Peter Conquers Showbiz – Episode 1


Television Writing from the Outside In
This week: Where do you live? How much is rent?

I flew to L.A. with a single carry-on, the clothes on my back and a limited amount of cash on my foreign bank card. The plan was to rent a place week-by-week until I could get a better feel for the city, then find the right place for the best price. If you’re considering a similar move, my strongest piece of advice is to save as much money as you possibly can. You have to save money the way you write scripts—with a passion.

If you’re prone to spending money (like me), buy silver ingots if you have to (to satisfy your need to spend) and save those ingots. Every word, every page, every ingot is a step toward phase three of your own plan. So whether you choose to buy silver ingots or not—save your goddamn money. You’re going to be poor before you’re rich, so spend all your spare time writing, watching films/TV or working extra jobs.

If you want to buy Shane Black’s mansion, you can’t afford to get the foot-long Subway sandwich. You have to buy the six-inch, without the avocados, and put the rest of that money in your other pocket, because you’re going to need it. Trust me. You’re going to need it.

Craigslist wasn’t as helpful as you might think. Because every hour you spend on Craigslist (responding to ads, following up with shady strangers, being disappointed by the looks of the place when you bus your ass out there) is an hour that you’re not writing. If you’re like me, all you need is a bed and a desk and for everyone else in the house to shut the hell up while you write and re-write.

Luckily for me (and hopefully for you) a friend of a friend of a friend came through and let me stay in his living room until the second bedroom became available. I pay $850, but you should budget $1,000 a month for rent or more for a room with a bed and a desk. Twice that if you want to live alone. Can you find rooms for $500? $400? It’s possible, but what you save in money you’ll pay for in sanity.

(That week-by-week rental place I stayed in? I had to put up with Ukrainian strippers bursting in through the owner’s door while the owner called the cops. And you don’t need Ukrainian strippers right now.) (Invite them to Shane Black’s mansion later!)

Most of the people I’ve met so far live around here: West LA, West Hollywood, Westwood, Pico/Robertson, or perhaps just west of Sepulveda, near Stoner Park. A few live a few miles further west in Santa Monica, out by the coast. A few live in a place called Los Feliz, “where rich people dress like homeless people,” as a friend puts it. A few live up north in a magical place called “the Valley,” where rents are cheap and reality TV stars thrive.

Everyone you meet will want to tell you everything about themselves, their lives, their projects (but don’t you let them!). Write a brief character description of them in your trusty phone, and get out of that party while you’ve still got a byte of bandwidth.

Even if you choose the cheapest place you can afford, you’ll soon want to trade-up. Why? Because you’re surrounded by penthouses and Porsches and Ferraris. Not that money is everything—it just has an effect on you. You’ll want to say you live in a reputable neighborhood instead of nowhere land. The city will make you want to succeed.

But I’m no expert. I’m just a guy. Use my experiences to help inform yours. Leave your questions and advice in the comments below, and over the months, we’ll all be better for it—until we party at Shane Black’s mansion like it’s 1987.

Next week: How do you meet people? How do you get around?

Peter is a baby feature writer who wants to be a showrunner. (BLAHAHAHA!)