Well, I certainly never expected or intended to ignite such vitriol with my comment about the query letter from Indiana, especially since the point of that post was to advise a stay-at-home mom to be creative in her networking. Just to make everything clear:
I have no problem with the state of Indiana. I am not an LA snob; I grew up in Western New York and am actually pretty glad about it. My least favorite state in the union happens to be Kentucky, because of a long story involving getting crunk in New Orleans, snapping my phone, Wal Mart, Subway, steak knives, the Interstate and the insanity that occurs when you drive across the US by yourself. My point is, I'm sure there are plenty of talented writers in Indiana, Kentucky, Saskatchewan, etc.
I threw out the query letter because it was a poorly written query letter asking me to read a horrible-sounding screenplay. Still, I am an optimist. I do believe it is possible to write a great screenplay followed by a great query letter and then obtain representation. If I ever come across such a combo during my time at the agency, I'll let you know.
There are things you can do from any location to launch your career: you can read books and blogs. You can write. You can raise money and shoot your own stuff. You can try to get an online following. You can enter contests, festivals and fellowships. You can take classes. You can find other writers and start a critique group. You can write query letters. In New York and a couple other cities (Lucasfilm is in San Francisco, Montecito has an office in...Montecito, etc.), you might be able to find an industry office job. Shoots also happen everywhere thanks to tax breaks (and the fact that not everybody sets their script amidst palm trees) - so you might be able to work on a production outside of LA.
I just think you're giving yourself much better odds if you come to LA. Does everyone who succeeds in screenwriting or TV writing move there? No, definitely not. But if you plan to get an agent, you'll have to come here sometime. Even if you write a query letter and then email your script and get some interest, I don't think anybody's gonna sign you without meeting you. They'll want to see if you're "good in a room," that you'll impress people like producers and studio execs at meetings. And those rooms generally are all in LA also. Sure, conference calls happen every day, but you can't do everything with a phone call.
For TV specifically, I think it'd be even harder to succeed outside of LA. In film there is a huge independent community, much of it in New York but parts of it everywhere. But most TV happens within the traditional Hollywood system. Writer's rooms (save for 30 Rock, Monk and a few others) are in LA. The ABC/Disney fellowship provides money for you to relocate...but they require you to relocate. I think this is significant.
You may not have to stay in LA forever. Once you're established you can write from anywhere, especially in features. But if you have aspirations of being a showrunner or something, I think you'll probably want to stay in LA. Or at least plan to be here pretty often. Also keep in mind that there are gobs of aspiring writers who DO make the move to LA. I feel like they all have to have a bit of an advantage over writers trying to make it elsewhere.
So...what? Maybe because of the recent post, Marcie wrote in: I live in New York City, but since I want to write for television, should I move to Los Angeles? I know my chances of finding work are better in LA, but are they so much better that's it's worth me packing up my belongings and leaving a city I love?
Maybe, maybe not. Some east-coasters, especially New Yorkers, hate LA. (It kind of annoys me how many people decide they hate it way before they get here...but I guess that's another issue.) If you think you'll really be unhappy outside of NYC, the move may not be worth it. But if you know deep down that you must be a television writer, and that you will be supremely unhappy if you can't make that happen, maybe it is worth it.
I guess I would ask, what's your plan? Do you have an industry job? Are you trying to find one? Do you think your job is going to lead to TV writing? Do you already have enough scripts to start seeking representation? Do you have any industry connections? Are you applying to fellowships and contests? Are you using the internet at all? Since you're in New York, have you tried getting involved in theatre?
Like I said before, you can take steps from anywhere. I still maintain that LA is the place that will give you the best odds...and I would think New York is certainly second-best. But wherever you are, you need to be proactive. You've gotta have a plan. Remember that there are two steps to becoming a TV writer: 1. writing a great script, and 2. getting someone important to read it (and like it). Are you endeavoring to do both of those things?
As always, anybody with insight is welcome to comment. If you have been able to get an agent, sell a script, get staffed, etc., without coming to LA, I'm sure we're all interested in your story.