per month than the mortgage payment on my 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house in Wisconsin. Your reserves will disappear quicker than you expect. You can make the transition much easier on yourself by saving as much as you can in advance. Yes, you’ll have to make sacrifices, no vacations, no going out to eat, but if this is the career you really want, it’s for the best.
Build a Network: Writing is a very isolating pursuit, but you’re not in this alone. Develop your own network of writing friends. Attend conferences or take a class online. You’ll get to meet writers from all over the world and together you can create a mutual support system, exchange reads and be a sounding board for each other.
Write, Write and Write Some More: Finding housing and applying for jobs can be incredibly time consuming. You’ll find that days pass without you having a spare moment to write, so get your writing portfolio ready before you move. You’re going to need multiple scripts to show as examples of your work that prove you’re not just a one-hit wonder. Doing the groundwork at home lets you be ready to go when you do get to California.
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING:
Reach Out to Your Network: When you get to Los Angeles, visit with the people you know in town. Take them to coffee, ask for advice and leads on jobs. Also connect with your college alumni association. They can be a big resource for you. L.A. is very much a who-you-know city. People are more likely to hire someone who has been recommended than someone they’ve never met.
Be Open To Doing an Internship: No matter what level you were at in your career outside of L.A., you’re likely going to find yourself starting over from the bottom when it comes to the entertainment industry. Don’t be afraid to take an internship. The experience and connections can help you make further steps forward toward your entertainment goals.
Get Involved With Screenwriting Organizations: There are many organizations that help support and promote writers. Groups like Scriptwriters Network, International Screenwriters’ Association, Women In Film-Los Angeles and Stage 32 regularly hold workshops, panels and networking events.
Take In A Talk: On any given night some of your favorite writers, directors, producers and actors will be doing a screening, a talk or panel. The Writers Guild Foundation, Paley Center, and Film Independent regularly hold these type of events.
Set Goals and Keep Writing: There will be distraction upon distraction when you get to Los Angeles. You want to find a job, a place to live, a bank, a dentist, make new friends. It all takes time away from the reason why you moved and that is to be a writer. You have to set aside time for writing and keep that time sacred. Setting goals, whether it’s a number of pages or time spent writing on a given day can keep you on task. If you’re still having problems, look for an accountability partner and together you can keep each other focused and pushing forward with your writing.
Don’t Flake: It sounds simple, but it’s probably one of the most important things when it comes to advancing your career, especially when you are new to town. Do what you promise you’re going to do. Show up and work hard. You might not realize it, but people are paying attention.
Is it possible to have a writing career as an outsider?
Get tips in Timothy Cooper’s webinar,
Building a Successful Screenwriting Career from Outside L.A.