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Bad Reasons Screenwriters Give For Not Moving to Los Angeles

And Why You Should Ignore Them

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by Script Reader Pro in Screenwriter Career
July 28, 2014 52 comments
moving to los angeles

4 Bad Reasons Screenwriters Give for Not Moving to Los Angeles

Are you thinking of moving to Los Angeles to pursue a screenwriting career, but wondering if you really need to? Many people say you don’t need to, but are they right? In short, is moving to Los Angeles really necessary in today’s age of Skype chats and Google Hangouts?

(Please note: This post may include affiliate links in which we receive a small profit if you purchase using the link but at no extra cost to you.)

We wrote a blog post a few weeks ago: Are You The Cliche Of An Aspiring Screenwriter? which, while receiving mostly praise, featured one piece of advice which seemed to rub some people up the wrong way.

The advice was this: “Moving to Los Angeles is probably the single best thing you could do to increase your  chances of making it as a screenwriter.”

Here’s What We Said About Moving to LA in the Article:

If you’re serious about screenwriting, and there’s nothing holding you back, move to Los Angeles because this is where everything’s happening. i.e. If you want to be a Country & Western musician, where are you better off living? Portland, or Nashville?

And the same is true for screenwriting. It’s something many, many professional and aspiring screenwriters alike say you should do.

Our “moving to Los Angeles” point, however, caused quite a bit of heat among some screenwriters, and so here are the top four common complaints, plus our answers to them below. (The paragraphs in italics are the real complaints we received.)

1. “Moving to Los Angeles Is Just Too Damn Expensive”

“Looks like LA gives free apartments to people who want to start a screenwriting career I guess, even in US, many people work on daily jobs only for one purpose: to survive. And their apartments costs are probably 60-70 percent of their salary per month. So if they don’t work for 3-4 days, they get an overdraft.”

As we stated in the previous article when we’re suggesting aspiring screenwriters move to Los Angeles, we’re talking about the people who can move there if they put in the effort, but choose not to. We’re not talking about people who don’t have the means in the first place.

So, if you want to be a screenwriter and have the money, but are choosing to remain in say, Milwaukee, we’re saying you should make the commitment to becoming a screenwriter and consider moving to Los Angeles.

We agree—a screenwriter salary doesn’t really exist (at least at first) and LA is an expensive city compared to many in the US. However, it’s not Zurich. It is possible to find a reasonable apartment in a decent area of town if you’re prepared to take some time searching. It’s all about how much you really want it.

LA is the place to be if you want to break into the industry, and if there’s nothing really holding you back from moving to Los Angeles, then we say “do it.”

2. “Moving to Los Angeles Is Unnecessary Now With the Internet”

“You don’t need to move to LA to become a professional screenwriter. There are many avenues for building industry contacts. First and foremost write something that people want to see. You can do that anywhere.”

True, writing a great script is probably the most important thing you should be doing, but —we’ll say it again—once you have that great script (or three) where are you better off living?

In the center of the film industry, or in Scotland? We’re not saying that it’s impossible to break into the industry from outside LA. We’re just saying it’s harder. So why make an already hard objective even harder by putting yourself at a disadvantage geographically?

Say you live in Madrid, Mali or Milwaukee, or wherever, you can certainly email agents, producers and companies from the comfort of your own home, but you’re not going to meet them face to face.

After moving to Los Angeles, on the other hand, you’ll easily be able to. In fact, you’ll never know who you’re going to meet next and make connections with. Literally anywhere—at a party, a conference, in Starbucks etc.—can become the place the meet the person who kick-starts your career.

And we all know people are much more likely to remember a face than an anonymous email address.

But let’s say you don’t want to consider moving to Los Angeles. You’ve written a smoking hot script but don’t fancy making the move west. And let’s say one of your query emails grabs the attention of a Hollywood producer. (Despite the fact the whole notion query emails actually working is somewhat debatable).

moving to los angeles

The producer will want you to come in for a meeting. So, you pay the airfare and fly in for a meeting. Then, it turns out your script is so hot, a month later you get another email from a different producer asking for a meeting.

And then another, two weeks later. You’ll spend so much in airfares you’d actually be better off just moving to Los Angeles.

This Is Especially True If You Want to Write for TV

In TV, you don’t really stand a chance in hell of breaking in if you live outside of LA. The fact is, Hollywood is built around relationships, and a big part of those relationships are formed not on Skype or in a Google Hangout, but through face-to-face meetings. Which you can’t really do if you live on the other side of the country. Or not in the country at all.

Now, some professional screenwriters are forced to remain outside of LA because of family or work reasons, but if moving to Los Angeles is an option, you should definitely do it. As Carl King, author of So, You’re A Creative Genius. Now What? writes “Moving to Los Angeles was the single best decision I made in my life.”

Just being here inspires in a way you won’t find anywhere else.

3. “I Can’t Afford to Quit My Day Job and Just Move to Los Angeles”

“You guys are funny. ‘Quit your day job and move to LA’?! C’mon!”

This response again misses the point of our original statement about moving to Los Angeles—i.e. if you have the means and could do if you wanted to, but are choosing not to because you haven’t made the commitment to making it as a screenwriter.

Granted, quitting your day job may not be a viable option for many, but if you’re young enough and have no real commitments, then quitting that boring office job you’re not interested in anyway, saving up a decent amount of money and moving to LA might just be the best decision you could make.

Michael Arndt did exactly that when he made the commitment to be a screenwriter and quit his day job to focus full time on writing for one year. He ended up with a screenplay called Little Miss Sunshine.

John August and Craig Mazin have also reiterated the importance of moving to Los Angeles many times on their screenwriting podcast.

4. “Moving to LA Is Impossible. I Live on the Other Side of the World”

“I looked at flight tickets prices from Tel-Aviv to LA and return. Almost 2K. That’s more than I earn per month.”

Okay, this is a legitimate claim. Trying to emigrate to the US is a whole different ball game to moving to Los Angeles from somewhere else in the US. The immigration system here, especially post-911, can be something of a minefield.

But we didn’t say, “Hey, if you wanna move to Los Angeles from Finland, just jump on a plane and come on over.” Obviously, it depends on your personal circumstances.

Ideally, no matter where you live, it’d be great if you could move to LA if you want to be a screenwriter, but it’s just not possible for many people.

A Few Immigration Options

♦  Study in the US. If you have the money and you’re in the right stage of life, you can maybe apply to study in the US. While studying you’ll be placed on internships which can then lead to an offer of work afterwards. You have about a year, I believe, to stay in the country and work after graduating, and in this time you can try to get a job and transition to a work permit.

And from a work permit, you can attempt to transition to a green card. Or maybe love will bloom and you’ll meet and fall in love with an American and can stay on by getting a K3 Visa.

♦  Work as a screenwriter in your home country first. If you can get some credits in your own country as a screenwriter, you might be able to then apply for an 01 Visa, aimed at people in the entertainment industries. You don’t have to be the next Christopher Nolan.

It’s not as hard to get as the US Embassy would have you believe on their website. The visa lasts for only two years but can be renewed indefinitely, as long as you show that you’re making solid tracks in the industry.

♦  Buy a green card. Not an option for most, but if you’re super well-off, you can buy a Green Card for $500,000 with an EB5 Visa. A real pain in the ass by all accounts, but an option.

Another alternative is to buy a US business with an E2 Visa and work in the States on that business while screenwriting on the side. If you have enough money you can buy one and pay someone else to run it, so you can devote more time to writing.

Moving to Los Angeles: Conclusion

Yes, moving to Los Angeles is a big step, leaving your job, your friends and your family. And yes, there’s no guarantee you’re going to score a great screenwriter salary within a year of arriving.

But, if you have the means, it all comes down to having the will—and that means making the commitment to becoming a professional screenwriter by moving to the one place it’s more likely to happen.

###

Are you thinking of moving to Los Angeles? Or have you made the leap and moved to LA to pursue a screenwriter career? Are you still glad you did? Let us know your stories in the comments section below.

moving to los angeles

Enjoyed This Post? Read More on Moving to Los Angeles and Starting a Screenwriter Career…

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[© Photo credits: Unsplash]

52 Comments
  1. Xander R says:

    I’m in my 30’s out in Va. I work with a local production crew here. There focus is to bring more films out this way. This is in line with the Virginia Production alliance. I’m slated to write and direct at least 3 features and another short this year but I agree that the move to LA would be the most advantageous step for me to take. What would you recommend for someone like me trying to save up and move out west? Should I use these films to help my case? How can I use my work here to further my goals?

    Xander R

    1. Hey Xander — yes you should definitely use them if they’re good. Try to get some feedback and exposure on them first before setting up meetings and talking about them though. If you can say you’ve written and directed three great features/shorts it can only help.:)

  2. John says:

    I’m a manager & producer in Beverly Hills, CA. While living in LA is not imperative to be a writer, not living on LA makes it much more difficult when your script gets noticed. A great script gets meetings, meetings get writers jobs. If you’re not in LA, or frequently traveling to LA, the meetings will be difficult to arrange/manage. I have numerous writers that do not live in, or around LA, sometimes we can schedule meetings within a weeks time, but most of the times it’s a few meetings per week. The one thing I can’t manage is other peoples schedules. A smart writer will put themselves in the right position to thrive.

    1. SRP says:

      Thanks John – you summarize it perfectly.

  3. Seth says:

    This post has given me a kick up the ass. I’ve been putting off moving to LA for so long now but now I think I just need to go for it if I ever want to make a go of this screenwriting thang.

  4. Fran says:

    I would love to move to Los Angeles but am stuck in Glasgow with no money 🙁

  5. Undrea says:

    I’m currently in Hawaii. But in a few months I will be LA bound. I’m just wondering if I should give up my current career (aircraft mechanic) to focus on writing full-time, do it part time with a job like driving Uber, or keep doing like I have and work full-time while writing in my spare time? No spouse, no kids, just me. Guess I’ll have to figure it out.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      There are a whole host of questions to consider I guess: age, writing ability, ease of getting back into aircraft maintenance if you need to etc. In the end, if you really want to go for it and have no ties, you could give yourself a time limit to achieve xyz – like get a manager, sell a script and so on, and if it doesn’t work out at least you can say you tried.

  6. Edward Asuquo says:

    Hello I’m Edward, from Lagos Nigeria, whose hoping to move to LA, but I feel like I’m least likely to succeed as a screenwriter due to my race.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi Edward, what matters most is your writing, not your ethnicity.

  7. WritingChief says:

    I dream about moving to Los Angeles every. single. day.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Make it happen!

  8. Nattalie Gordon says:

    Hey Edward, I’m Nattalie from Jamaica. I sometimes think my race and extremely different background might make things hard for me. BUT… on the other hand it might be the opposite. I don’t know about Africans but I’ve been living in GA for 2.5 years and everybody loves my accent. I find that here in the south, a young black woman who doesn’t sound like she’s from the ‘hood’ works for me.
    I plan to move to LA with another 1.5 years. I have no kids, don’t necessarily want any and even though I just got married; my wife’s biggest dream is to be in show business! Lucky me, she won’t object to moving to LA.
    I believe I can do it, I believe you can too.

  9. TruthHurts says:

    Just 2 comments:
    1)Buy a 500k visa. Right, if I had that kind of money to spare, life would be super-easy: I’d come in with a few trucks full of cash, park them in front of the biggest studio and yell:”Who is in charge here?”.

    I’d then finance my own blockbuster, my own way and watch as they convert my screenplay to a movie.

    Who needs all the hustle the poor people are forced to face.. Query letters, praying for an agent, feedback after feedback.

    No, I’m coming in for the prize, baby!! :))) Hell, at the kind of money I’m paying, they’re letting me direct that film.

    2)Maybe love will blossom. Trade love for visa. Ever watched “90 days to Wed”? It could look like a plan. You can do that from your own country, no need for hustling so much either..

    Just join a dating site, look for people from Los Angeles, make contact, chat a little, take advantage of that person’s need for love, and next thing you know, you’re in Los Angeles waiting for that visa.

    So what if all he/she cares about is someone to love, to provide warmth to, special moments, a beautiful, meaningful relationship, a true love story, and all you care about is your script sale and a pawn to get you closer to that goal?

    This is the ultimate deception and you can go for it, get a visa, maybe that love interest actually knows someone in the industry who can help you, or is himself/herself part of the movie business.

    Wouldn’t it be an added bonus? What a wonderful plan to pursue, provided you can look at yourself in the mirror after that!

  10. Darren says:

    My problem with the question of whether to move to LA or not is that it overlooks a more important factor: whether your work product is good. If your work product is good, you’ll get traction regardless of where you live; then you can decide whether to move. But if your work product isn’t good, it doesn’t matter whether you live in LA.

    The hard part about screenwriting isn’t industry access; it’s being good. Everything is easier if you’re good, and everything is harder if you’re not. Competence is all that matters.

    1. Sandra says:

      Purely by chance I at least got to California. Then I started networking in L.A. It’s true. You really need to be here. There’s a ton of information that people share in person, that you’re just not going to get over the Internet. Also, the *thinking* that it takes to accomplish anything in this business is here, and not elsewhere. When I lived in Denver, a lot of know-it-alls constantly said that it was perfectly possible to live in Denver and get a career break in this business. That may be true, but I ran into NO ONE with the same, team-player attitude as I see all over L.A., that is absolutely vital to pulling anything off in this business, and EVERYONE who thought that behaving according to Hollywood stereotypes was the thing to do. (‘Mr. Big’ who will crush you just because he can; The ‘Diva’, who won’t move unless you line their pockets with money first, the ‘Yes Man’ who never has an original thought, but simply parrots others…) Having had it both ways and seeing the results of being here, in person, to get feedback and meet people, I can honestly say that there really is no other way. My writing didn’t really get the last of the problems shaken out of it until I started working in L.A., face to face with people. The only place you’re going to learn it, is here. Sorry, but I have to disagree with Darren. Good work alone is not going to cut it or get you a shoe-in. As for TruthHurts? Got news for him: He’s going nowhere if he thinks that getting something good made and distributed is about cash alone. I doubt his self-funded blockbuster will get cinematic distribution. There’s an art to telling stories effectively, which must be learned, and that no amount of money can override. But to really learn the nuances of that art in a way that will get you places, you need to be in L.A., and talking to the people who are in the business. I swear, making something click is about like an odd form of osmosis!

      I do NOT regret being here! I just wish someone had told me all those years ago, that this was exactly where I need to be!

      1. Script Reader Pro says:

        Thanks for sharing your story and advice, Sandra. Really appreciate it!

  11. Deion says:

    What’s your advice for a cartoonist? Someone who has ideas and can animate pilots and just needs a network or production company to buy it. Should they move to LA? I’m not sure if screenwriting is a big part of comedy cartoons.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Cartoons tend to be made in-house rather than on spec as with scripts. But there’s nothing stopping you moving here and making connections and maybe getting an in-house job.

  12. drasko filmaker says:

    In every movie job in the world,you must be in face to face with others.if you are Wiliam Goldman you have not.

  13. Renee says:

    If you’re young, in your 20’s, with few responsibilities AND there’s interest in your work, it makes perfect sense to move to L.A. But if you’re 48 with a family and other commitments, if you want to make screenwriting a commitment, you use Skype, contacts in L.A. that you’ve built, and if serious interest develops, then you have to figure out something to get more face-to-face time. It helps if you have a supportive partner. I’d like to see more blogs about middle-aged writers who may be further along in their craft, but who are also often further along with family commitments! Thanks for this blog.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Totally agree, Renee. We actually have a blog post coming soon on breaking in over 40. Thanks for the comment!

  14. Anay says:

    I want to move to la but live in India and have no money. I will save and be there one day god willing.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      I’m sure you’ll make it, Anay. Good luck!

  15. Al Herrick says:

    I moved here 8 mths ago and have not looked back. Best decision I ever made hands down.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You said it, Al!

  16. CONFIDENCE OLIGIE says:

    Good morning from here. Thank you very mush. You’re right, ’cause, most times, to catch the bird, one needs to be in the forest, despite the fact that some fly around one’s compound. But i ask, please, is there any way to link an aspiring interested Screen writer if he can afford the cash? Once again, thank you.

  17. Megan G. Kirkland says:

    Trusting the Lord that I’ll be back in LA in September 2019. Grew up there, really feeling led by the Spirit to return, plus my family’s there. It just makes perfect sense to be at the center of the entertainment capital to meet the connections I need to succeed. I grew up with the scions of studio heads and screenwriters, and just know this is the place to be for me. People of color and women are having a huge moment in Hollywood right now; it is the time to see if you are really talented, or just kidding yourself. LA or bust, baby!

  18. Bob W. says:

    So you’re saying that living in Ohio I still have a chance…;-)

  19. Anton Godfrey says:

    HI All,
    Yes, it sounds like a great idea and I would love to go for it. I’m nearing retirement so might very well be an option during my round-the-world trip I have planned – I can stop off in LA on the way back.
    So pleased you’re about to start a blog for middle-aged writes. I look forward to that.
    I’d like to add that SRP have given me such great advice about screenwriting and the opportunities available to get into this industry, so many great competitions etc, that you could just make it here before LA is an option. And what about the opportunities if you go to Atlanta? Face to face contact there.

    Keep up the great work guys.
    Anton

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Sounds good, thanks, Anton. We look forward to working with you again too 🙂

  20. Bob W. says:

    Hi, I’m curious…my reply was “tongue in cheek” and was never posted.
    Are our replies “censored” before they are posted?
    Thanks

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It was posted yesterday. Have you tried refreshing your browser?

  21. Ciwils says:

    I’ve was born and raised in L.A., and I’m moving out at the end of the year. It’s extremely expensive, traffic is getting worse and worse, parking lots cost $20, meters go until midnight, gas prices are $5/gal — yes, you need a car to function here — horrible job market, homelessness, and the summers are getting hotter every year. It’s not what it used to be.

  22. Marion says:

    This is a topic which is close to my heart… I was considering moving to Los Angeles three years ago but LIFE got in the way. Good luck to you writers out there tho x

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck, Marion!

  23. DAN says:

    Hi
    I would love to move to LA to give myself the best possible chance of making it as a screenwriter, but I’m a Brit living in England so I fall into the ‘it’s just not possible’ category regarding the correct visa, green card, etc.
    However, it looks like you can stay (as a tourist) for up to 90 days – would this be worth doing? Of course I realise I’ll need enough funds while I’m there and will probably need to quit my job, but the way I see it, it can’t be much different to someone risking it when starting up a new business venture – any thoughts would be much appreciated.
    Cheers in advance!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s hard to say as you don’t mention what stage of your writing career you’re at. If you haven’t had any seriously big offers then we wouldn’t advise quitting your job for a 90-day stay. Or even if you do have a big offer lined up, you’d have to leave the country after 90 days anyway. If you’re just starting out, a better approach might be to make connections from England, set up meetings and then come over for those meetings and kind of commute as you build your career. Or build it first in England, a la Ricky Gervais and countless other Brits.

  24. Glenn says:

    19 years ago I did move to LA with all my dreams and a suitcase full of spec scripts. Long story short, nothing happened for me. No meetings, no power lunches, no producers. I’ve done well in many screenwriting contests, and once several years ago I got a phone call from an Oscar-winning director who had read my script as a judge. He said he wanted to let his producing partner read it and maybe set up a meeting. I was walking on air. Then I turned on the TV and heard that the Writers Guild had just THAT DAY gone on strike. It paralyzed Hollywood. I called the director back and guess what? He wouldn’t even take my call.
    I’m still in LA. I’m still writing scripts. Still entering contests. Still trying. But it’s very tough here, especially financially.
    My advice to aspiring screenwriters is to make absolutely sure you can afford to live in this massive city where apartments are very expensive. Also, make sure you understand that breaking into the screenwriting business is not guaranteed. It’s often very elusive and confusing. Producers and agents probably won’t take your calls when you haven’t done anything yet. There are a ton of stories about people who have magical experiences where they’re in the right place at the right time, and boom, their dream comes true and they sell a script that wins awards. It’s true this can happen. But it’s also true that it might not.
    Now I want anyone reading this to know that I hate more than anything imparting this negative information. But I just want people who are thinking about moving to Hollywood to have all the facts. I had people giving me the same warnings when I was planning to come in 2000. I listened, but my dreams were stronger than their doubts. I came anyway. And guess what, despite the difficulties, I’m staying as long as I can because I’m still trying to become a screenwriter. Please make sure you will be in it for the long haul if you come here. And if you do head west, I wish you all the best, and may your dreams come true.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Wise words, thanks, Glenn.

  25. Armando says:

    I live in Albuquerque where the film industry is booming! Netflix has opened a production hub here and NBC Universal is opening their studio here in the next couple months. Huge tax incentives, a moderate climate and a reasonable cost of living are bringing in more and more film productions. Breaking Bad, No Country for Old Men and other major productions have put New Mexico on the map. And Albuquerque was named best place to live for film makers 2018. Would you say a move to LA is still imperative for someone like me, especially if all of my stories take place in New Mexico?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      If you can then do it, as there are obviously more industry people to connect with in LA, but it’s never imperative. If you can connect with producers etc. and get things happening in New Mexico then go for it 🙂

  26. Kelubia C. Oligie. says:

    Thank you so much. this’s really a huge light to my path. To get american visa is hard even when one has the money; please, is there any way you can help assist a screen writer like me to move into L.A.? Thank you.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad you found the post helpful, Kelubia. We don’t offer visa assistance though.

      1. OLIGIE KELUBIA CONFIDENCE says:

        “Glad you found the post helpful, Kelubia. We don’t offer visa assistance though.” Still, thank you. I’ll keep trying harder. But just know that you people have been very helpful. Upon the success of my awesome draft, you’ll understand my gratitude.

  27. Stephen Rouse says:

    Hi there my name is Steve / I written twelve scripts / my script editor has just been hired to do a TV film / and she has said my scripts are superb and great visuals / I have directed and won prizes / but I need to a literacy Agent / or another producer /I’m trying to move to L.A soon / is there web site that can help with cheap places to stay or maybe with another writer . Thank Steve

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Try making contact with other writers on Stage32. Also, Craigslist is good for cheap accommodation. Good luck and congrats!

  28. Tony B says:

    Why only LA? Why not London, Paris, Rome, Mumbai or Hong Kong? Okay, Hong Kong was a bad choice this month. But seriously, why not other major production cities around the globe?

  29. RLB Hartmann says:

    Anyone who recognizes the name Larry McMurtry needs to read what HE said in FILM FLAM in 1987-88 about moving (or not) across country to be in Hollywood.

  30. OLIGIE KELUBIA CONFIDENCE says:

    Thank you. Yes! I’m badly interested in moving to LA. But it’s very difficult getting a visa from here. I will be and remain very grateful if you can help. I’m not talking about the financial aspect. Once again, thank you.

  31. David Wales says:

    Would you be able to do a breakdown of all the different neighborhoods and their pros and cons in regards to the newly arrived screenwriter? It’s such a large area and it’s hard to tell where a good area is for commuting and expenses and all the rest. Thanks.

  32. William Whiteford says:

    Recently, I have read about a girl who, fresh out of college, moved to LA. She had no “plan” mapped out for her career. She only knew that she wanted to become a famous screenwriter – a fantastic opportunity was to fall from sky on her like manna. But after a few weeks of the dead-end job instead, she focused on one decisive question: what to do to advance her career. And she deserted her job crushing her soul! She created her own writing group, set up her own production agency, shot her first short film, and wrote ten screenplays in one year!!! Being a writer became a way of life for her.
    Why don’t I speak about my own experience in LA? Well, some years ago, I had visited NY and Norfolk/Virginia as a Deck Officer. If I could read that SRP-post then, I would have certainly sailed to Los Angeles.

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