Friday, May 6, 2011

I Love LA

Do you remember the catchy Randy Newman song “I Love LA” from the 1980s? it celebrated everything wonderful about  living in Southern California. I recently spent a week in LA covering the Biola Media Conference—interviewing writers, producers and directors who work in the entertainment industry. There’s nothing quite like this city. It got me to thinking about Newman’s old song. If you work and live in this city, especially in media and entertainment, I’m convinced you’re going to have to love LA, or it’s probably going to kill you. This city is intense. In fact, at times it seems as if it’s on steroids. Nothing is easy.

So what did I learn during my time in LA from those who work in the industry and the people who live here. But more importantly, what should you know about LA before you consider coming here seeking a career in media and entertainment?

First, LA is a logistical nightmare. It’s no secret that the traffic is bad. But no matter how much you read about it or no matter what people tell you about the traffic, you can never really appreciate it unless you experience it firsthand. If you work in the media business, chances are you will be required to travel across the city during the most inconvenient hours. It’s going to wear you out. Those who survive have learned to deal with it and have made the necessary mental adjustments. It’s not only the interstate that’s a nightmare but also the surface roads. Trying to make a left-hand turn into traffic is almost impossible. It never stops.

Parking is also a terrible. My best advice is do what a friend of mine who works here has learned. Buy yourself a good navigational system for your car. It will be a lifesaver.

Second, LA is expensive. Sorry, no Wal-Marts. Whatever you think it will cost to live here, just add 30%. For example, the sales tax in LA in nearly 10%, and that adds up fast. Not only is parking difficult to find, when you do find it, fees are through the roof. This city is going to stretch and ultimately break your budget. But the most expensive thing about LA is housing. A studio apartment in a somewhat risky neighborhood will cost you somewhere between $750 to $950. Your single greatest obstacle will be to find a place you can afford that’s in a safe neighborhood. My best advice—bring a lot of money. You’re going to need it.

Third, how LONELY LA can be. Although the city has the second largest population base in the United States, it’s amazing how lonely this city can be, especially if you work in the entertainment industry. I’ve heard this first-hand from many people who work in the business. Why is that? Is it the competitive spirit that drives the entertainment industry? Or is it a matter of trust? Whatever the reason, it’s hard to make friends when people are less than genuine. The industry out here can often transform someone who is normally a good, honest person into a conniving backstabber. I know that may seem a bit harsh, but it is a word of warning that I’ve heard from friends here.

We as people of faith and followers of Christ must be diligent to remain faithful to the image of Christ. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Don’t let this city and the industry change you into someone you don’t want to be.

Another reason why this can be a lonely town is that if you do find a friend, he or she may live across town. And, as I said earlier about the traffic, people think twice about going out of their comfort zone.

Fourth, LA is a hard town to break into. I have a friend who is highly successful as an actor, director and model in her hometown. Her resume is impressive. She made a very good living and excelled at her craft. She recently moved to LA to pursue a career in entertainment. Finding an agent was almost impossible. Why? Because since she had not worked in the industry in LA, they didn’t consider her work to be valid.

That means you have to start from the ground up after years of hard work preparing yourself to come here. That’s painful and discouraging. It’s a town where nobody wants to give you a break. Without a recommendation from an industry insider, it’s hard to get your foot in the door. You’ll have to fight hard to promote and market yourself within this industry. Do you think you are ready to do that?

And, finally, LA is “the place” you must come to if you are serious about your career. At least at some point in your career, in spite of all the obstacles and roadblocks, almost everyone I have talked to has said that you MUST come to LA if you want to work in the film and TV industry.

Even people who say “sure you can produce and make films in your hometown” will often say in the next statement that you have to come to LA. The Industry is still in LA. The infrastructure is still in LA. The casting is still in LA. The studios are still in LA. The production companies are still in LA. The post houses are still in LA. I’m sure by now you’re getting the picture.

I realize advice is cheap. But maybe this is the best free advice you will ever hear. Know what you’re getting yourself into and be prepared emotionally, financially and spiritually to deal with LA and the challenges the industry presents. By all means, get connected BEFORE you move to LA. Find a church, a support system, and a fellowship group. Don’t go out there on your own. That’s a recipe for disaster.

And, by all means, remember to love LA because your going to have to.

1 comment:

  1. When you spoke to everyone, did you get a sense as to which church would best serve someone moving in from out of town, to fellowship at? Have you told everyone about the 168 Project?