To Live and Write in LA

How to Succeed in Hollywood by Really Trying

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Fun and networking at AWG

Fun and networking at AWG

How would you like to rub shoulders with producers and directors, find out insider secrets from produced screenwriters, recruit actors and production talent, and learn how to jump start your Hollywood career? You could havedone all of this and more at the September meeting of the Alameda Writers Group in Glendale, California.

The September meeting, hosted by club president, writer, director, producer and author Marc Cushman featured two speakers: writer/producer Jim Leonard and career coach Shawn Tolleson.


Jim Leonard

Jim Leonard

Leonard is writer/co-producer for The Closer. He had the same job on Dexterand was the show runner for two Jerry Bruckheimer productions, Close to Home andSkin. He discussed the ins-and-outs of working in TV. His comments were frank, seemed totally honest, and were sprinkled with a little humor.

When asked how he got his start, years ago, he said that he showed up, was serious about his work, and was the only one who wasn’t stoned. Musing about how his first career, as a playwright, compared with working on TV, he said. “It’s still the life of an artist, only faster.”


Shawn Tolleson

Shawn Tolleson

Tolleson, who unlike many “I’ll teach you how to succeed in Hollywood” types, actually has a successful track record, so she warrants some attention. She calls her special approach “breakthrough goals.”

When most people set goals, she explained, they just repeat something they’ve done before. For example, “Last year I wrote two screenplays, this year I’ll write four.” She points out that while good and doable, a goal like that doesn’t necessarily move your career forward. Through her company, Strategy Coaching, Tolleson helps people figure out what they need to do that they haven’t done before, in order to move their career to a “breakthrough event.”

Besides the featured speakers, the chance to talk with other new and established creatives is a priceless opportunity. Writer/director Vic Cabrera gets my vote for bon mot of the day. My hand was wrapped in bandages and Vic asked what was wrong. I explained that a spider bite had caused my hand to swell up so much that I couldn’t even type. “Finally,” Vic said, “a writer with a legitimate excuse for not writing.”

The Alameda Writers Group, named after Alameda Avenue in Burbank, home to NBC and Disney studios where it was founded, meets the first Saturday of each month at 10 am in the Glendales Central Library. Meetings at the library are free. Membership, which gets you into workshops, contests, and special interst group meetings, is $60 per year.

Photos by Leia Sopicki

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