Posted by: steveonfilm | January 21, 2010

Manage Your Money Wisely

I just got done talking to a friend of mine who is a producer on a few television shows out in Los Angeles. They aren’t any huge TV shows that you’d know of, it’s mostly Spanish language stuff, and even then a lot of the shows don’t even air here in the states. Anyway, that’s not important. What’s important is a story he told me about a guy he used to live with. For the sake of this story I’ll refer to my buddy as Peter, and refer to his old roommate as Carlos.

In this months issue of Creative Screenwriting there is an interesting article about how long the average career of a writer in Hollywood lasts. The average, according to the article, is about five years. After that there is a series of things that usually occur which either prevent the writer from getting more work, or make the writer move on to other non-writing careers. One of the morals of the article is that writers need to manage the money they get while working, because they never know when it might dry up. Which leads me to the story Peter told me.

A few years back when Peter first moved out to LA, he lived in a house in Santa Monica with three other guys. One of them was his cousin. The other was his cousin’s friend, who happened to own the house. I guess this guys parents had a lot of money, I don’t know the whole story there, but it was a nice place. The fourth guy was Carlos, who had just graduate from the USC film school and was trying to cut it as a screenwriter.

Carlos had some part time job at Best Buy, and in the rest of his time just sat in his room smoking pot and writing. Not a bad gig, I guess, if you’re in your early 20s and living in Santa Monica in a place much nicer than you could afford otherwise. However, let me preface the rest of the story with this… Peter made it a point to remind me several times of how dumb Carlos was when it came to making decisions, and otherwise running his life.

One day Peter comes home from work and Carlos has literally thirty bottles of liquor on the table in the kitchen (I saw this picture on Facebook, and asked Peter about it, which actually led to me hearing this story today). Carlos tells Peter that he sold a spec script he’d written, so be bought all this booze and wanted to throw a big party to celebrate. That night they had a big party and it was all good. The next day Carlos went in and quit his job.

A few weeks later Carlos gets his money from the script (which never ended up being produced) and decides he wants to fulfill his dream of owning a Ferrari. So he does some research, finds a used Ferrari he likes, and goes out and buys it, paying just under a hundred grand cash. This was about half of what he got as a payday for his spec script.

A little while later the Ferrari starts to have problems. Carlos takes it into a shop and gets a call a few hours later. The mechanic tells him he doesn’t own a Ferrari. He owns a Pontiac Fierro with a Ferrari body kit and Ferrari engine. So basically, Carlos spent half of what he made on his script on a Ferrari that wasn’t even a real Ferrari.

Now, this wouldn’t be a huge issue if Carlos continued to get work. The problem is, he didn’t. Carlos ended up having to move back home when he started to get into real bad debt problems, and Peter hasn’t really talked to him since. The only thing I could think of when Peter told me that story was how each time someone from the trailer park wins the lottery we hear a story about them being dirt poor three years later.

Anyway, no big moral of a story here. I just thought it was funny. And since it relates to screenwriting, I figured I’d take a break from outlining “Pride is Forever” and post it up.

Until next time, keep writing!

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