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Thread summary:

LA: comedy writing, glamorous facade, competition, writing lessons, Canadian visa, networking

 
Old 09-03-2008, 12:15 PM
 
3,704 posts, read 4,141,913 times
Reputation: 2231

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The post I thought I would never write...

This is going to be a long and somewhat rambling one, so stop reading if you aren't up to reading it.

I'm 24 years old and I have always been interested in the entertainment business, specifically comedy writing. Something about coming up with an idea, refining it, and watching your vision coming to life has always captured my imagination. This is going back a few years, but when I was in high school and in drama class, I was the kind of guy that everyone wanted in their little group because they knew I would always come up with the best stuff. Of course high school is over and done with and coming up with skits and so on isn't exactly relevant when it comes to being a salesman. In the past year a friend of mine has rekindled my habit of coming up with skits and has been encouraging me to come up with something more concrete than a scene that would go on for little more than two minutes.

I know that I'm probably coming off as yet another naive fool who in his heart of hearts believes that I'm "gonna make it" and just waiting to be chewed up and spat out by the indifferent jaws of reality, but I'll just make a few things clear:

1) I have been to Los Angeles before and I have no illusions about the city's glamorous facade. I've seen how sleazy parts of Hollywood are, I know there is nothing to do in Downtown, you'll never see me say "I found a really cheap apartment in Baldwin Village!" or "I'd like a place around $400 a month near the beach". I know LA is expensive (oddly enough not much moreso than I am currently living), virtually requires ownership of a car, and is filled with plenty of not-so-nice areas.

2) I do not believe that I will be the next *insert famous actor who is far better looking than me*. I know that since Los Angeles is the center of the entertainment industry, that regardless of whatever aspect of the entertainment industry you'd want to get into you will be faced with a lot of competition. If your goal is to play a corpse on CSI:Fairbanks, there will be no less than 100 actors who also will be auditioning to play the role of that same corpse. And LA is a city filled with the prettiest girls in high school and the funniest guys and many of them end up as strippers or pumping gas. It's a tough business to break into and it tends to chew up the unprepared.

3) I know that you do not just step off that plane or off that bus and offers role in. You need connections and training, that is what I would like to get. You see, while there is no problem with plots and jokes I come up with, when I try to write extensively, it ends up losing momentum and becoming rather banal. I understand that it will take hard work and practice to become what I want to be. I would like to take writing and improv lessons and if at all possible, try to join an improv group after the classes are finished. The Groundlings would obviously be the best, but since they take in only a few people, it might be a little too ambitious for now. The point of that is that it would allow me to not only learn how I can write and act better, but would also possibly give me connections with people who might be good to work on projects with or might even "make it" and might directly or indirectly give me a hand. I want to look before I leap. I want build on what I naturally possess before I get too ambitious.

Now that is out of the way, I have a few questions about the move to Los Angeles (which is at least a year away), advice on my pick of career, and some on life in general in Los Angeles:

1) I'm a Canadian citizen (although I live in Australia), what would be my best options when it comes to a visa? Does NAFTA have any bearing on my immigration status? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to come up with even a solid game plan if I'm going to be stuck on visa where I can't have regular (legal) employment or a visa that only allows me to stay a few months stateside.

2) What would be some good organizations, schools, whatever that are good for aspiring writers and comedic actors? Training, networking, and so on. Like I said before, look before you leap. In my experience and I've learned the hard way, when things end up really unpleasant, it is usually because you weren't prepared. What is a good way to avoid the dodgy organizations? I know there are a lot of what are basically rip off agencies, but from my understanding, if you are a writer, actor, voice actor, or whatever, it certainly helps to have someone who will try to seek out work for you.

3) What are some decent jobs in the Los Angeles area? I mean, it is a bit vague and probably not all that helpful. That is because I'm accustomed to the Australian work regulations and the employment environment where unless you have several years experience in a job or a degree, it is very difficult to find other work. In the US and Canada, it is not all that difficult to find work as waiter, here you find small crappy restuarants asking for three or four years experience waiting tables. That is why I am in sales and why I'd be willing to do something so risky to avoid a life of wearing a phony smile on my face and pitching to people who despise me.

That is it for now and I hope you guys can help me. I'll probably ask more questions later and if you need me to specify, I'll do that.
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Old 09-03-2008, 03:24 PM
 
66 posts, read 131,678 times
Reputation: 46
Hey, I make my living as a comedy writer and I can say that it's a tough, tough racket. You have to be constantly moving forward, lining up work or else you'll quickly fall apart and have to get a real job. You'll also need incredibly thick skin, and you must resist the temptation to burn bridges every time you're burned. Because yes, you will get burned frequently. That's the downside. The upside is you get paid to write fart jokes.

There are two main ways to break in: Network, or work your way up the ladder by being an assistant to an established writer/show. The latter is the surer bet to great work and a lots of money, but you have to sacrifice an insane amount of time to get there.

Either way, you're gonna have to write several spec scripts for TV shows on the air, get an agent, and still work incredibly hard at lining up your own work. An agent is mostly there to negotiate the big deal and set up the big meetings, if you wanna write to live, you're gonna have to do your own leg work.

I can't tell you how to get work or an agent, because there's no sure way. It really is just who you know. I got a TV writing gig when a friend from college just called me up and said, "Do you wanna write for this show I'm doing?" and that was it. So, basically, write a lot and make a lot of friends and don't give up. Eventually you'll start to make your own luck.

Last edited by E_Superhero; 09-03-2008 at 04:40 PM..
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Old 09-03-2008, 04:21 PM
 
Location: John & Ken-ville
13,692 posts, read 15,112,510 times
Reputation: 9491
I'm going to be blunt with you.

NAFTA has no bearing on you emigrating to live in los angeles.

#1. You would need a VISA to work here.

#2. The visa would have to come by a sponsor.

#3. Unless you were some rocket scientist with an innovative top secret product you wanted the US government to have first, in that case you would qualify for a special visa.

#4. I'm not saying you should come illegally because you definitely couldn't work, but you'd be here. But if you just so happened to walk from Vancouver BC, over the border, then jumped in a van that smuggled you to Los Angeles.... I'm not SAYIN i'm just sayin!

Maybe you could do some "comedy" work where you are... make a video then send it with a resume to a few agents in Los Angeles, before you even had plans to come.

Maybe you could line up an agent, who could arrange some work for you before you got here... It's a long shot either way.

Usually when Canadians come here from "Canada" as opposed to Australia, and they are comedians, they are pretty well known before they set foot to work in Los Angeles. The whole illegal alien thing doesn't work as well with Canadian comedians.


Good luck.
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Old 09-03-2008, 05:25 PM
 
Location: Travelingggg
14 posts, read 33,113 times
Reputation: 11
If you want to get into the entertainment business, I'd recommend starting on the internet. It is the cheapest form of visibility. Put together some funny videos and leverage sites like YouTube.

Recently, lots of producers are doing online promotion because of the "bang for the buck". It is ALOT cheaper than advertising on TV and in print and stuff.

Hope that helps. Good Luck.
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Old 09-04-2008, 08:11 AM
 
Location: Hot Springs, AR
5,612 posts, read 13,236,060 times
Reputation: 3740
Since seem to have a sense of reality and want to come here anyway, the best way is a student visa. UCLA and USC have excellent film/entertainment schools, but are difficult to get into. CSUN (Cal State University Northridge) also has an entertainment school and may be easier to get into. You'll have to deal with the American consulate about the rest.
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Old 09-08-2008, 11:25 AM
 
3,704 posts, read 4,141,913 times
Reputation: 2231
I'd just like to say thank you for all the suggestions and comments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LuckyGem View Post
I'm going to be blunt with you.

NAFTA has no bearing on you emigrating to live in los angeles.

#1. You would need a VISA to work here.

#2. The visa would have to come by a sponsor.

#3. Unless you were some rocket scientist with an innovative top secret product you wanted the US government to have first, in that case you would qualify for a special visa.

#4. I'm not saying you should come illegally because you definitely couldn't work, but you'd be here. But if you just so happened to walk from Vancouver BC, over the border, then jumped in a van that smuggled you to Los Angeles.... I'm not SAYIN i'm just sayin!

Maybe you could do some "comedy" work where you are... make a video then send it with a resume to a few agents in Los Angeles, before you even had plans to come.

Maybe you could line up an agent, who could arrange some work for you before you got here... It's a long shot either way.
Who can sponsor and how well do you have to know the person? I happen to know a few Americans pretty well in Australia, Canada, and in the US. It's probably not applicable, but I'm curious if those connections could come in handy.

I don't think that I'd do the illegal alien thing, I'd look a little out of place hanging out outside of a gas station in LA "buscar el trabajo".

Quote:
Originally Posted by garrett21 View Post
If you want to get into the entertainment business, I'd recommend starting on the internet. It is the cheapest form of visibility. Put together some funny videos and leverage sites like YouTube.

Recently, lots of producers are doing online promotion because of the "bang for the buck". It is ALOT cheaper than advertising on TV and in print and stuff.

Hope that helps. Good Luck.
Not a bad idea.

I mean, Dane Cook got his start off of MySpace and various other websites and despite his complete and utter lack of talent and humor, he is now a megastar.

It's a good medium of exposure and it can allow me to mess around with various forms of comedy. Everything from creative editing to possibly doing a bit of amateur stand-up and posting that (obviously after doing it a few times so I could refine it and get rid of any residual nervousness on stage).
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Old 07-04-2009, 12:10 PM
 
4 posts, read 4,706 times
Reputation: 13
I agree with these other posters in the fact that you should start putting your comedy stuff on the internet. This is for two reasons. One, it will make you accountable to your fans and to yourself. It will require you to continue pushing your own envelope and force you to make bigger and better things. The second part of it if the money. If you properly monetize your site, you may not even need to get a job here, foregoing your working visa requirement. You can be paid as a Canadian, but still be able to access your funds in America. While I am not promoting going around the laws of The United States, I am saying that there are ways to allow yourself time until you can secure a proper visa and decide if this whole experience is worth your sacrifice.

Last edited by Green Irish Eyes; 07-04-2009 at 12:10 PM.. Reason: Manual signatures are not allowed
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Old 07-05-2009, 05:39 AM
 
Location: Malibu/Miami Beach
1,070 posts, read 2,882,544 times
Reputation: 427
A life of wearing a phony smile on my face and pitching to people who despise me.

Got it in one my friend...this is Showbusiness.
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