I flew back to L.A. in thick fog. Couldn’t see the ground until the wheels hit the runway. The pilot had a sense of humor about it too; he came on the intercom right after touch down with a declaration of “ohhhh yeahhhhh” and we, the passengers laughed nervously, relieved that we were in capable hands.
While I was home I got the question a lot — “What’s going on out there? What’s it like in L.A. right now?” At no time could I really provide a good answer. It has eluded me for the past two months as things in the industry continue to morph and change.
It is really dang foggy.
No one knows where the tipping point for web content and the convergence of your PC and your TV really is. One theory is that the bad economy will speed up the transition for people, as they shift away from going to the theater and toward lower cost entertainment. Another theory posits the opposite — that the bad economy drives people to the theater to escape their woes, and so the “tipping point” will be pushed further out. As is usually the case in this town, nobody knows anything.
The TV industry seems to have been thrown into mass confusion. While there are more opportunities on cable networks, they keep their costs low by ordering fewer episodes and keeping their staffs small. That means fewer jobs than on network shows. And we’ve seen what the networks (well, okay, so far just NBC) will do in this environment — cut off an arm. Four hours of scripted tv (at least) will be gone once Leno takes over 10 PM. That’s one staff of what, 10, 12 writers compared to four staffs of 8 or 10 writers. That’s quite a trade off and a hit to jobs for us.
So how do you survive as a writer in this environment?
I suppose the easy answer is, you WRITE. I know, you want to sell, you want to get staffed, you want to pound the pavement…but let me tell ya, it is rough out there. Rougher than I’ve seen in the last 6 years I’ve been here. Not to say you can’t sell a script or get an assignment, but there are fewer opportunities out there. The conversation I had with a friend yesterday resonated with me in ways I hadn’t expected. He is quite determined to make a go of it with web content, and I wish him Godspeed. I of course, stand ready to work with him eagerly on any project he dreams up, but when he asked me if I’d be focusing more on creating content for the internet, I hesitated.
It’s another path to procrastination for me. If I shift any of my energy toward chasing that rainbow, I will fall off the wagon with the projects I have in mind to complete this year. I’ll have an excuse not to finish them (I’m working on THIS now, it’s more pressing, more urgent). No, I must stay the course, as tempting as it is to deviate from it.
And what is that course? Write. Produce more material. Have things to be read. Because when I’m ready to get “out there” I need an arsenal of quality material. This year is all about building that arsenal.
The strong will survive the uncertainty. To be strong, you must “exercise”. That exercise is writing.
Let the foolish chase rainbows. Some may even get lucky and catch one or two. But the rest of us are in this for the long haul, and I will not take a short term gain over a long term career. Not gonna happen.
It’s foggy out there. No one knows when the fog will lift. Have faith in yourself that you’ll touch down without seeing the ground.
But for god sake, don’t try to land the plane unless you’ve got the skills.
Posted under analysis, writing
This post was written by Shawna on January 4, 2009