Monday, August 15, 2011

5 Things to do in LA if you're a writer

Yesterday a writer friend of mine who is now heading up a film course at a Vancouver school asked me if I could recommend 5 places that every aspiring writer should either do or visit if they came to L.A. for a few weeks.

I spent some time thinking and ruling out the obvious; Universal Tour, Disneyland and that stuff. I figured that it should relate to writing or for that matter acting as actors and writers share the same dreams much more than the other crafts. There are more of them than any of the crafts as well, considering there are well over 125,000 SAG actors and 10,000 writers in WGA and God knows how many who aren't in either guild.

After all isn't everyone in America writing a screenplay?

So here goes, and in no particular order.

The Academy Library is a must. This is where everything you ever wanted to know about the movies going back to 1881!  There are screenplays, photographs, production materials, notes, biographies as well as any single topic associated with motion pictures. And the building is classic southern California.

One pointer, the staff regard this museum as though it was Fort Knox, the security is equal to airport inspection, but it's all free and you can spend hours, even days in it. You need ID. 

Hollywood Heritage Museum is just opposite the Hollywood Bowl and is one of the earliest studios built in Hollywood. Cecil B. DeMille and Jessie Lasky converted the barn to a studio and you can examine the early filmmakers through photos, letters and a lot of old cameras and gear.

Studio tours at Warner's and Paramount are also great to see if you've never been in one. I still get excited like a kid when I get to go to a meeting or screening at any of the "lots". Universal's tour is ok, but much of it is about the rides. Paramount and Warner's take you onto the working lot. It never fails to inspire me. 

Formosa is a restaurant and bar on Santa Monica next to the Samuel Goldwyn Studios (formerly Pickford-Fairbanks Studios. The Formosa is filled with history starting in 1925 and was host to almost every big star there was, Bogart, Warren Beatty, Brando, Bacall, James Dean, Judy Garland, Grace Kelly and so many others including Brittany Spears and even Paris Hilton. Order a dry vodka martini and sit back and imagine the scene 60 years ago and ask about the scandals even up to Shannon Dougherty's brush with the law.

Then there's the writer's best  movie, Sunset Boulevard from 1950 with William Holden playing a down and out screenwriter who becomes a lover to an aging silent star, played to perfection by Gloria Swanson, herself a silent movie star. Joe Gillis (Holden's role) lives in a grand apartment building at 1851 N. Ivar just a few blocks from Hollywood Blvd. The building is still there and worth a look either before or after watching the movie.

And that's it for now. Let me know if you like this, I can drag out a lot more.