Residual Angst, Part 1.
May 7, 2014
The Schneid, Part 2.
June 4, 2014
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Photo by Felipe Santana on Unsplash

I’ve just moved. After twenty years in Casa de Die Hard, the War Department and I decided the time was ripe to shuffle the deck, setting up our family tent a mere eight miles east in the Lalaland burb of Tarzana. Yes. Named after or for the fictional ape man of literary lore. The late great Edgar Rice Burroughs made his home here. As did the legendary John Huston, whose magnificent former estate is barely more than an arrow’s flight from where I currently sit amongst stacks of cardboard boxes. I fear I might’ve not purged as much useless junk from my old digs as I was wisely advised.

“Downsizing?” a few neighbors and colleagues have queried upon hearing the news, the subtext in the question as painfully obvious as the melanoma on their nosy nose.

There’s an assumption amongst the Koolaid drinkers of the world. The moment one chooses to pull up stakes and leave an area that’s considered more central to the pulse of commerce, it must be because work is not going so well. As if they’ve been cast out of paradise. I’m absolutely serious here. Ask just about anybody who’s ever moved out of Manhattan. As cool as some of the boroughs might have become – or some of those tony suburban patches across the Hudson – there’s a tide of negative opinion that begins to rise against anybody who deigns to rent a moving truck.

The same goes for Los Angeles.

“I’m very excited,” expressed a showbiz friend of mine. It was about ten years ago. He was a recent newlywed and the couple was already expecting their first child. “We just bought a place that I think is not too far from you.”

“Sherman Oaks?” I asked.

“Further west,” he said. “Do you know Tarzana?”

“Nice,” I said. “I’ve always dug Tarzana.”

“Found a dream property,” he said. “Up in the hills. Almost a full acre. Just beautiful.”


“I mean, I know it’s in the valley.”

“So what? I live in the valley.”

“Do you have any idea what my new house would cost on the west side?”

“Millions more.”

“So what if my commute is a bit longer?” he opined. “Especially when my friends get a load of what I’m coming home to.”

“Not a lot of support, huh?”

“Some. But I’ve seriously had some friends say ‘Oh, God. I’m so sorry.’”

“What for?”

“Their first thought was that I got fired from my job or something!” he complained.

“Because you moved to Tarzana?”

“Yeah. Tarzana. Can you believe it?”

“Westside thinking. As if they might break out in a full body rash were they accidentally ventured north of Mulholland.”

“I’m starting to wonder if anybody will ever visit us.”

“A good way to find out who your real friends are.”

I was trying to be encouraging. But my words fell flat. My friend was finding himself worried that by leaving his fashionable zip code behind, he was also sending the wrong message to an industry that too often runs more on perception and less on actual product.

“Am I making a mistake?” he asked.

“Absolutely not,” I said. “Live your life how you want and where you want.”

As it turned out for my pal, his job went the way of the dodo bird along with his marriage, begging the questions: Was the move a contributor or cause of his career’s demise? Or was it just the earth-shifting vagaries that come with this high-wire game called show business?

I truly don’t know the answer. But I do understand this simple axiom: At the bare whiff of failure – be it real or a totally false scent – a good many showbiz “friends” will abandon you quicker than a studio green-lighting another damned Marvel sequel.

And believe me. I’ve been there.

I recall an invitation to a Sunday housewarming party put on by a Hollywood power couple. There, I bumped into a three-letter agent who for years had been dogging me to sign with him. No matter the event, if he and I were in the same zip code he’d corner me with the full court press.

“How’s things been going for you?” he asked, champagne mimosa in his fat-fingered grip.

“Pretty hard,” I answered woefully. “Been a really rough year.”

With that plain and honest response, I watched his entire visage shift into fear mode. It was as if he’d suddenly realized that I carried that deadly contagion called failure.

“Excuse me,” he awkwardly interrupted. “Someone over there I gotta – you know – talk to. Sorry.”

To say the least, I was a bit stung, wondering what the hell I’d said. Had he given me a sentence or two more, he’d have learned that the rough year about which I was speaking concerned my mother’s failing health. She’d been in and out of the hospital five times, suffering a conga-line of maladies, all of which were conspiring to kill her.

But that’s not what the agent was hearing. He was well aware that the time off I’d taken to write a couple of novels had affected my status on the almighty food chain. My screenwriting stock had dipped. So when I expressed how rough a year I’d experienced, he assumed I was about to describe some kind of career folly – that I was a pro scribbler who’d just found himself circling the drain. The agent’s initial instinct was clearly to jump overboard in lieu of inquiring further and risk having to throw me some kind of lifeline. This attitude was confirmed a few months down the road when I had a simple question and he wouldn’t even return my call.

The house-warming encounter stuck with me. It also explained a few other cold shoulders I’d recently received. About a month later, I was hitting up some sushi with a producer pal when I told him the short story of my agent run-in.

“I don’t get it,” I said. “I’ve been hot, cold, then hot again. And so what if I’m not on the top of everyone’s hit list? I could be deader than disco and I’d still be one spec script away from flavor-of-the-month.”

“Shallow thinking,” said my friend. “Stupid.”

“But here’s the rub,” I continued. “When I heat up again, he’s gonna try and insert himself back into my business.”

“Of course he will.”

“His memory might be short. But mine isn’t.”


“Does he really think he can worm himself back into my world?”

“That’s exactly what he thinks.”

Ah, I finally realized. The agent’s shallow way of thinking was confirmed by his relationships with other, equally depthless show folk. Should I have been insulted that he might one day confuse me as just another puddle swimmer? Not one bit. That’s because those who seek the shallow end generally can’t see much further than from knee deep to their toes.

Weeks later, I was by happenstance in that very same restaurant, throwing back sushi with a fellow word merchant. She’s a snarky kind of girl. That day she was showing off her new red do.

“What do you think?” my redheaded friend asked, shaking her strawberry locks.

“It’s working,” I answered.

“Getting me dates and meetings,” she bragged.

“Dates, I get. But seriously. More meetings?”

“Red gets attention.”

“But it’s shallow attention,” I reminded. “But if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“I don’t mind shallow,” she teased. Then it turned into a bit of a brag. “In fact, I’m really good at shallow.”

“And I’m not,” I admitted. “But good on you. Oughta take you far in this town.”

As I write this, I’m fully aware that I just made a move to the west. To Tarzana. Further from the pulse. Yet I don’t give a second thought to the message it might send to anyone who might attempt to read what it means to my career or viability.

I moved here for something far more important than career. A little ditty called home and family. And so far I love it.

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  1. Kristine Smith says:

    Sending virtual bread, salt, and wine your way. Enjoy the new home!

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Thanks ever so much Kristine. Though you remind me I need to cut back on the salt.

  2. Aaron C says:

    Congrats, Doug. I hope your new digs bring much peace and joy… I moved out of Manhattan almost fifteen years ago now. Typical reasons — more space, less money, less hassle. Home is a refuge, and it costs a lot of money to put a refuge in the middle of the fray. I still love Manhattan, and it’s only a short train ride away now. Seven miles ain’t too much farther though. Would be fodder for another blog post if you found out one of your friends felt the line had to be drawn there. 🙂

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Appreciate the sentiment Aaron. Hoping some peace and joy land here after we climb out of the cardboard rubble. And yes, I do have a pal who moved out of Manhattan to some similar angst. Possibly down the road.

  3. marciliroff says:

    I moved (back) to The Valley after having escaped when I was 16 yrs old – and vowed never to return. Having been here for over 12 years no I have to say that I couldn’t be happier here. My shoulders came down, less stress, little to no poseurs, and I love it her. More bang for your buck too!

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Damn straight Marci. Now I gotta get you back on my block… in the Land of Tarzan.

  4. Lisa Kothari says:

    Enjoy your new home in Tarazana – I have another friend there – you may know him from the industry & on Twitter – Glenn Sanders (@propagandery) – cool guy with a lovely family. You may want to connect. Cheers!!

  5. James Hornsby says:

    Finally had a chance to read your new stuff. Tarzana is fun and I know the feeling. I’ve recently move to Newport Beach, and actually I’m working more while down here than the time I spent in NoHo, and the reason was for my wife’s family. Crazy. Enjoy Tarzana Doug!

  6. Waves of Gray says:

    I completely agree that you should be happy on your own terms wherever that happens to be. But I also understand that living outside the established circle (like I do) is almost not to exist. As technology and communication have gotten more advanced, is there any evidence to suggest that a screenwriter could soon be just about anywhere in the world and still receive plenty of opportunities to work?

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Good question, Waves. There are no rules. So nothing precludes you or anybody else “outside the circle” from making an impact that gets you noticed. Yet the trick is maintaining the connections and relationships you develop within the biz. The further away you are or the more absent you make yourself, the less engaged those inside will be.

  7. Tim O'Connell says:

    Congrats on the move Doug. I hope you and the family are very happy there. I like to hear you’re keeping notes on the fair weather friends. It would be great to see their faces when they try to work with you in the future and you send them packing. Maybe snap a picture as you crush their dreams? /evil grin

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Truth Tim? These folks don’t get their dreams crushed by the likes of me. They are so used to seeking out low hanging fruit they simply move on to the next tree.

  8. John Thomas says:

    Congrats on the move Doug! I recently made a big move myself, and it was a bit of a shock to the system (mine and everyone who knew me). Got some interesting comments from people who I’d hoped would be more supportive, but glad to be in “mid-life crisis” if this is the result – loving the change.

    Perhaps the big fish in shallow ponds have an innate fear of the fish willing to swim in the deeper waters? In any case, where actual happiness is concerned, happiness at home is way more important than maintaining airs for those we work with (especially for those of us who, well, actually work at home).

    Sad that some people aren’t human enough to care about human things (or other human beings perhaps), but…as much as we might wish otherwise, I guess shallowness is part of humanity too. I try to live kind of like it’s the zombie apocalypse – I just try to find and work with other humans, and avoid the flesh-eaters.

    Enjoy the new digs, and may your continued success be a slap in the face to all the doubters!

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Interesting theory on the not wanting to swim in deep water. Might be simple physics. Too much pressure on puny brains.

  9. Chad says:

    Howdy, neighbor! I like Tarzana, although I’m going to wager that your place (as a produced writer) is a wee bit nicer than mine (an unproduced one). Still, best of luck and good to have you around.

    • Doug Richardson says:

      You never know, Chad. Coulda had investments with Madoff. Or blown the nest egg on coke and hookers. That would put me where? In a studio apartment off Tampa?

  10. disqus_1cTVU3dkZo says:

    Good on you. Please tell my husband.

  11. Phyllis K Twombly says:

    Another informative blog. Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience.

    (I’ve been offline a lot more lately so my emails got backed up. Hope you didn’t think I was creating distance.)

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Hardly Ms. Twombly. The Force is with you. I could feel you were still out there.