Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I’ve always tried to remain on topic with the blog but allow me to indulge in a little personal tale:

On March 8th, 1994, I arrived in London, seeking my fortune. Prior to leaving Ireland, I thought I would always live in my home country but that was the pride of my youth. I was officially a “man” now (whatever that is), ready for new adventures and experiences. I had tasted a few months in America, and that was great, but it didn’t overly appeal as a place of residency (part of me now thinks I should have gone direct to LA but I didn’t have the confidence; that would come later).

After my American spell, I was living in Dublin and things were going well. I had got some TV and film work but these opportunities were coming to an end, and there was nothing else on the career horizon, so I decided ‘sod it, let’s try London’.

In what can only be described as foolish optimism, I arrived in London with nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. When I landed in Heathrow, I got the tube directly to Piccadilly Circus as that was a landmark I knew as a child. So now what? Where should I stay? What should I do?

Luckily, someone I had worked with in Dublin gave me the telephone number of a friend of theirs who worked in a recruitment agency. I thought: “sort out work first, then worry about everything else”. So I phoned the recruitment girl, introduced myself, told her my wicki-wicki-wild typing speed and that I needed to temp as soon as possible in order to quickly settle into London life.

The girl - the magnificent Catherine O’Sullivan (Irish, natch) - told me to meet her in South Kensington, where she worked. We met for a coffee, and she seemed very nice, and told me that temping shouldn’t be a problem but where was I staying? Nowhere, I replied, probably a hostel or something, I wasn’t sure. Why don’t you stay in my house? she said. Eh? I said. Stay in my place. Just for a couple of nights, sort yourself out.

My initial reaction was to politely decline but an impulse flashed across my brain and I said: “okay, that would be great!” But get this: she gave me the keys to the house, told me where to find it, and encouraged me to treat it like home. She shared a house with four Australians but it was far from a bedsit house nightmare. It was a house full of energy and humour, and the people (complete strangers!) couldn’t have been more welcoming and understanding. Here was me, arriving out of the blue, and invading their space unannounced. An half an hour later, we’re eating dinner and drinking beer. I was impressed, and having fun.

A guy was moving out of the house at the end of the month, and although the rent was a bit pricey (it was West Kensington after all), I knew I had to stay and continue to live with my new best friends. So I moved in, full time. And we had a blast. Never have I come across such a bunch of unassuming and friendly people, who are still my good friends to this day.

I temped for six months, got myself accustomed to London life, and then I got a job at Channel 4, and my career started in earnest. It occurred to me that this kind of opportunity could not have happened while I was in Dublin. Times have changed and there may be more opportunities now, but I know I have two things to be grateful for: Catherine O’Sullivan for being so laid back and friendly, and London for giving me the chance to develop myself and my career into a viable and rewarding prospect.

Sometimes you just have to take a chance, I guess. I was only 22 at the time. The world revolves around you at that age, and I was just having fun, never once thinking about dreary realities. In retrospect, I doubt that I would be as spontaneous and carefree as I was then, but I still hold on to that foolish optimism. There’s a fine line between this optimism and delusion, especially as you try to develop your career as a screenwriter, but it’s served me well down the years, and I wouldn’t be anywhere without it.


far away said...

well said

Berns said...

Happy Anniversary!

D'you ever wonder what would happened had you stayed in Dublin? Writing for Fair City maybe?

Robin Kelly said...

You're lucky. I do try to see the glass as half full but it's half empty. Half of it has gone!

I miss Fair City, it was the only soap I watched.

Anonymous said...

I travelled to L.A. last year; it was my first trip abroad on my own. I remember sitting on the shuttle bus and suddenly feeling homesick. I glanced at everyone, they all had companions -- and there was me, little me -- the interior was beginning to converge on me.

The bus dropped me off at the car rental place. I was carrying a rucksack and a suitcase plus I was wearing a jacket in 30 degrees C -!

When I eventually got to the Economy Section, there were these HUGE Ranger Rover type vehicles. I spoke to a diminutive and friendly Mexican, "I'm looking for Economy."

He pointed at the Range Rovers! I spent the next ten minutes staring at this behemoth -- then another vehicle parks up, the mechanic gets out and says, "This is economy too." It was a huge people carrier!

"Can't I have a saloon?" He shrugs.

I eventually go for a Freelander size vehicle.

I eventually get moving. The freeway is a deadly race track, everyone's on their mobile phones whilst cutting you up - apparently it's culture here.

I eventually figured out that I was heading south! Somehow I managed to veer off a slip road and rejoin the North freeway.

I eventually get to my hotel at 7.45pm in Glendale. I bumble my way into my room and call a friend. The homesickness was over. I had a few contacts in L.A. which made things so much easier for me.

I spent the week doing interviews and meeting people who I struck a friendship with over the ten years of internet usage.

I got to meet a successful 70s screenwriter, but never got the chance to quiz him about the craft or the industry in the 21st century. We did an interview in his house, bloody amazing place, about the films he worked on and the politics.

On black Tuesday, a friend invited me to join him to meet up with a film director and his entourage. I was going to be privy to some footage never seen before. I arrange to meet my friend at his place, but I’m running late so we figure out a place to meet.

I got lost! I call his cell from a payphone on Wilshire Blvd - he's only two minutes away! After driving for an hour, I decided to return to base. When I get back I realise that I’ve lost my wallet! I searched frantically for it in my car. I dash into my room, I sweep it – nope, no wallet. I flop on my bed; I just want to go home now. I call up my friend and apologise profusely, I think he understood when I told him I lost my credit card.

After some deliberation, I decide to go to the Apple Store so I can use the internet to find some phone numbers. I get back and notice that something had hit my car; left of the rear bumper was damaged. So, I miss an appointment with a director, my wallet’s missing and to top it all off…my car’s been damaged. At this point, I want to die. L.A. is antagonising me, pointing its finger at me with glee.

I trudge back to the room. I notice the answer machine LED blinking. 3 messages, the last message plucked me from hell! A vet found my wallet on the street; luckily I had my hotel details in there. I drive back to Wilshire Blvd and pick up my wallet, unfortunately, the person who found it was not there. I never thanked him personally – wish I did.

The lesson I learned was to keep appointments, if I had, I’d never have lost my credit card.

The City of Angel was a big step, a step I’m glad I took.

A week later I’m sitting in an office doing IT Support. Everyone thought I was decorating during my holiday.

Monahan Fan

p.s. congrats, Danny! Your blogs are a Godsend.

James Moran said...

Great story, sir - you're dead right, sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind, and give it a shot. Sometimes you fall on your ass, usually you don't, but you always learn plenty and feel braver for it. Bravo!

d f mamea said...

happy anniversary, Mr Stack. and thanks for your generosity with your blog - it's much appreciated Down Here.

Anonymous said...

top man. we love you.
this isn't me (danny).
Or is it?
No, it isn't.
We love you.

Danny Stack said...

Berns: I have no idea.

Anon: good LA story.

df mamea: hello!

Anon: Stop it, but thanks.

Lianne said...

Happy Anniversary!

Lucy said...

Ah yes, I remember doing something similar... running off to university with an 18mth old in tow, dreaming of being a scriptwriter but in reality living above a kebab shop and a chap who would sing: "ASSHOLE-A-MEEEOH, OH, SODOMY!" at one o'clock in the morning when rolling in from the pub every single bloody day.

Ah; that was the life!

Haooy Anniversary Sir.

Lucy said...


Maybe I'm drunk too.