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I hadn’t been to Los Angeles since I was a teenager. I remember the sidewalk of stars, the grittiness of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and the huge evangelical church where my uncle was getting married. Not much else.
So I was both nervous and thrilled when my feature film, “In Montauk,” was accepted into the Los Angeles Women’s International Festival. It was not the first LA festival I had applied to. Not even close. My lead actress, Nina Kaczorowski, lives in LA, so I’d submitted to just about every film festival in the area. I envisioned a theater full of connected executives from various production companies who would swoon over my film and immediately offer me a seven-figure deal to acquire it. Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and the LA Times would all send someone to review the film, where it would be given rave reviews and I would be catapulted to fame in an instant.
My worst fear was a 500-seat theater with three people in the audience: me, Nina, and Lukas Hassel, my other lead. What happened was somewhere in between (minus the executives). The turnout was much the same as at any regional festival — proportional to the amount of work we had done to get the word out.
But I found that the biggest difference was in the way people in LA talked about film. In New York, conventional wisdom holds that to make it in film, you have to be a writer/director, an auteur with a unique vision. In LA, the advice I got was that if I wanted to advance my career and be taken seriously, my next project should only include one unknown in the project: me. Otherwise, the writer, producer, and lead actors should all be known.
In New York, everyone talks about the story and that what you need is a great script. In LA it was suggested that there were a million great scripts by known writers; just find one and run with it. “Cream rises to the top,” is a phrase often trotted out during screenwriting panels in New York. “It might be easier to get financing by finding the world’s worst script and attaching Lindsay Lohan,” an old friend from LA joked.
In LA, it was apparent that film is really a business. In New York, people talk about film as an art form. But one thing seems the same on both coasts, we all love films and we would move heaven and earth to keep making them. — KIM CUMMINGS, NYWIFT member
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