Living Without A Net

“Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”  – Hunter S. Thompson.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?


by Signe Olynyk

Ten years ago, I didn’t know a soul in Hollywood. Today, I run the largest screenwriting conference in Los Angeles with more than 2,000 writers attending each year (Pitchfest).

Why is that crazy? For starters, I started the event in Canada before moving it to LA. The whole thing is run from my little home office in Calgary, Alberta. The entire team consists of myself, my NY-based producing partner, and a small handful of dedicated writers from all over the world, who meet once a year in Los Angeles to put on this event.

Ten years ago, I didn’t know a soul in Hollywood.
Today, I run the largest screenwriting conference in Los Angeles

It is a labor of love for us all that has helped hundreds of writers to get agents or managers, option their scripts, and become actual working screenwriters. It has changed hundreds of lives, including my own.

To be a filmmaker, you have to be a little bit crazy. It’s true. First you have all these ‘voices in your head’ that you have to capture on paper. And then you spend months and years of your life crafting those words into scripts and eventual productions. And on top of it all, we think we can do this without having to live in Hollywood. Now THAT is crazy…isn’t it? Not so much.

To be a filmmaker, you have to be a little bit crazy.

We live in the future, and the opportunities for local filmmakers continue to grow with each advance in movie making technology. The idea that you must be in Hollywood to make your films is as much a fable as most of the popcorn movies that the studios produce. Here are just a few of the real life myth busters who continue to inspire us all, regardless of where they call home:

• David Cronenberg (The Fly, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, A History of Violence) started in Toronto, Ontario
• Joel & Ethan Coen (Fargo, No Country For Old Men) are from Minnesota
• Robert Rodriguez (El Mirachi, Machete) makes his films in Austin, Texas
• Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Good Fellas) started by making his films in New York.
• Sarah Polley (Away From Her, Take This Waltz) is based in Toronto, Ontario
• Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Zack & Miri Make A Porno) started in New Jersey.
• Richard Linklater (Slacker, Before Sunrise, Fast Food Nation) makes films in Austin, Texas.

These giants of filmmaking all made their films, using the resources and contacts they had in the places they are from, and developed their careers from there. There is no reason why we can’t all do the same.

The idea that you must be in Hollywood to make your films is a fable

Look at the resources you have in your life. Do you know someone who owns a limo, or a sports car? Or even an old beater that would contribute towards a great story you could tell? What about locations? Do you know someone who has a cabin, or could you set your movie in the backwoods using a tent or motorhome? Like every great chef, cull the ingredients from your life and use them to create your own great story. You probably have more resources than you think.

This month’s theme is ‘Embracing the Absurd’. So take both your hands, reach out in front of you, and then wrap those hands around your own opposite shoulders. You are a filmmaker. Celebrate that. Now go do something crazy. I can’t wait to see what.

-Signe Olynyk 

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Signe OlynykSigne Olynyk is a Writer / Producer, who also is founder of the Great American PitchFest Screenwriting Conference, held annually in Los Angeles, CA.

Signe is also behind the Great British PitchFest, held in partnership with the London Screenwriters’ Festival in the UK.

You can check out her movie, Below Zero; or email her directly at info@belowzeromovie.com.

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Photo Credits: Stock XChange,
 and Signe Olynik

About the Author

Jamie Campbell

Jamie Campbell is an author, screenwriter, and television addict.Jamie is proud to be an Editor for The Story Department.Her latest series Project Integrate is out now.

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