5.08.2008

Plan B


One of my fiancée's actor friends has decided that the business isn't for her. She still loves improv and performing. But she's come to the realization that she just doesn't enjoy the game, the cut-throat environment, etc. etc. -- everything that's not acting and takes up so much of one's efforts. So now she has to figure out what she's going to do with her life. She has no idea what she wants to do. She'd never considered a Plan B.

This story, I'm sure, is old hat to most of us now. Everyone focuses so much on all the people that pour into LA each and every day; but you don't hear much about all the people that leave LA each and every day. I'm sure the latter number is much smaller. But it happens. People leave. They change their minds, find another path, give up, run away. They have to, or we'd be like fricking China or something, with the state government imposing family size restrictions because of overcrowding.

And often it's without a word. People disappear from this town and then you just end up hearing about it later. I remember when I moved here there were a few people I knew in LA that I planned on getting in touch with. I got here, took a week or so to haphazardly wrangle an apartment, and called said people. And I never heard from them. Called again, same deal. Months later I heard from mutual friends that these people had left LA before I had even gotten there. And they just never called me back or emailed me to tell me so. They went back to wherever and took up who-knows-what.

Then there were was the girl who Mychela made friends with from some short film or something. She lived near us when we lived in Valley Village. So they started to hang out and became friends. And then she disappeared. Mychela would call her to see if she was OK. Left messages. Then she found out from someone else that this girl had moved back to Arizona, or wherever she was from. And apparently was doing something with her life now that left no time to return phone calls. (Apparently when people leave LA, they leave LA.)

When I heard about Mychela's friend giving up acting, it struck me because of an article I'd just read in Creative Screenwriting magazine. It's in the latest issue, and it weighs the merits of working towards TV writing via assistant jobs. The article interviewed a slew of current and former writers' assistants. The first half of the article dealt with people who had managed that tricky obstacle course and had gotten staff positions. It also had the obligatory message that being a writers' assistant on a show won't necessarily lead to getting hired as a writer.

Then the second half of the article consisted of all the interviewees who had finally had enough of the struggle and the unpredictable nature of the business and quit, moved on, and found new career paths. Personally, I found the article to be really disturbing.

I'm not saying that CS should only have articles that pump its readers full of false hope or blind optimism. But a single article that danced between the apparently singular options of lottery ticket success stories and the unrestrained relief of those who vouched for a Plan B? Well fuck me. They had several people who talked about how much better their lives are now that they're away from Los Angeles.

And I paid money to read this.

It's funny, because I've also met a handful of people recently who are actively setting up a Plan B for themselves in case this writing for money thing doesn't work out. This is very practical, right? Intelligent, wise, prudent -- MacGyver as a life coach. Fantastic.

Because I have no Plan B. As of right now, I just don't. And I'm not saying that in the whole chest-thumping confidence of "Scootch on over, Joss," or "It's all or nothing, fuckers! I can write for TV or gimme a lawn chair and I'll join the guy at Santa Monica Blvd. and Century Park East. We'll both sit there all day long and watch the time go by. That'll suit me just fine..."

Honestly, it's that I just have no idea what else I would do. This is what I want. I want to write for TV. Maybe a feature on down the road. But I have no idea what else I would do -- or would want to do.

I just have no Plan B. And a short while back I would have told you that this simply reinforced my determination and will to succeed. Those who have a Plan B are just all that more prepared to give up.

But now, I don't know. I'm not sure what not having a Plan B says about me. I can't imagine Mychela's friend's situation right now. Realizing that your dream isn't your dream anymore. And what next? What now?

I'm not saying that's my situation. I'm here. I want to write for TV and I have no Plan B strictly because my desires are 100% focused. I have horse blinders on out of complete and utter certainty.

But life often makes other plans. So I've been thinking about Plan B's. And also about cancelling my subscription to Creative Screenwriting.

ps. But, the nice thing about my Plan A is that it's writing. It's not directing huge explosive features, or showrunning. It's writing. I can always follow my Plan A to some degree. I can write right up to the end. It can always be one of my life's passions. I'll always write. It's just whether or not I can get someone to pay me to do it, instead of struggling to find the time to get my fix.

1 comment:

Erika Anderson said...

I either can or want to relate to this post, in that I fear my plan B will be taking up some crap job again , though now that I'm out of that world I halfway know I could never go back. With respect to your last comment, writing until the end, consider the following poem, written by an 85 year old woman living in a retirement home (who is a poet, mind you) required reading. It was part of an article on slow medicine in the NY times last week. I of course cried as I read it.

I Shall Make Poems

I shall make poems
long after I've forgotten
my middle name,
what cinnamon is for,
or why the unfamiliar place
I sleep is not the home
of my childhood.

The words will seem at first
enigmatic and oracular, then
untranslatable, unintelligible.
They will abandon agreed-upon usage,
assume an unruly logic--
but the rhythms will remain
to carry the burden of meaning.

Listen for the tumbling syllables
of my laughter, the slow spondees
of my satisfactions.
Listen for dactyls waltzing
my amazements in spiraling circles,
for the joyful anapests
galloping wildly like children
knee-deep in new snow.

The words will become
The music—pure music,
embedded deeper than
the deepest reservoirs
of memory gone dry.

Then speak blessed nonsense to me--
sing back to me, transposed,
the answers to my love letters.

c.a .. armstrong