Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Stop L.A.

It's Friday questions day.

jose asks:

Hey Ken, where in LA do u think most first-year TV writers, and then show runners, tend live?

Wherever they can find something reasonable. And most recently, not underwater. There’s an area of West Hollywood that’s unofficially known as “First Stop L.A.”. It’s around Melrose and La Brea. There are older apartments and small houses and duplexes. And lots of young single people. The older single people (generally they go by the nickname “divorced”) hole up in the Oakwood Garden Apartments in the valley. So avoid that.

New Los Angeles arrivees also gravitate to the Silverlake district. It’s kind of artsy and bohemian and if you don’t mind the fact that it can also be a little dangerous you might consider roosting there.

Burbank is another haven. I’m sure some of my readers can suggest other neighborhoods for newbies.

From Paul Duca:

…And speaking of "off the top of your head", is that how you do those play by play voiceovers, or do you watch an actual game clip?

It depends. I’ve done it both ways. Usually there is no picture but I have to tailor the play-by-play to the screen because often a character will react to something on the TV so I have to time the commentary to fit. Most of the time I’ll be watching the scene while doing my spiel.

There have been times when we do see the action on the TV and then it’s a snap because I just call the play-by-play of what I see.

Sometimes I’m asked not to use actual names or teams. That’s a little trickier. It’s easy to make up names for the players (usually I just use members of the crew) but it’s hard to give the score when you can’t identify the teams. I’ll do something like “And the Good Guys lead 4-2.” Yeah, I know... pretty lame.

My favorite experience was for the show BROOKLYN BRIDGE. I got to call the 1955 World Series. I wonder if it’s too late to get a ring.

What’s your Friday question? Leave it in the comments section. Sometimes it takes me a few weeks to answer but I try to get to most of them.


Unknown said...

The big decision is whether you can stand to live on the other side of the hills that divide Hollywood and west Hollywood, from the Valley (Burbank, North Hollywood). It is generally cheaper to live in the valley, but inconvenient in terms of being in the mix. The red line subway can mitigate some of this "problem." But, a lot is defined by your residence relative to the hills.

If you don't have a nice bankroll to get you going, I would strongly suggest u find a place in NoHo with good access to the red line. Burbank is a very nice town, but it is expensive. If you would be willing to spend Burbank money, then I would try to find a place in WeHo, or maybe Silver Lake as Ken suggested.

Anonymous said...

Don't discount Culver City. It isn't cool or hip, but has a lot of restaurants, is close to the beach (Santa Monica and Venice) and is quiet and safe.

Downside is the drive to Burbank/Hollywood.

Also, I must be the only youngish person around because I am desperately single and lonely.

Michael in Vancouver said...

My question is about the transition of MASH from movie to TV show. For some reason, I never understood the appeal of MASH the movie. No disrespect to Robert Altman; Short Cuts is one of my all-time faves, and I cannot say enough good things about The Long Goodbye, The Player, Prairie Home Companion, Gosford Park, and others. But I've seen MASH twice and for me it's a dud. It plays like a series of sketches, and while that approach works in other Altman films, nothing about MASH resonated for me and I got no hint of the "satire" or "anti-war film" so many talk about. And it ends with an insipid football match! WTF? So, my questions, for someone on the inside of the TV show (a more profound blend of farce and drama than the film achieved): What made the film so critically lauded? Did you like it? Were the writers attempting to capture what made the film so popular, or was there a conscious effort to make the TV show unique? I'd just like to hear your thoughts in general about the Altman movie vs the TV show. (BTW, does anyone know what Altman thought of the series?)

JonnyBoy said...

I agree with Anonymous that Culver City is getting to be pretty cool and might be worth a look. Forget the Valley, it sucks (sorry Valleydwellers). Hollywood is for the clubbers. Silver Lake is my hood and I think it's the best in LA, but it's not really a hotbed work-a-day industry peeps (I don't count that people like Rachel McAdams live somewhere in a hideaway on the hill, I never see her or anyone like her around). However, Silver Lake and it's surrounding areas are getting too expensive and many of the musicians and artists that used to call it home are moving into Highland Park, Mt. Washington, and Eagle Rock. For a writer who wants to be surrounded by a ton of breaking-in-the-industry folk, I think Ken is right, the eastern part of West Hollywood, between Beverly and Franklin and La Cienega and La Brea.

Red Dawn said...

Silver Lake and Echo Park aren't dangerous anymore. The rents are a little cheaper than the westside and you definitely get more space for your dollars.

Paul said...

Safe, expensive neighborhoods: WeHo, Silverlake, Los Feliz.

Cheap, sketchy neighborhoods: Highland Park, Westlake/MacArthur Park, any location bordering downtown.

Hidden gems that are both safe and affordable: Eagle Rock, East Hollywood, North Hollywood, Culver City, the shed in Ken Levine's backyard.

The Curmudgeon said...

“And the Good Guys lead 4-2.”

Not necessarily lame: Hawk Harrelson does that all that time. You can put it on the board... YES!

A. Buck Short said...

DEAR MISS MANNERS. When and how did acting get good?

For me, when watching even the best actors in older movies as late as the 50s, the dialogue frequently doesn’t ring true – or at least seems to call attention to itself as scripted. Everything seems to be like some sort of back and forth “pronouncements” instead of conversation. Was it that we were closer to the transition from stage acting. Is it that mics can now pick up more softly delivered or throwaway dialog, even on location instead of a soundstage)? Have actors learned to tone it down so more of the emotion and meaning can be suggested with the camera and camera angles (wide shots then, extreme close-ups now, etc.)?

I’m assuming the greater realism of other elements added, like more attention to background, help. Or the elimination of some things – the scenes you watch on set in a one-camera production when you’re also taking in the entire crew, equipment, location, etc. rarely match the reality or emotion of what you see in the edited scene.

Is part of it just that the writing has changed to better match the way people really talk and react? Have writers learned to better take in the other elements of a shot or scene that do more of the work?

But a lot of it is clearly the acting. Or were people just so much more demonstrative and talk different in those days? Ken, this is an essay test, so a one word answer like “BRANDO” just one cut it.

And, yes, even my QUESTIONS are 95% longer than necessary. Please feel free to shorten this one to the first sentence or two, if it is fortunate enough to be selected for entry into your blue period.

Emily Blake said...

Koreatown, baby. Affordable. Close to stuff. Good food. A steady level of crime. It's got everything.

Calvert said...

When I went into "hungry writer" mode to start a career in TV, I settled in North Hollywood.

Of course, back then (1986), a one bedroom apartment could be had for $500/month.

It's gone up quite a bit since then, but there's a lot of inventory, and deal's to be had.

Additionally, there is now the NoHo Arts District...

...not to mention the headquarters of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

And the people who shovel out Emmy's couldn't be wrong, could they?

Kirk said...

@Michael in Vancouver--In his obituary a couple years ago, Altman was quoted as saying he never liked the TV version.

As for myself (yeah, I know nobody's asking) I liked both the movie and the TV series. I see them as two wholly different entities, and think it's best not to compare them. For that matter, I see the Trapper John/Henry Blake/Frank Burns version of the TV series, and the BJ Hunnycut/Colonel Potter/Charles Winchester version as two almost wholly different entities, and think it's best not to compare them, either.

Anonymous said...

Just chiming in to say how much I loved that show Brooklyn Bridge. It was a real gem.

Sammy Davis Sr. said...

The lovely seaside community of El Segundo, or, as those is the know call it, Jersey By the Beach.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Persian part of Westwood (south of Wilshire) and it's 40% cheaper than Santa Monica but very close to Venice and Santa Monica (where lots of attachable people live).

If you're used to living in Europe, Asia or New York, you might be able to deal with getting around by public transport. It's LA's hidden treasure if you live somewhere like Westwood, which is one of the few bus-route nexuses (nexi?) in LA.

I'm the only person I know who takes the bus in LA, but I learn a lot about people by the way they react when I tell them. It's a $1 bus ride to LAX, one $1.25 express bus stop to 3rd Street Promenade or Beverly Hills, and a 75¢ bus ride to the beach or anywhere else the Santa Monica Big Blue Buses go. The LA Metro bus system has a $5 a day TAP card pass you can travel hundreds of miles on. It's a great way to recoup those tax dollars you pay.

Also, the Flyaway LAX shuttle is non-stop from Westwood to the terminals, with wifi, for $6.

I now drive less than 50 miles a month and keep my lone vintage car in the garage. I walk 5 blocks to free concerts and lectures and cheap cinephile movies at the Hammer Museum/Billy Wilder Theater.

Westwood used to be the cool place to go in the 60s or 70s. It can feel like a dead zone, aside from the W and the Hammer. I hear there were some bad incidents in the early 80s that drove people away. People are also probably turned off by hanging out where their parents went on dates.

You might not meet many hip 20-somethings in Westwood aside from UCLA students who can't wait to leave for hipper places after class, but you can avoid the oppressive costs and misery of driving.

I practice my Farsi in the local shops, and Japanese, French and Swedish on the bus. It's a problem driving to Hollywood or Echo Park or Burbank, especially at rush hour. But as the John Travolta character said in the intermittently funny Be Cool, when you're important, people wait for YOU.

Kate said...

FYI, rents are dropping like a stone all over town, so there are some real deals to be had.

If you want to hold onto those deals after the next 12 months, find the cheapest livable pre-1971 unit in Santa Monica and jump on it. SM rent control is one of the last wonders of the modern world -- sure, it's hell on landlords, but if you're a broke artist, it's very comforting to know your rent will go up $16 next year.

(Okay, sometimes it's more than that. But not much more.)

The downside of Santa Monica is that you could not be further away from pretty much everything else in L.A. and after 3 p.m. the eastbound 10 is such an impenetrable wall of traffic, you might as well just stay home.

The upside is that it's remarkably easy to get into the valley in the morning, back in the evening, and you don't need to belong to a gym because you can just go for a run around the neighborhood. Oh, and there's a metric ton of homeless people, to remind you to work your ass off so you don't find yourself wrapped up in a tarp in Palisades Park on a rainy night.

Ref said...

I'd also like to hear your thoughts on the film/TV versions of MASH. I'd also like to know if you have any insights on Dr. Richard Hornberger's (the REAL Hawkeye Pierce) views.

DodgerGirl said...

There is always Dickens St. in Sherman Oaks in the Valley. Lots of apartments there and easy access to Ventura Blvd., the 101 and the 405.

cityslkrz said...

Brooklyn Bridge was a fantastic show! There was one episode with Carol Kane as the cool aunt who took the boy to a coffee house. I believe it was her that read her poem "Lost. Lost in Brooklyn"
Every time I step over into the burrough, I think, "Lost. Lost in Brooklyn"

Howard Hoffman said...

Cheap plug: I play a color guy on the next "Men of a Certain Age" - or the one after that. Ray Romano actually was in-studio to direct us calling a basketball game on which his character dropped a ton of money.

In this case, we were germane to the story as he watches "New York" (but not the Knicks of course) collapse in the first half, driving him to trashing the room with a golf we're not just background din.

Naturally, in my genetic neurosis, I'll watch it and see his meltdown as a reaction to my performance. But I think we did okay...he seemed very pleased at the time. Check it out.

Howard Hoffman said...

Just checked. It's the 2/1 episode.

Jonathan said...

Mr. Levine,

I'm not sure if you worked on this particular M*A*S*H episode, but I saw one lately where it began with Hawkweye and BJ reenacting a movie that's been played so many times that they know it by heart.

I was wondering if this was in any way influenced by "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", since by that time was taking off as the midnight movie to rule all (I perform it myself)? It was very reminiscent of screen accuracy and performing in front of the screen, so I couldn't help but ask if you had any idea about that.

Thank you very much.

Stephen said...

Last season, Susan Sarandon and Ernest Borgine guest starred in the same episode of ER. Ernest was listed as "Special Guest Star", while Susan was listed under "Special Appearance by". Why do shows make this distinction, and what in fact is the distinction?

Paul said...

Hi Ken,
A style question for you...
Hip, Hollywood types (guys) -screenwriters,producers,agents-prefer a standard dress style: dark sport jacket,dress shirt, and jeans.
I'm curious about the sports jacket. Do you know where screenwriters and agents shop for their sport jackets?