After knocking on the British film industry’s doors for so many years, without much success, I decided to head West and try my luck in the land of dreams and opportunities.
I landed in Los Angeles on Feb 5th, 2008. It was bitterly cold, but to my relief, it didn’t last long and within a couple of weeks the Californian glorious Summer arrived.
LA is a lonely place; you can walk for miles without meeting a soul. Everybody drives a car here. Luckily, I was not alone. I was embraced and supported by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, whom I met at the Hawaii Film Festival a year earlier, where my short, Pleasure Marriage, was nominated for the Best Short Award. They invited me to their events and parties, where they introduced me to the stars, movers and shakers in Hollywood. The Glitz and Glamour is ubiquitous.
I met a lot of people. Unfortunately, they mostly talk the talk but rarely walk the walk. The other problem is when you pitch your project, the first question you’re faced with is “who is in it?”. And if you don’t name a star, they move on. Furthermore, no one likes to invest in a first-time director, no matter how great his or her script is.
Film here is not really an art, it’s merely a commodity that you sell and buy. Everybody here is a salesman, from the screenwriters to the distributor. And everybody here got a script or an idea for a film or TV program, including the postman and the janitor.
I was receiving very encouraging feedback for my script “The General’s Son”; I even received an offer to buy it. But I insisted on directing!
While I was shopping around my project and working on a new short, I applied for the “Directing Intensive Course” at the USC, arguably the best film school in the world, and got in (more on that later).
I also applied to the prestigious Project Involve scheme that is run by the LA Film Independent, who supports filmmakers, run talent labs, the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards.
Project Involve (http://www.filmindependent.org/diversity/project_involve ) is tailored for film makers from under-represented communities (that include everybody except straight Caucasian men). The application process is long and tedious, and it’s highly competitive. Thousands apply and only 40 are selected. I sent the application on April 2008 and anxiously waited.
In July 2008, I received an email informing me that I had advanced to the next stage, and I should send them my best work.
In late August, I received a phone call from Jane, from Project Involve, congratulating me for reaching the third stage and inviting me for an interview: the final stage.
I had the interview in September, where we talked about my goals and ambitions. Two weeks later, I was formally selected for Project Involve. America is truly the land of infinite opportunities.