If you were 22, recently graduated from the college of your choice, and fizzing with literary talent, where would you be headed? Novels? Broadway? Off Broadway? Television?
Exactly. You would be headed for TV. This is where the action is. (Let me read the following programs into evidence:
House, Modern Family, Mad Men, The Good Wife, Glee, Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Dexter, Fringe, The Closer, Weeds, The Office, The Big C, The Simpsons, Psych. Just for starters
TV is where people as vastly talented as Aaron Sorkin and David Milch now ply their trades. This is the Globe of the moment. This is our London in the 16th century. This is our Paris of the first half of the 20th century. LA is it.
A couple of days ago, when I was noting the sheer volume of good programs on TV, I failed to see there is no culture without structure. It just didn’t occur to me that for Hollywood and Burbank to be turning out good TV, there has to be an influx of talent of every kind (writing, directing, acting, casting, etc.).
Hence my image, here, of Hurricane Fred. This is meant to represent talent being pulled from all directions into Los Angeles. (Yes, I know, Hurricane Fred had nothing to do with LA. Work with me.)
You say hurricane. I say virtuous cycle. The better TV gets, the more talented people come, and the better TV gets and the more talented people come…and so on.
Which means at this very moment there has to be a 22 year old getting off the bus in LA preparing to make his or her fortune in this the great center of popular culture, make that American culture.
Which means that there is one whopping story to be written here for Rolling Stone or someone, the story of great talent pouring into a city now prepared, sometimes, to make it welcome. This means there are bars where aspiring writers meet to aspire. There have to be places in town where talent eddies. There has to be a whole lot of networking going on.
If I were not preoccupied with other things, (the proposal for the new book is as of this evening officially done. Publishers, start your engines), I would fly to LA and start an anthropological investigation of LA and its literary subcultures. So, I can’t. How about you?
Hey Grant, I always love your musings on television and culture, and I agree, having thought for a long time that someone needed to do a follow up on Hortense Powdermaker!
Living out here, as a life-long Californian, and half of that in Socal, I can tell you, however, that there would be a couple of problems with your proposal, mostly social and spatial.
One of the things that most frustrates in-comers IS the lack of public third places here. There is no ‘pub’ culture. After years of listening to Europeans bemoan this, I did my own analysis, and you can see that the climate and mediterranean architecture are to blame. With beautiful weather all year round (Thanksgiving out of doors, anyone?) there is no reason to huddle in a bar when you can drink on your patio with congenial, like-minded compadres. And if you drive around LA long enough, you will be struck by how Middle Eastern many of the houses are, turned inward, with walls and elaborate gates and courtyards. Without trying to cultivate it, urban SoCal has evolved into a secretive, insular culture.
Further, the industry itself is organized into Venn diagrams of sometimes mutually exclusive, non-overlapping tribes (talent, mgmt, crew, writers), who have colonized various parts of the city and who do not necessarily socialize across boundaries. There are iconic meeting places, but the act of meeting there is half performance already, saying, “I am meeting here with so and so” and while that may be communicative of status and values, it is likely to be difficult to gain access to such meetings. Then there is the whole problem of studying up, getting General McChrystal on record is probably easier than getting a major agent to speak out;-)
Susan, _excellent_ thoughts and data. Thanks. Perhaps the trick is to approach by saying I am working on a film script about Hollywood, what can you tell me? Grant
Gawker used to have that great standalone blog on H’wood, Defamer. It still exists, sorta, in the main blog: http://gawker.com/tag/defamer/ Now it mostly is PR and coverage of the product, but it used to be full on secret snark from lowly insiders about their world. Again, maybe too insular what with the jokes about baby-eating agents, reportage on water main breaks on Melrose, and fires at Paramount, and sitings of Z list celebs. But hella funny.
TMZ actually does a good job functioning as something of a local rag; if you watch they hang out at places like medical offices off Rodeo, the Grove, and the Brentwood Whole Foods. They also have the vibe down, where one studiously ignores the presence of a major star (they have lives! just like you do!) but you can get ridiculously excited over meeting the lead singer for the Dan Band.
I live in West LA within walking distance of a large number of coffee shops and mall food courts that often contain writers bashing away on screenplays and such. I once overheard a nuts-and-bolts conversation between an independent film director and some sort of free-lance producer/facilitator. In passing, they bemoaned the big studios delaying payments to everybody during the recession making it harder to get the working capital (both cash and sweat) they needed.
My Bally’s also features the occasional person reading a script while on the treadmill. So there are some public manifestations.
On the other hand, the local “Writer’s Store” just moved up to the Valley.