Last on the countdown of my top three writerly moments of 2013:
#1: Conquering Hollywood
I’ve heard that the people in Hollywood are fake, greedy, pretentious—you name it—and it’s always gotten under my skin because being a screenwriter has been my goal since I decided to go to college for English instead of computer engineering. It’s why I got an MFA in creative writing. But in August 2013, I went to LA to attend a book release party thrown by Pretty Woman producer Gary Goldstein for his Kickstarter-funded book entitled Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success. What I encountered that night, with Gary, was far from the so-called truth I’d been fed before.
When I first saw Gary in person, he was walking around Writer’s Boot Camp, the venue for the party. He was making sure the sign-in table and the food tables were set up and that everyone involved in running the show had exactly what they needed. Realistically, I know that this sort of behavior is to be expected of someone throwing a party, but it struck me right away as something special. He wasn’t just walking around and making orders. He wasn’t a diva. He was doing things. And most pleasantly of all, he was talking to us (the partygoers) as he went about setting things up. Gary wasn’t a god among men as I had imagined him but a real person who cared about things. I later experienced firsthand the way he cares about people.
For most of the time, I talked to the other people at the party—the screenwriters, hopeful screenwriters, marketing people, and everyone else Gary had invited. It was incredible to be among so many who were interested in doing, or who were already doing, something I’ve yearned for for a long time. Toward the end, a fantastic young woman named Morgan Carson (the event planner), who thought it was crazy that I flew all the way from Baltimore to Los Angeles for one 2-hour party, made sure I got a personal introduction to Gary.
And for all the time, money, and Southwest Airlines miles I spent on this trip, this moment was absolutely worth it. (Thank you, Morgan!)
My one-on-one time with Gary was short but real. When I mentioned that I’d just gotten my MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts, he listened with interest, and when I pulled a copy of Life on Other Moons out of my bag, he took it in his hand. He read the back cover to himself. Smiled. He read it aloud to a friend who was standing there with us. And then he said something that I still have a hard time believing sometimes: “You just made two sales.”
It wasn’t just the fact that I sold a couple of books or that I sold a book to the man who brought us Pretty Woman. What really got me was the realization that there are kind, enthusiastic people in Hollywood who will listen to me and support what I do—maybe even what I want to do. It was just a copy of a book, but to me, it was a promise that Hollywood isn’t as impregnable as I once thought. When I read Conquering Hollywood recently, I got that same feeling.
Gary’s book is invaluable for anyone who wants to be in the movie or TV business. I’ve read books, and I own books, all about the actual writing and the formatting of a screenplay, but never before have I encountered one that approached screenwriting from a business perspective in such detail. The book isn’t just about making deals; it’s about making and keeping connections and doing everything possible to conquer Hollywood. In short, networking.
Both in person and in print, Gary comes across as a man who wants to help people succeed in any way possible. This is a rare find—at least it is if you believe all the stories you hear about Hollywood! I was so privileged to spend some time with him and to share this experience centered on my writing. That’s why Conquering Hollywood, and meeting Gary Goldstein, was my top writerly moment of 2013.