How important is it to be in Los Angeles to truly make it as a successful screenwriter? Is it possible to make it outside the City of Angels, or should one realistically think about relocating?

–T. Sexton

You don’t need to live in Los Angeles to write a screenplay, although the reverse sometimes seems true. Everyone in L.A. eventually writes one, though usually they shouldn’t.

Writers move to Hollywood for the same reason long-distance runners move to high-altitude. By making things more difficult for yourself, you hopefully improve. And let’s face it, there’s something romantic about being a struggling screenwriter in the big city, living from ramen noodle to ramen noodle, doing your laundry with other aspiring filmmakers, complaining about Jerry Bruckheimer movies while finishing your spec script about terrorists.

After a year or two the romance fades, and if you haven’t had any success, you become bitter. That’s not to say you wouldn’t have become bitter wherever you came from, but in L.A., it’s more expensive. (On the plus side, the weather’s better.)

Do you need to move to L.A. to become successful? Probably. While there are major screenwriters who don’t live here, most of them did at some point in their careers. Part of the job of a beginning screenwriter is to take 1000 meetings with 1000 young development executives, listening to them spout on about their pet projects which will never get made, and that means living in town.

Should you, T. Sexton, move to Los Angeles? Only if you’re really serious about making it as a writer. Just as nine out of ten actors who move here don’t succeed, probably a greater proportion of writers strike out. The difference is, actors have to go out and audition, while writers can fail in private.

But some writers, including many of my best friends, do succeed. And truth be told, it can be a great job. Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying. Pack up the U-Haul if that’s your goal. Just make sure you have a script or two finished first.