Tracking the career progress of 4 ex-Chicagoans in LA

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We’re back at the Kitchen 24 breakfast table to track the progress of four people who decided in mid-life to leave Chicago and move west to solidify their career goals.

Writers Dante Bacani and Ron Maede, documentary director / screenwriter, Erin Dooley; who’s now spent a year in LA; writer John Hoffman, who is considering making the move as well, joined me, s Chicago transplant since 2013, leading the discussion of where they are now.

COLIN COSTELLO: Do you feel like you are any closer to your goals since moving here?

RON MAEDE: I think so. I can say I’m an optioned writer now. (Note: In July, Ron optioned his screenplay, “The Church Bells Were All Broken” to Matter Media Studios). I still don’t have a manager or agent yet, but I’m working at it. My wife and I have decided to close our Chicago house and buy something out here. Our son also will be attending college here so LA is home.

ERIN DOOLEY: I’ve been here a year now. But I had thought about moving here for a while. Knowing that selling a screenplay could take a while I didn’t want to add that pressure when I was married and living in Bloomingdale.

After divorcing, I backpacked 550 miles across Spain. Along the way, I interviewed other pilgrims about forgiveness as I worked to heal and forgive my soon-to-be ex-husband.

The journey is the subject of my 45-minute documentary, “A Way to Forgiveness,” which premieres at the Picture Show Theater in Bloomingdale on November 21.

JOHN HOFFMAN: I made a lot of films living in Chicago and have had great experiences on film sets. But after winning the Ithaca College-sponsored Rod Serling Writing Fellowship, I was advised to consider TV. So I attended a Los Angeles round table called “The Hamptons Table,”  created by sci-fi writer / producer Marc Scott Zicree (“Star Trek: New Voyages”) I passed out 34 synopses and I’m now waiting to see if anyone bites.

DANTE BACANI: I really haven’t been writing much since I moved here six months ago. I’ve had major life changes. Also running the Screenwriters Network from LA has taken up a lot of my time. But I’m ready to get going now.

I’m writing a non-fiction book on U2, who celebrate their 40th anniversary this month. I also recently had an idea that merges a sci-fi movie concept I had years ago, which might result in a feasible pilot.

Chicago ex-pats in LA: Ron Maede, Dante Bacini, Erin Dooley, not shown, John HoffmanCOSTELLO: As artists, we still have to put food on the table especially at this stage of our lives. What are you doing until that big paycheck comes?

MAEDE: I’m currently working as a valet at one of trendy hotels in town. I’ve gotten to see a lot of celebrities like Judd Hirsch, Taryn Manning, Danny DeVito, and Aerosmith. And I almost crashed Kirsten Dunst’s car!

DOOLEY: I work at a hula hoop warehouse where I make $500 LED hula hoops for events like Burning Man. It’s nice because I don’t have to really think about what I’m doing. I’ve also been working as an AD on some short films around town. Best compliment I got was from a director who said, “I’m never going to make another movie without you!”

HOFFMAN: Between writing I am working part-time for Aura-Technologies a laser show / electronics engineering company. I was the research director for the Museum / Holographic Center for many years previously.

BACANI: I am still a recruiter with Writers Boot Camp. My role has expanded to include some marketing collateral development. I augment my income with freelance marketing consulting and web design.

COSTELLO: What’s been your best and worst experiences since moving here?

MAEDE: The best was working on your digital series, “Lost n’ Found.” It was a great crew and Monica Zaffarano (A Zaffarano Production) was phenomenal. Worst was getting my BMW towed. We pleaded with the sheriff not to do it but he said our stickers were out-of-date. When we got to the station, the desk sergeant said, “Oh, we made a mistake. We owe you an apology. Have a nice day.”

HOFFMAN: I was one of the winners of the Ithaca College-sponsored “The Twilight Zone” writing competition where finalists were judged by Rod Serling’s widow. The awards presentation was made at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills last February.

BACANI: I received a police ticket for $490 in my first two weeks after moving to LA. I wasn’t driving when I got it – I was riding my bike! Fortunately, the charges were dismissed when the police officer who issued the ticket failed to show up for the hearing. I suppose that is both a “best” and “worst” experience since I saved nearly $500.

DOOLEY: I produced a webseries, “Baked Goodes,” that I’m proud of. We had a table read for industry people to give us notes and the room was full of people I had become friends with in my short time here in LA. It was the best, because it was the first time I felt like I had a community here.

Worst was filming on Skid Row in DTLA. My heart broke for all the homeless.

COSTELLO: What’s the biggest difference you’ve found between Chicago and LA?

BACANI: It’s my experience thus far that L.A. has more “flakes” per capita than Chicago. That’s probably why Chicago people in the industry prefer working with others from Chicago.

There’s also much more opportunity to work in the industry in Los Angeles than there is in Chicago. That seems like an obvious statement, but it’s hard to appreciate just how stark the difference is until you get out here.

DOOLEY: Biggest difference is meeting more people with more experience in higher-level projects. Networking is at a whole different level.

MAEDE: People valet their cars to go hiking.

Colin Costello, who still calls Chicago, “home,” is a working screenwriter whose credits include the Emmy-nominated “Moochie Kalala Detective’s Club” and the 2016 family film, “Traveling Without Moving.” Contact him at colin@colincostello.com.

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