25 Comments

  1. Val

    Harsh, Pam. But totally and 100% ACCURATE. I know a girl and I gave her all this exact same advice. She didn’t take any of it. She moved to LA all starry-eyed and full of hope with dreams of directing. She had to move home to Someplacenoonehasheardof, Michigan three months later. And you know what? Good riddance. This city doesn’t coddle people, it crushes them and their adorable dreams. Quickly.

    Have a plan and have a back-up plan and then one more back-up plan, just in case. And have a lot of money. Not having a plan is how “moving to LA” turns into a “three month vacation in LA wherein I depleted my entire life savings.”

  2. Lauren

    This was a really good entry for me. I was tweeting with you from ATX when I jokingly said I’m gonna have to move to LA but i probably will have to move to LA. At least I know part of what I want to do and have some friends out there but I still have some shit I need to figure out first. I want to have a job out there first, even if it’s the corporate thing so I have something stable while I’m writing/trying to find someone who likes my writing. But I just moved back to TX after being in Baltimore for 5 years so I need a little Texas time before uproot my life again.

    • Texas time is always important.

      I understand not wanting to come out here without some form of income. And waiting until you’re mentally/physically ready for what comes with the hustle is a smart move.

  3. Laura

    This is great advice!

    I started to write a whole other post on what to do if you’re an adult actor who wants to move to LA but the short answer is, yes, you will ideally want demo.

  4. Heidi

    All good advice. The only thing I’d add is “be healthy if and when you come.”

    Don’t make a move like that, with all that it entails, if your health is even remotely iffy.

    In 1995, I came, I saw, and I went home (which, for me, was the absolute right decision) after four months (bonus month?) because I couldn’t get and stay well in LA.

  5. Oh god, listen to Pamie!! Do not come to LA to figure out what you want to do! It is not the place to do that. It will crush you. And we’re not just saying that to keep dreamers out of here, we’re saying that because unless you’re a rich girl (and even then!) you just can’t make it happen here without a plan. It’s not a town that works that way.

  6. As someone who fled LA last year after my passion for working in TV Production wore off: Thoroughly, thoroughly agreed. There are logarithmically cheaper, exponentially kinder places to find yourself than LA, particularly Austin, Albuquerque, and New Orleans if you have vague notions of getting into the Entertainment business. I have friends who started in LA now in all three cities and liking it vastly better than LA because you don’t have to make an insane amount of money to live comfortably.

    The other thing that gets underestimated about LA is how isolating the vastness of it becomes. My group was scattered across the Basin and the Valley, and it practically took an act of congress to get more than 3 of my friends to do any one thing at any one time. Everyone (especially those in the biz, but even my non-showbiz friends worked insane hours) was so exhausted and booked up with work that the only time I’d see people I didn’t work with was either Saturday night, or maybe Sunday at brunch if I was lucky. I live in Chicago now, and even in this huge city, the walkability and great public transit system mean plans come together between disparate groups of friends with minimal friction, and I didn’t realized how badly I’d missed that living in LA.

    Bottom line: Unless you know for a fact that you need to move out there to make specific advances in your career, consider one of the cities that have smaller film industries thanks to tax incentives. The three I mentioned previously and Atlanta are where I tell people looking to move to LA right now to look into.

  7. Cy

    Ugh. My niece just arrived there TODAY (to pursue acting) and I am so worried about her. I watch LA Complex! I know she has to figure it out for herself, but at what cost? Literally and figuratively and all that shit. No sleeping for me tonight.

    Crap.

  8. Well okay, so: what about someone who has her MFA in film and a short film that’s making the festival rounds and is planning another short film and has a (needs revision) feature-length script and a script for an animated short and plans to write a spec script for TV?

    And is 32.

    And lives in New York.

    Stay or go?

    • Annie: YOU sound like someone who could hustle LA and make it work for you. Already have a short film in the rounds = time to get an agent. Finish those scripts, know the answer to the question, “So, what do you want to do next?” and have an idea sketched out for where you’d like to be in five years. If you need to be in LA to achieve that (because some people are very successful filmmakers without ever leaving New York), then get over here. (I also suggest seeing if you have a friend in LA who is itching/needing to get to NYC for six months and do an apartment swap.)

      Another suggestion: see if you can come out here for a week or two and take agent/manager meetings. Work your film festival connections. You can get a lot done before you ever even pack a box.

      Thirty-two is nothing. But I’m all about taking a couple of hesitant baby steps into this giant, germ-filled pool before you decide if you’re ready to get in the water.

  9. Celeste

    I am so glad I am not the only person who read the question and was filled with breathless anxiety. I was worried for a moment about your answer, then remembered whose blog I was reading. You never let me down, Pamie!

  10. I have a dissenting opinion. LA is not that bad. Being unemployed doesn’t mean you have to end up in porn.
    However, I do totally agree that there are easier/nicer/cheaper cities to live in while you figure out what you want to do with your life.
    After college, I lived in Boulder, CO for years, went to grad school in Orange County and then moved to LA in time for my 28th birthday. The first year did suck, and it would have been a lot worse if I didn’t have a car, a two month paid internship and some savings.
    That said, I’m an Art Director – not an actor or a writer. Those career paths are really hard no matter where you live.

  11. Pandy

    As a 20 year old I moved from small town to capital city. My parents clearly didn’t understand how risky that was – nor did they prepare me in any way for the responsibilities that come with independent living. I encountered all kinds of questionable people in the first couple of weeks I was there. Any one of them could have involved me in something I would have really regretted. Fortunately I had just enough sense to skirt around those people and keep my nose clean.

    It is VITAL to have a plan and I encourage Jennifer to really take in all the wisdom expressed here.

  12. Niki

    This! This is so true. I can’t even…

    Okay, let me start again. I am not a “creative,” so I can’t speak to that aspect of your article. What I am, however, is a native Angeleno who left for college (at the age of 28), and discovered I couldn’t move back, even though my nearest and dearest family is in LA, and I love so much about it.

    I think I’ve moved as many times as you, Pamie, and most of those moves were in and around the Los Angeles basin. I miss the mountain ranges and the Mediterranean light, and the good taco trucks and the mix of Spanish accents and lingering, glorious sunsets (even if they *are* smog-enhanced). For the longest time I thought that maybe I would return, someday.

    However. I always knew that the only way I could come back to that sprawling, energy-sucking place is if I had a *thing* — as in, something which drove me to get out the door and across the freeways, and back again. A project and a place I belonged, with coworkers and a joint mission.

    I always had such a hard time explaining this to my parents. All I could say is that I would “need to have a thing.” And, who knows? If someday my passions and projects pull me toward L.A., I will welcome the place (I can’t really call it a “city”) with open arms. Until then, I am an expat, and I get to enjoy the tales of immigrants such as yourself.

    On a totally pragmatic note, I have to chime in on the necessity of a car. You might actually be able to work it so that you live near your potential workplace (or along a decent transit route), but your social life and potential connections will be severely limited. I relied on transit a lot in my teens and twenties (um, 20 years ago?), and while I loved the experience, it took up lots of time and sapped most spontaneity out of my days. (I dunno, if you’re an artist living in the Brewery and all your peeps are hanging out in the downtown/East of downtown area, maybe that’s an exception?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *