The teeming ranks of show-business wannabes in Los Angeles are plentiful enough to warrant some kind of convention every weekend promising to instruct them in how to make it big as an actor, writer, model, you name it.Yet there was still something comical, surreal and strangely appropriate about the third Screenwriting Expo occupying space at L.A.’s sprawling Convention Center alongside the Cosmetic Enhancement Expo and a motivational seminar saddled with the sci-fi title “The Millionaire Mind Intensive.” Given Hollywood’s youth obsession, the idea of aspiring writers wandering over for Botox injections struck me as something more than convenient. In fact, based on scribes’ perpetually sorry lot — underscored by a TV biz where Fox is currently offering a near script-free lineup — it occurred to me writers looking for their break would be best served by merging those three events into one. As it was, the estimated 4,000 people who attended the screenwriting event Nov. 5-7 could encounter almost twice that many down the hall scanning exhibits on hair transplants, “emerging trends in liposuction” and “the art of skin transformation.” Adding an element of indignity, the latter also featured a casting call for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover,” one of those unscripted programs elbowing written ones off the primetime schedule. (For a moment I considered asking a woman where to find said call, then thought better of it.) Nearby, a large room was jam-packed with those motivated enough to attend “The Millionaire Mind,” where an Elmer Gantry-like figure named T. Harv Eker (THE to his friends, I guess) counseled the faithful to “become a lot nicer to yourself” and “create the habit of success on a cellular basis.” Fortunately, “Millionaire” organizers employ 10-cent security, since I walked in without anyone so much as saying, “Boo.” Silly as it sounds, there was something writers could take away from Eker’s blather, just as they could learn from the age-defying procedures on display in the Cosmetic Enhancement pavilion. A positive mindset, after all, is a prerequisite for anyone truly determined to persevere as a screenwriter, what with the lottery-like odds against striking paydirt in that field. Things were notably less upbeat over at the screenwriters’ forum, where marquee writers William Goldman and Aaron Sorkin lamented the state of the industry, with the gruff Goldman musing about writing, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Certainly, getting work isn’t easy these days for those on the wrong side of 40, which is where the cosmetic enhancement comes in. For years we’ve heard stories about veteran writers dragging 20-something children, nieces and nephews to pitch meetings as beards. With a few well-placed nips and tucks, the kids can head back to the beach while their elders try to pass for 34. So being optimistic and looking younger would probably help as much as anything else, including tips on cracking that script’s last act. What disturbs me, frankly, is the cottage industry built around teaching such skills, as evidenced by the brochures for script doctoring, workshops and even “life & career” coaching scattered around the Expo. Because to flip Goldman’s statement around a bit, the fact is not everyone can do it. And as with the pursuit of wealth and beauty, solutions seldom come in a neatly wrapped package, despite the come-ons from those trying to profit by selling them. Meanwhile, Los Angeles can look ahead this month to Glamourcon, a confab that offers the chance to “meet your favorite vintage and contemporary pin-up star and get her autograph,” plus workshops and seminars on “glamour-related topics.” Whether or not there’s script advice at that event, I’m betting there will be plenty of positive thinking and cosmetic enhancement.
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