personal stories

I Moved to Brooklyn

How do you write a blog about moving to LA and breaking into the entertainment industry…

When you no longer live in LA or work in entertainment?

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Last year I watched someone close to me shuttle back and forth between LA and the east coast for six months. Cancer swept through his family like a twister, then disappeared just as quickly, leaving three dead and a lot broken.

It made me think about my own family. We’re close, but I was always so eager to leave town I never gave us a chance to grow closer. To this day, I’ve never made it to one of my siblings graduations, or a single 21st birthday.

When the family needs me, would I be the person they need me to be?

Or would I be the distant relative who shows up every other Christmas? Someone who never forgets to send birthday money but only makes it back home for funerals? The thought breaks my heart.

So I took a new job, outside of the entertainment. I packed up (again) and drove cross country (again) and now live in Brooklyn.

brooklyn bridge

Brooklyn… the new digs. P.S. Are we friends on Instagram? Follow me at: christopherming and I’ll post pictures of the cutest dog ever

Did I fail?

I moved out five years ago to become a screenwriter. I worked with amazing people, got close on a few TV projects, and fell short.

On the black and white scoreboard, yes, I failed.

Once I went to see Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) speak at a Writer’s Guild of America event. He told a story about back when he was unknown, he worked in landscaping. A co-worker was another writer. Bill said he’d love to read his stuff.

“What have you written?”

“Nothing yet,” the guy said.

“How long have you been in LA?”

“Seven years,” he said. “But I got ideas.”

Everyone sees themselves as Bill in that story: the hardest working artist in the room destined for greatness.

From any objective point of view, moving to Brooklyn puts my foot solidly in the “other guy’s” camp. The also-ran.

But I see is a slightly different path. Not as clear, not as obvious. Still destined for greatness.

Can you write about LA and Hollywood if you no longer live there?

The marketer in me says no way.

It’s an uphill battle. The positioning is awful (“dude in NYC who used to live in LA writes about making it in LA”). Who wants to listen to that guy?

Then there’s the teacher in me. Who says if you have knowledge that others want to learn, you should teach it. More importantly, if you have the ability to teach — not everyone does — then you have an obligation to teach as many people as possible.

And I still have things to teach.

Could you do me a favor?

If you’ve learned something from this blog over these last few years, could you leave a comment and let me know what it was?

It’d be a big help to know what people come here to learn. I really appreciate it.

*****

Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker

Finally! Be Happy

I waited tables for 11 years in Albany.

Mornings, I opened the restaurant. I wiped tables and tucked chopsticks into white linen napkins. Everyday, I repeated to myself:

“When I get out of Albany, I’ll finally be happy.”

Then I moved to Los Angeles. Things changed.

I quit waiting tables. Then had to go back when I ran out of money. This is my first day back. I'm dying on the inside.

I quit waiting tables. Then had to go back when I ran out of money. This is my first day back. I’m dying on the inside.

Now the napkins were red. Instead of chopsticks, it was silverware.  

“When I get out of the restaurant business, I’ll finally be happy.”

The next step, I figured, was: become a Hollywood assistant. Learn from an agent. Answer phones and read scripts. Nine months of napkins later, and I started at a management company.

After a few months:

“When I start working for a writer, I’ll finally be happy.”

But this time, I wondered.

We love to think that once we get our “big break,” BOOM, that’s it! Red panties night.

Examples of the big break:

  • Money – “Once I start making six-figures, all my money problems will go away”
  • Relationships – “I just need to meet the one, and she’ll make everything better”
  • Moving to LA – “After I start fresh in Los Angeles, everything will work out”

Seeing dreams come to fruition is exhilarating. When it comes to moving to LA and finding a job, I can help. (For relationships, there’s an app for that.)

But I’ve worked with people who’ve climbed very high. Their books got on lists, then on movie screens. They made a lot of money. Had sex with a lot of people

They still say: “After the next big break, I’ll finally be happy.”

Work for your dream. Get up at 5 a.m., work till 2 a.m., and ship early and often.

But if you’re counting on your big break to “finally be happy” — spoiler alert — it won’t.

That’s up to you.

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Photo Credit: Geraint Rowland

Get to Do vs. Have to Do

A quick thought today:

I recently got a puppy. His name is Deefer.

deefer

Turns out puppies don’t come out of the box with operating instructions and batteries included. It requires a lot of work to figure them out. You also have to:

  • Walk ‘em
  • Snuggle with ‘em
  • And clean up its shit

I love him. Which doesn’t change the fact, however, that for the last 28 years my only agenda has been the climb. My sole focus for the past 4 years has been moving to LA, getting my first Hollywood job, and when I did that, surviving the 80-hour weeks.

Deefer quite frankly, doesn’t care.

When he wants to play, he plays.

When he wants to eat, he eats.

And when he needs to go bathroom, I better take him for a walk. [click to continue…]

How To Measure Success

I have a cousin who set the bar for success in my family.

“I never went into an interview and didn’t get it.”

This was my aspiration for a long time.

It was my own brag, actually, through most of college.

“I get everything I applied for.”

Then college ended and real life beckoned. For the next 8 years, I proceeded not to get anything I applied to. Never in the first round, anyway.

Which is a similar theme in the career’s of people I respect the most:

Dennis Lehane told me: [click to continue…]

How to Quit Your Job Without Second-Guessing

An old boss’s office was stuffed with books. Wall to wall.

It left no doubt that his was a business built on NYT bestsellers, same as his predecessor before him, who repped authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, and Elmore Leonard.

Sitting in the chair across from his desk, I stared at the spines of all these books.

Man, he’s been in this business a long time.

I learned a lot. Was on all his calls. Listened to negotiations. Studied literary agreements and learned about reruns, spinoffs & subsequent productions, how to stipulate a sliding purchase price, and the importance of reversion language.

But today I wasn’t in his office for a lesson.

I looked up at him. I told him I was leaving the company to work for a writer. [click to continue…]