All posts by rmanley

Things to Do in Los Angeles When You’re Dead, or, The Radio Station Only Plays Red Hot Chili Peppers

Over the last three weeks, I have eaten Del Taco* twice, In-N-Out four times, and Pink’s Hot Dogs once. I have driven to get Jack in the Box at one in the morning and have been to Target six times. I’m not sure why that last part is important, but I wanted you to know that moving and building a homestead in the Los Angeles Basin is fattening and expensive, and that to date, I have found no traces of any gold.

Somewhere between driving through the Rockies, the Great Basin, and the Mohave Desert in one fell swoop during a late night thunderstorm, I began to rethink my decision to drive to Los Angeles. I never reconsidered moving to Los Angeles, only my choice to drive there in three days.**

Still, since I’ve arrived, I’ve never doubted my decision. For filmmakers and screenwriters, Los Angeles is Mecca. While the city is filled to the brim, if you’re worth your weight in precious metals (and I believe that because of my time at Boston University, I am), the transition will be easy. Like me, you’ll almost certainly take an internship writing coverage, but the opportunity to work alongside production executives and writers is not to be missed. The BU in Los Angeles program, too, has enabled me to meet industry professionals. The first week of classes, for example, my class sat down with one of the script reviewers for NBC’s new show “The Blacklist” in order to
further explore what script development looks like as a career.

After almost a month in Los Angeles, I feel more than prepared to call myself an expert on this smallish coastal village. Given your devoted readership, I hope to further regale you with my experiences as I continue to unlock the few-and-far-between mysteries of this charming town, including, but not limited to:
• The logic by which Del Taco has determined that chili-cheese fries are a topping for every item on their menu.
• How a city of four million people can navigate on every street using a simple textmessaging service.
• The location of–please–a Dunkin Donuts chain restaurant.
• The forbidden secrets by which a Korean BBQ can provide you with unlimited meat for the low, low cost of $19.99 (and the time it takes you to cook it.)
*Del Taco is German for “Whale Taco.”
**Assistant Dean Micha Sabovik requires me to tell you that not only are there many affordable flights between Boston and Los Angeles, but also that there are many conveniently located hotels across the country. Just, really, pick anywhere. Forty-nine of the fifty United States of America. No promises about Seward’s Folly.
(P.S. I can see the Hollywood Sign from my house’s front balcony. I just want you to know that.)

Hooray, It’s LA!

Hollywood Bound

Here in the MFA section of Film and Television at Boston University, we get really hyped up about something most people our age find absolutely detestable as a conversational centerpiece–the future.  A case could be made that we’re all just too engrossed in our own work, but the solution may be more ridiculous: it’s our school. The Film and Television department offers a pretty sweet opportunity at the end of our program, one in which we can defer our graduation after taking an additional semester of focused classes and internships in Los Angeles.

This is a pretty big deal, as jobs in Hollywood are notoriously difficult to find.  When people say you need a friend in the industry, they’re not joking.  This program, though, helps us get a foot in the door.

Here’s how it works.  During your final semester, you send off an essay that details exactly what you want out of your future career and a portfolio of what you’ve done so far.  If you’re accepted, a representative from the BU in LA program, or in my case, the Writer in LA program, will come and interview you and help you find an internship or three.

It seems to me that the question isn’t so much why you’d want to do this, but instead–why wouldn’t you?

I’m a career-minded person.  I have a lot of trouble staying in the present with both of my personal and professional lives, and I’m always thinking more about the sale and production of my scripts than the actual writing of them.  As soon as I’m finished getting down the premise, I’m already thinking about shots, actors, and audience reception.  Now, this isn’t exactly a terrible thing, but it’s also not what I’m here to talk about.

This problem leads me to a few solutions.  I’m really interested in developing stories and structures for television.  I like thinking about how characters develop and change over time–after all, change is the essence of storytelling–so I’d love to get into a show-runner position.

Back up–how does this affect what I’m doing now?  My goals, for now, is to get an internship working in a writer’s room.  My philosophy is that the best work starts from the bottom, and being able to work my way up to the top, learning all the way, will make me more well-rounded in the end.   Being in graduate school has taught me a few things, and if you’ve ever spoken to me or read my other posts on this blog, you’ve certainly been beaten over the head by this before.

First, graduate school isn’t the end of your education, but the beginning of your career.  Second, it’s dangerous to have the attitude that the learning stops once you leave the school.  But that’s the really brilliant thing about this program.  Being able to get your start in a place like Boston is really essential, as you don’t have to fight ten thousand other filmmakers scraping for jobs, locations, and actors.  The opportunity to transition over to the land of the big dogs once you’ve had a chance to learn and expand in a free-form environment sets you a cut above everyone else that’s tried (and often, failed) to run out to LA with a suitcase and a dream.

The Writer in LA program, for me, just makes sense.   Hollywood is where the action happens–from writing to production.  It’s the place to be if you’re serious about filmmaking, and the opportunity to have someone hold your hand while you try to figure it all out is too good to pass up.

See you in Los Angeles.

The Name of the Game

Suddenly, it’s two years ago.  I’m looking at graduate school, and I’m asking myself the big questions.

I won’t lie to you–when it came to my decision to apply to Boston University–I only had one thing in mind.  Success.  I searched for the top ten graduate schools for screenwriting and ran down the list.  I didn’t want to be in Los Angeles or New York City.  I didn’t want to be at a school that wasn’t going to set me apart.  I wanted to go somewhere I could write, get better at what I already did well, and push myself to be better than everyone else.

When I was thinking about graduate school, I wasn’t thinking about an extension of my undergraduate life.  The first day of graduate school was the first day of my new career.  The time for changing majors, taking throwaway classes, and sleeping late to avoid that eight-in-the-morning monster of a class had passed.  I knew that with every paper I wrote (and I wrote a lot of them), I’d be showing my expertise, knowhow, and intellect to people who would be paying attention and making a list.  I wanted to be on that list, because I knew who that person was–that person was capable of getting me where I wanted to be.

I knew what I wanted, and got the chance to take it–so I did.  I knew that in my field, a degree in screenwriting from Boston University was a big thing.  I mean, look at what our alumni have done.  Scott Rosenberg wrote High Fidelity and Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. Bruce Feirstein wrote the three greater Brosnan-era Bond films and oversaw the production of L.A. Confidential. Richard Gladstein produced Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Bourne Identity.

I came to Boston University because I wanted to be the best.  I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.  I’m making big connections, developing my craft in a way I didn’t think possible, and am well on my way to getting exactly what I want: success.

Boston University took me a long way in getting there.

 

Admissions Deadlines and the Art of the Snowdrift Luau

Here it is: 2013.

To be frank, I was like sixty-five percent sure that we wouldn’t live to see this night. I mean, I’m not saying that I buy into every single Mesoamerican prophecy that hits center stage, but I really had a good feeling about this one. Oh well. We can’t all be right all the time.

Every New Years’ Eve, I always spend a lot more time thinking about what’s coming up in the next year rather than everything that’s happened over the twelve previous months. For some of us in the graduate school, we’re looking at potential jobs. For others, we’re planning the biggest projects we’ve done since we started school almost two (or more) decades ago. Still, there are those prospective students right now (maybe not right now) eagerly pecking away at their applications, confident (and correct) that this is the right step for their future.

This time two years ago, I was sitting in front of a roaring fireplace, writing the last lines of a short story for my Boston University application portfolio. Tonight, I’m sitting next to a celebratory oatmeal stout, wrapping up the next draft of a short script I’m submitting to Boston University’s annual screenwriting competition. This time next year, I’ll be trying to turn internships into employment in Los Angeles and hopefully on the way to getting some of my own scripts sold and directing projects off the ground.

Anyway, there’s officially a month left in the application process for the next class of COM graduate students. For the screenwriters, that means you’ll need to write at least a page a day to pull this off, if you haven’t started. You’ll spend the next month wondering why you didn’t study more for the GRE, and praying that those professors writing your recommendations don’t actually hate you.

But don’t worry. I’ve got a really good feeling about this year. Sure, it helps that I’m only taking three classes and have plans to be working closer with the COM staff, who are always a blast. There’ll also be more prospective student events, and I’m not just sucking up here, I freaking love meeting you guys. On top of all of that, I’ll have a great new batch of Storytelling students to start teaching all over again from the first FADE IN:.

I’m never wrong about these feelings I get. It’s going to be a good year.

P.S., I read a tweet earlier from @bucomgrad that says that the COM Lawn is a great place for barbecuing, so unless anybody tells me any different, I’m going to start stockpiling charcoal and holding snowdrift luaus on the front lawn.

I’ll see you there.

Your Finals Week Playlist

Every six months, writing students bang their heads against the walls for hours on end, repeatedly asking themselves why they waited until the end of the semester to do all of their rewrites and revisions. You can trust me on this. I’ve been doing it for years. So, as the only person who will ever give you sage advice ever, I’m here, once more, to help in the form of your finals week playlist.

Six songs to get you through finals week. Ready? Go.

1. Tyga – Rack City Now, you’re listening to this song because your undergraduate roommates are listening to it and they’re already partying. How do I know this? Because you’re already in the wrong place for studying and writing. Don’t study in your room. Find a nice park or coffee shop and get to work (see my blog on the best places to work in the area.) You’re not going to get any work done if you’re sitting in your room, because that’s where you sleep, and eventually, you’re going to crawl into bed.

2. Rufus Wainright – Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk This one’s important. Every time the song comes on your playlist, I want you to stand up and take a cigarette break. Not an actual cigarette break, but five or ten minutes every hour of work. Get your legs moving, you jerk. If you’re sitting in front of Avid or Final Draft for three hours at a time, you’re really just going to fry your brain. Don’t do that. This is directly adverse to the completion of finals. Also, don’t smoke. That’s unhealthy.

3. Five Iron Frenzy – The End is Here Yes. The entire two-disc album. Keep thinking positively. Just three more tests and four more full-length feature films and you’ll be done. Remember: you’re going to do great. You’re an excellent student, and everybody loves you. Finals are one thousand times worse if you think about how bad they are. You’ve done this before, and until you’ve got your degree, you’re going to do it again. Also, you kind of did this to yourself. So there’s that. But really. It’s almost over. You can do it.

4. Freddy Figglehorn – The Babysitter’s a Vampire Chances are, you started taking a break during Rufus Wainright and StumbleUpon’d all the way through Five Iron Frenzy. Don’t be ashamed. I know. Ska can do that to you. Look. Stay vigilant. Be your own Batman. The only way you’re going to get through this alive is by staying off Reddit and not spending twelve hours picking your perfect playlist on Songza. You’re not going to get any work done if you’re not getting any work done.

5. Aerosmith – I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing This one’s for the writers at the party. I know that the first thing you’re going to do when you get done is go submit your document and go sleep. Don’t do that, you fool. Take fifteen, thirty minutes, maybe an hour and go back over what you’ve written. It pays off in the end. Think of how many times you’ve lost points on an exam because you didn’t check your answers. This is like that, but worse, and it comes back to bite you in the rear when you absentmindedly submit whatever you’ve written as part of a portfolio.

6. Sea Wolf – Middle Distance Runner This is the most important advice I’ll ever give you. For the love of Sufjan, pace yourself. Don’t leave all of your work for the last minute. Break it up into doable chunks. To use a real life example, don’t try to write thirty pages a day to finish your feature film in a weekend.

That’s all you’re getting for now. Maybe I’ll do more pseudo-playlists in the future. For now, here’s the link. I’m off to write thirty pages a day to finish my feature film in a weekend.