Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rome...should I stay or should I go?

When I went to L.A. I was told by a producer I need to move back if I want to be taken seriously as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

My head was spinning. Of course my career is important to me. I had sacrificed a personal life since college for it.

Well, the joke's on me. If I were paid in full, perhaps the years of working for unstable people 24/7, the migraines and the panic attacks from stress would have been worth it.

I am fine with being single and child free. I'm not happy about being so broke when I first started in Hollywood, I missed weddings and other big occasions in my friends' lives back East. I'm not happy I let my former boss with his passive aggressive bullshit get to me. I'm not happy that at my age I don't own a home and still have no idea how my bills will get paid next year.

I'm older now and once again I made another big change in my life.

It's different this time. The move was to Rome was for my life. I was drowning in L.A. I kept a lot of things to myself but during my return trip every single friend commented on the physical and emotional differences.

Two of my closest friends from L.A. visited Rome during Thanksgiving. We all grew up in the "biz" together. They said it was interesting to see me in this environment and the kind of life I had here.

I thought long and hard about my trip to L.A. Could I move back? Would things be better as a writer vs. an exec? Am I doing great harm to my career by not living in Hollywood?

I did a pros and cons list (hello, I'm a Virgo). At the end, it was no contest. Not even close, I'm not going back.

The simple fact is, there is no guarantee returning to L.A. will make this what I do for a living any easier. One of the top screenwriters said to make it in Hollywood it's in your best interest to be a rich white Jewish male under 30 from the Westside of L.A....extra points if your father was in the business.

I'm none of those things. It's going to be a struggle regardless. I'd rather be in a place I love and where I have a better quality of life.

My lawyer and my manager reminded me that things really started to click for me once I moved. They stressed how difficult the business is and things are only going to get worse. Why fix what's not broken?

One of my friends who visited Rome over Thanksgiving is a producer. She said that the goal is to get movies made, all the rest is BS. We know so many writers who have sold scripts but none of their projects have been made in over twelve years. You can't build a career that way and eventually those writers leave the business.

If I wanted to work in TV I would have to move. Film is different. When I mentioned all the successful screenwriters in the UK, I was told, "you're not a white male and I'm a little worried that you're comparing yourself to Peter Morgan."

I wasn't but I realized at that moment I really can't deal with American ethnocentrism anymore. Film is a global medium. I resent that as a black woman I'm constantly being put in a very narrow box in my home country.

I find it fascinating that an Italian company had no problem buying an idea of mine set in an Italian high school.

I wonder sometimes if my parents were not from another country, would I have the same rah, rah, rah, America is the ONLY country that matters attitude? Of course as a super power we're important but we are part of the global community. Without international box office profits, the studios would go bankrupt.

I don't know what will happen with my career. I do know living in Italy at this point in my life is better for my mental health.


erin said...

i must say when i read the title i was very curious and couldn't wait to get to the answer in your post.

...and when i did, it definitely made me smile :)

Monica said...

I was concerned about the title of your post also. I'm happy to see you decided to stay.

I also totally agree with your comment about the messages we are sent. I have often wondered what would have happened in my life if I hadn't been given the message that being black (and a woman) is a handicap. It was drilled into since I was young that there are things I can't do because I'm a black woman. I look back and realized I settled on mediocrity and never truly did what I wanted to do.

Seriously, why wouldn't you compare yourself to a successful person in your chosen field. Why should you limit your role models to black screenwriters? That's crazy.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

erin - Hopefully we'll be able to meet up for mojitos soon. :)

monica - my parents (who had no idea what it's like to grow up in America) constantly pushed the education + hard work = no one will be able to hold you back. Imagine my surprise when I had to deal with reality. My friends and I sometimes joke with each other and say we should have skipped college and tried to get on a show like Flavor of Love or Jersey Shore.

There are very few black female feature film screenwriters. For the men it's a little better. I know most of the female writers well (there's like what four?). It's tough out there and it's nice that most are very supportive of each other. That said, good writing is inspiring and role models don't have to be the same gender or race. I just read an interview with Darren Aronofsky where he talked about how much Spike Lee influenced him.

Gil said...

Mental Health is what matters. Good luck!!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Gil - Grazie!!

GGirl2 said...

I was concerned when I read your original post in which you wrote that you were told that success can only come for you in the US. Now I have to say I am happy that you decided to stay and stick to your original reasons for moving to Rome in first place... for your life. Don't listen to the naysayers, do you!!!!

Oneika said...

Good for you!! I think you made the right choice. Rome is awesome... :-) Shoot, I'ma have to get myself back over to Europe... I'm tired of Hong Kong.

dorinalouise said...

so glad you're staying in rome!

J.Doe said...

I also think you made the right decision. I mean how can you even think and write if you are stressed out and your mental health sucks?
When I moved to Italy I was almost surprised to hear music and news from other countries. It was almost like a revelation "Oh, there is a whole world out there." I thought to myself, so even if things don't work out in Hollywood (although I don't understand why they wouldn't in the age of internet),there is a whole world of film producers out there.

Jannelle said...

I must say that I am relieved! I know that I don't even know you, but I feel like I do in some strange way. I follow your blog religiously and I plan to move to Italy (don't know exactly where yet) after I graduate in a year. Keep following your dreams and one day, it will all work out. I strongly believe that. Woohoo!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

GGirl2 - thank you!

oneika - Hong Kong is one place I really want to visit. Looking forward to Spring in Rome. Despite the allergies, it's pretty incredible.

dorinalouise - :)

j. doe - so true. I don't want to go back to my unhealthy lifestyle. It's a risk to stay but I feel it's worth it.

jannelle - thanks! Good luck with your last year and let us know about your Italy plans.

Anonymous said...

I've read your blog for a while now and enjoyed seeing you realize one dream after another. You have worked hard and have been successful. But do you really see how lucky you are? I keep hearing a repetitive theme: single, black woman of a certain age, broke, doesn't own a home etc.

Sorry but do you have any idea how lucky you are? You live in Rome and you can!! You have a job (writing) that you love and have had success from, you are surrounded by great friends and have a social life to be envied.

I'm not going to kiss your ass and feel sorry for you because I'm not. You are living in a different realm than 89 percent of people out there. You aren't homeless, you have work and have a great deal of support. That is more than anyone can hope for.

Ms. Violetta

Simone said...

Your post left me with many thoughts and many comments..too many to deal with right now (I am a bit braid dead from too much work and holiday preparations) but the most important is that I am happy you made a choice based on your needs and the end isn't that what living our lives to the fullest are all about - Congrats my friend :)! Congrats

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ms. violetta - dang, talk about tough love. Just kidding. I know, I know. I do feel lucky to have the opportunity (thanks to the EU passport) to live here. I love what I do and have to believe things will work out.

simone - Spending time with my visiting friends from L.A. really put things in perspective. Buone Feste!

coco cooks said...

See a no brainer! Im ascinated in how diect they are in regards to racial barriers. They voice it out loud. Im so used to ppl denying it and skirting around it in other industries.

christine said...

I'm glad you picked to stay. I had the same thoughts about staying in the U.K.

You're right film is a global business and we need people out of the ethnocentric bubble that is the US to actually make good stuff.

P.S. Film needs new stories....I'm so sick of the remakes that Hollywood does of old flicks!

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I've read your blog, and I think we could be kindred spirits. Rome is my favorite city in the world - I lived there for over 2 years back in the early 90s, and have come back almost every year since, including 3 months last September through December. I left my 13-year career in (gulp) market research back in May 2009 cause I couldn't take it any more, and haven't had work since. I recently moved to SoCal to be near friends and to try to find something to do with myself. I'm starting to have a bit of a social life, but it's not working so well without funds. I want to come back to Rome and stay for good. Have to figure out how to make that happen. I think you're going to become my beacon. Cheers, nyc/caribbean ragazza!


C said...

Good for you!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

coco - it's a mixed bag. Some are very vocal with their views, others like to pretend everything is lovely.

christine - There are so many remakes coming out soon. I can't keep track. Good luck with your time in the UK.

laudlouper - grazie. I know it's not easy to leave a job. I hope you find a way to get back to the city you love.

c - thanks!

Paolo said...

hi monica, you will be pleased to know that i read you sometimes, even if i don't write often. Your blog is on my favourite list since 3 years already. I still have to understand if you are lucky to work with the film business, knowing movie actors, or not :-)

i thought was a great thing :\

anyway hold on with your career:-)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

paolo - thanks for reading. I'm not sure I understand your question but yes, I do enjoy working in film. I've been fortunate to work with some very talented actors.

Anonymous said...

Amen girl. I am a bit stressed because I have not found work however it is less stressed than I experienced living in the U.S. I am serious. Life here is less debilitating. Seriously and I bet an Italian company would snap up your screen plays faster than in the States. We still have some growing out of racism and sexism to deal with and we are fooling ourselves if we think we do not. Good luck with everything. You may be seeing me soon in rome. I have to come down there to interview with a few modeling agencies as a make-up artist in January some time.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

odessea - Grazie and good luck with your interviews.

iamatraveler said...

You remind me of me. Except, I haven't found a new place to call my comfort zone. I was once a writer too... in the newsroom. In my early 20s I was a news producer. I left the business, because I didn't feel I could handle the stress. And ten years later, I'm still trying to figure out my next move.

Viajera said...

Lovely way to evaluate this big decision. Quality of life. Priceless. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you keep finding work, thereby keeping your sanity. Good for you.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

iamatraveler - Congrats for being brave enough to leave a field/job that wasn't for you. It's hard to walk away from a steady paycheck. Finding your comfort zone can take a couple weeks or a couple decades. While you're looking, try to take time to enjoy the process. I know it's not easy.

viajera - grazie.

Kataroma said...

I think you're doing the right thing staying in Rome. As long as it's financially feasable I really believe in going with your gut. You only live once!

G said...

WARNING. This is going to sound creepy.
I found you randomly and read a couple of posts. It's 6:22 AM, I'm an italian girl worried about what my future is going to be like if I continue to live in this strange, old, (beautiful) country. So after the gloomy post about my bloody PM, I read the title of this post and thought 'See, she already knows the worst about living here. She'll move, and you should do the same'. Then I read the rest and did a lot of smiling. I'm happy that you're happy where you are.
So I suppose I can go to sleep now and start to worry again in 2011. ;)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

kataroma - True, we do only live once. I already lived in L.A. for ten years. Insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. I will definitely spend more time there but can't see moving back full time. Life is too short to be that unhappy.

g - it doesn't sound creepy at all. Thanks for reading. I do worry about what is going to happen here, especially with all of our PM's foolishness. I wish more politicians would focus on fixing Italy's problems instead of lining their own pockets. It's really a shame so many young people have to leave because of their failed policies. This brain drain will not be good for the country.

Rooo said...


It's Rooo, from Jez. Buon anno a te - I cannot tell you how embarrassed I am I'm just figuring out you have this whole fascinating blog over here.

I also think I wasn't aware you're a fellow Virgo - LOL @ self - but I can tell you from one to another that not only does mental health come first, but it's a requisite to keep in order to succeed ... you are a writer, after all.

So congratulations to you for the decision you made.

(Besides, if you don't stay, how could I wave at you if I get to come over and see Rafa win at the Rome Masters? :-) )

word verfication - "shlemi" :-/

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

rooo - Hey!!! Buon anche te. Great to see you over here. Thanks for reading.

I hope Rafa stays healthy for the upcoming tournaments.

I was watching Rachel Zoe (don't judge) and she mentioned she was a Triple Virgo. Why am I not surprised she's a Virgo?

Red Dirt Lattes said...

I have questioned myself on this every time I have gotten a phone call from my agents telling me I have to move back. Even if my lips start to say yes, my soul screams NO!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Red Dirt Lattes - I was talking to Guy Pearce about this same issue. Can't you put yourself on tape for auditions and I assume you do go back to L.A. for general meetings?

If there is a big audition you must read for in person, you can always get on a plane and be in L.A. the next day. You might be jet lagged but it's not like we live in Antarctica.

Red Dirt Lattes said...

Yes to all. But it's more than that now. I am not sure I want to go back. To any of it. My world feels so much lighter without it.
Where are you in Rome?

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

red dirt lattes - I live in the Center near Campo.

What area are you in?

I just realized that you and Ashley Graham may not actually know each other! Maybe she sent me your blog link because we're in the same industry and city.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

rdl - I will shoot you an email.