Adam Davis wrote one of the original First Person posts for the site back in 2007, when he first moved to Los Angeles from Des Moines. In 2009, we checked in with him again, and found him working as PA.
At a reader’s request, I asked Adam to tell us what he’s up to now.
When I first moved out here to pursue the writing/directing dream, I was driving on the 10, a mile from my exit in Culver City and I kept looking for the Hollywood sign in the hills. I wanted to see that piece of iconography so badly, I risked taking my eyes off the road.
That’s when I rear-ended the car in front of me.
Six years later, I see the sign every day when I drive home taking Gower. I’ve learned not to stare. Since I last checked in with you good folks, I’ve seen some great gains in my day job and my writing. The day job is a bit more tangible to brag about to my parents because it’s tough to explain that holy crap my dialogue finally doesn’t suck!
So my days have been filled with working on promotions and licensing for the newly-minted third-top-grossing film of all time. My set PA experience has paid off handsomely as I’ve helped produce two great partner spots, one featuring the littlest Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for Target, and the other featuring a massive film set rebuild for Red Baron. I’ve been creatively working on all the toys (Hulk Hands make their triumphant return!) and am most proud of the Hot Toys line that’s coming out.
I also worked on the line of kids and young adult books that came out with the movie, using my writing skills to great effect.
But enough of that detour. Highland gets backed up around Sunset anyway.
It was after a few failed short film and music video projects that I decided to focus entirely on writing and let the directing wait. It’s much cheaper and I felt I needed to get great at one thing before moving on to another trade. I subsequently entered my “content production” phase (still ongoing). I’ve banged out four features, three original TV pilots and one children’s book — some with my writing partner, others by myself — that are ready to hit the marketplace. We’ve also outlined a few features of various budgetary levels and are planning to pen a second episode of one of our series to hopefully make it easier to sell.
It’s been a consistent workflow: finish a draft, work on a new property’s outline, go back and do a second draft…some of these things happening simultaneously. That’s one of the benefits of a writing partner. For example, I’m doing the first draft of a new feature as my writing partner fixes and polishes the last draft of our other feature’s outline. When I’m done, he’ll take the second draft and I may start work on the first draft off the outline. Or he’ll take the first stab as I cook up a new idea. This is what we’ve been doing for the past three years.
And during all this writing, I’ve been hustling as much as I can. Talking to people about the projects, getting some reads, getting great notes, revising drafts as necessary.
I’ve had some “meetings,” but not like the “Come on into Screen Gems, here’s a parking validation” type — the more casual lunch or drinks ones. The ones where I don’t have to slightly-dress-up, but I still do. What’s important is whom these meetings are with: Not the people of power, but the people who will have power.
I remember John saying something along the lines of “the group of people who are your age will rise up together, and they’ll be the ones to help you.” His version of, “Be nice to the assistant, because they’ll be running the studio one day.” Completely true. I’ve seen many of my interns go on to production companies or lit agencies, and now I’m asking them to read my stuff in the hopes they can help me. Don’t be a dick, don’t burn bridges, and be grateful for people even reading your stuff.
But the one thing I’ve learned above all is to be patient. People can take a very long time to read. We all have lives, and they’re doing a favor. I’m not owed anything, and it’s been a hard climb back up the hill after deluding myself into believing I’d be directing a feature at 23.
I sometimes curse Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew for cooking up wild dreams that I thought would be a reality. But the book did me more good than bad: It showed me a work ethic that I still strive to reach and maintain.
I’ve learned that I’ll be just like all those other hard working people that struggled for 10 years to reach their dreams, or at least the beginnings of them. But those are now the stories I’m interested in. Not about the hotshot kid who really hasn’t had enough life experience, but the Eastwoods, the Scotts, the Abrams.
And in dark moments I do occasionally entertain the doubts that I’ll never sell a script or direct. But it doesn’t stop me from trying.
Because I need the writing. Three years of consistent content production has left me unable to go without it. I get cranky when I haven’t had my fix. Me typing this is a nice bump that will get me to that next scene tomorrow after work. I’ll keep writing what I want as more genre-mashing Pirate Gladiators vs. Sunkist Sodas are bought.
I know it seems stupid in this climate, but I still believe in good, original ideas. I need to hold onto some of that naïveté I had when I was staring off into the hills, looking for that beacon of hope that fuels all out-of-town newbies. But the plastic bumper of reality that is years spent working and learning is so much more rewarding, even if it’s painful.
I’ll let you know when the next collision happens.