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Old 12-17-2012, 08:48 AM   #1
Mike M
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Default Experiences from those who relocated to LA

Everyone knows that LA is the place to be for a career in screenwriting. I was hoping people who relocated to LA from elsewhere could share their personal experiences. I know everyone has a different path and story.

The more specifics, for example, where you came from, how much you saved, how old you were when you moved, if you moved with anyone, etc., would be extremely helpful. What has been like living in LA? Where did you get started when you got out there?

Also, Iím curious to how people have supported themselves while getting involved in the industry. Most entry-level things I see in NY are unpaid, full-time internships for a meal stipend, which obviously, most people donít have the luxury to take.

Iím a recent grad with a day job, obviously looking to move to LA in the near future. Right now, Iím just working on my writing and saving $$$$.

Thanks.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:53 AM   #2
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

I am also interested in hearing these stories. I have a job in the SF area with an office in downtown LA and have decided to transfer next Winter. Looking forward to it!
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:56 AM   #3
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

i didn't do the typical just-out-of-college thing, so i don't know how applicable my experience is. i was an attorney on the east coast before moving here six years ago. i had a little bit of savings (four figures) to move my stuff, find a place, and get my feet on the ground.

when i first came, i wanted to find any kind of industry-related job but at my age (mid-30s) i think i didn't understand that wasn't the way things generally work. in hindsight, i probably would have just gotten a legal job, like i work now, and just focused on writing. i ended up at a place on the periphery of the business, but not really in the business, which was the worst of both worlds: slave wages and not making meaningful contacts. unless you're actually in an agency, studio, or production company (to me), the only function of the day job is buying you time to write when you're not at the job.

if you're in your 20s, or even 30s, you might find LA's social scene engaging. i did all that in my youth, so i don't really go out anymore. which is good for my writing, i guess. younger people might be more inclined to party since it's kind of a thing here. YMMV.

LA is expensive, as most big cities are. but if you intend to actually be a working writer in the industry, especially TV, it's where you gotta be. and there are hundreds of new people coming every year who find a way, so it can be done it would seem.
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Old 12-17-2012, 12:19 PM   #4
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike M View Post
The more specifics, for example, where you came from, how much you saved, how old you were when you moved, if you moved with anyone, etc., would be extremely helpful. What has been like living in LA? Where did you get started when you got out there?
I moved to LA from SF and have been here for over six years now...

LA is definitely the place for screenwriting and working in the film biz. Every truly successful film person (or their work) will need to pass through LA at some point. If they want that Oscar...

1. Have a plan.

The best advice I can give is to have a plan. Know what your end goal is, your five year plan, and thus angle you want to approach the biz from. You can take the acting route, the agency / business route, the Production route or a digital / social media route, or make your own. Once you know what your angle is, research it, and build contacts for your move. If your goal is to sell a screenplay, think about how you can accomplish it in steps. Then plan your steps and start taking them.

If you have never been to LA, come and visit. Get a feel for the city. It's huge. Find the burrow that you like best, Hollywood, WeHo, NoHo, Westwood, the Valley, West LA, Santa Monica, Burbank, etc. LA can be culture shock, even for native Californians, so mitigating the shock will serve you well.

I also recommend living walking distance to a grocery store and or some nightlife if possible. It'll cost more, but trust me, some days you won't want to drive anywhere and being able to walk will be awesome. Living near economy, friends and potential (film) friends will serve you well and help you network.

2. Save as much money as you can. Come with savings.

I moved to LA with what I thought was six months of savings, turns out is was closer to four. Save money for going out, networking and meeting people. If you are moving to LA without a job lined up, give yourself a minimum of three months to find a job.

Having savings also allows you to work for free as an intern, or to help people with their projects. Give yourself some time to explore what LA has to offer without having to stress about money. If you get a good internship, it could still take a while to get them to pay you. Be prepared for them to never pay you, and be okay with it. Internships are great for learning the biz, meeting people, and helping people help you. They help you see what your skills are and what you really want.

3. Synergize. Explore your options, open doors, and trade up.

If you are coming to LA for screenwriting, and are not already established, consider how your job could help with that. The classic is working for a Lit Agent or manager. But even acting, becoming a Page and NBCU, or a marketing job can be great synergy for your writing goals. If you can't support yourself entirely on writing, try and support yourself on something related to it, or that gives you time to write.

When I moved to LA I really wanted to work on set of movies. I decided the best way to get on set was to do extra work. I had some actor friends and they hooked me up with casting people and I got to be an extra on some big films and TV shows. Being on set was great for watching and learning how movies and TV get made. Within a year I was working in Production. Knowing how to parlay a job or gig into something bigger and better is the name of the game.

4. Engage

These days you need to not only network in person, but you need to build social networks. You need to engage with people and put yourself out there.

5. Have fun and be creative!

Fun breeds creativity. If you are not having fun, what are you doing? Enjoy what you do, and live for the dream until you are living the dream.

LA is like Silicon Valley in that everybody has a project to pitch. Up north they have a "start-up" and in LA they have a script or an idea for a hit movie. Be creative and develop your projects and help others develop theirs. The success of your friends is your success. Helping people's dreams come true will help yours come true as well.

LA has one of the most vibrant and amazing creative communities in the world. There is an energy in LA unlike anywhere else. If you can tap into it, or if you are so creative that it taps you, it will enrich your art/life and grease the rails on your crazy train to Hollywood success.

Success is the journey, not the destination.

(And by "journey" I mean fat residual checks for life)

Hope this helps!
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Old 12-17-2012, 04:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike M View Post
Everyone knows that LA is the place to be for a career in screenwriting. I was hoping people who relocated to LA from elsewhere could share their personal experiences. I know everyone has a different path and story.

The more specifics, for example, where you came from, how much you saved, how old you were when you moved, if you moved with anyone, etc., would be extremely helpful. What has been like living in LA? Where did you get started when you got out there?

Also, Iím curious to how people have supported themselves while getting involved in the industry. Most entry-level things I see in NY are unpaid, full-time internships for a meal stipend, which obviously, most people donít have the luxury to take.

Iím a recent grad with a day job, obviously looking to move to LA in the near future. Right now, Iím just working on my writing and saving $$$$.

Thanks.
I moved to the LA area from Arkansas at the end of August. So far it's been good, obviously there are ups and downs but that's part of life no matter where you are. I moved out here with my husband and he had a job pretty much lined up so that helped relieve the stress of job hunting. Industry jobs are really competitive I'm pretty sure -- I think jobs in general out here are competitive unless you have a specialized skill/trade/degree which would help you maybe get one quick.

I would have a fair amount saved up if you do move. We moved our cars, furniture, and other stuff out here which was pretty pricey as far as gas, rental, moving crew, apartment deposits. I'd say it cost me roughly $5,000 before I stepped foot into my apartment. If you are just driving out with you and a suitcase you should be good to go with several hundred for gas and then whatever a deposit and first month's rent on your place. Rent is higher. Gas is higher. Food is higher. Utilities are higher -- you get the idea.

I started a part time job non industry related recently just to help my husband out and get out of the house when I'm not writing. The first two months I was writing every day couped up in my apartment and I felt like I was going to go crazy some days. I got a lot done and it was worth it when I took my first meeting here at Sony last week. But I'm enjoying my day job quite a bit, I have to remind myself why I'm actually out here.

Now that I'm here, it's so much more convenient being within driving distance because trying to coordinate flights from out of state gets expensive and exhausting. But at the same time when you set foot out here, it hits you how many people want to work in the industry in some capacity when you walk into a coffee shop to see final draft on every laptop, or run into people who tell you they are here to write or act, or go to meetings and to assistants set up meetings, push them for more important ones, have other writers waiting outside next to you -- the numbers are against you for sure.

The important thing I think is that you and your writing is ready. Living in LA doesn't mean **** if you can't write your way out of a paper bag -- nobody cares because everyone says they are writing a screenplay. It's got to be good enough to set you apart from the wannabes and hobbyist.

So if you want to move, move. Make sure you have $$ planned out, a place to stay, a potential job if you need it, a great script or two to show the friend of a friend who has a friend who works in the industry, and you should be okay
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Old 12-18-2012, 03:06 PM   #6
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

I agree with everything PoMoTy said 100%, some great advice.

I especially encourage you to save as much money as possible before moving here. LA is expensive. Many people have a tough time finding a job--and an even tougher time finding a good entertainment related job.
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Old 12-18-2012, 03:52 PM   #7
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

Best advice anyone gave me with regards to surviving in LA's economy: think like an immigrant from an impoverished country -- be happy for and seek all opportunities and act on them quickly.
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Old 12-18-2012, 05:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoegino View Post
Best advice anyone gave me with regards to surviving in LA's economy: think like an immigrant from an impoverished country -- be happy for and seek all opportunities and act on them quickly.
That includes housing. As someone who lives in another big city, NY, I've seen a number of people who move here for publishing, fashion, theater, film, tv, advertising, or music fall apart simply because they immediately thought they had to live in the trendiest Manhattan neighborhoods (where a studio can cost almost 3k, and where one must make 40 x one month rent on an annual basis to get an apartment) Be willing to live in poorer neighborhoods, including neighborhoods with lots of immigrants or non whites, and your housing costs will drop dramatically. Be willing to live some distance from the coolest bars and your rents go down as well.
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Old 12-18-2012, 05:33 PM   #9
Mike M
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

Thanks for the replies, everyone. PoMoTy, very insightful post and breakdown. I definitely agree with everything you said. I do have a solid plan of what I want to do, and how to attack it.

This may be a stupid question, but Iíd imagine most of these low-level assistant type jobs are acquired through either personal connections or by simply applying online/emailing when youíre out there? I know about sites like entertainmentcareers.net. Are there any other good online listings for these types of positions?

Also, I'm curious to know how apartment searches have gone. Do places in LA usually rent without proof of stable income, etc.? Iíd assume you need a guarantor.

Looking forward to more posts on others experiences.
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Old 12-18-2012, 05:58 PM   #10
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Default Re: Experiences from those who relocated to LA

It is kind of a catch 22 with applying for an apartment when you need proof of income but you can't get a job until you move out.

I'd suggest maybe finding someone who is looking for a roommate and kill two birds with one stone. Your rent and utilities will be cheaper plus maybe they have a place already on lock down with the paperwork and such and you can just move in and pay.
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