Welcome to Los Angeles
Last night I had dinner with a young man who is moving from Chicago to Los Angeles to pursue the dream in September--not unlike I did nearly four years ago. An old college buddy connected us and we talked shop at Jerry's Famous Deli over some delicious matzo ball soup (which, if you're unfamiliar with the original Jerry's, is part of a bowling alley. Rad.) Mostly I just listened and offered advice and caution on a variety of topics.
Luckily, this actor wasn't clueless. In fact, I dare say he was more prepared and better informed than I was when I made the great leap. He had excellent headshots, a solid demo reel, strong training and a resume that boasted many excellent film and theatre projects. Certainly he is ahead of the game. All of these tools help when moving to a major market city like Los Angeles, London or New York and are eventually necessary to building a career. Still, they aren't a hard and fast requirement and if credits or a SAG card are keeping you from moving to a bigger city you may never get there!
I remember desperately wanting my SAG card before coming to Los Angeles. Everybody said I needed it and that I couldn't get work without it. They told me not to go west until I had a demo reel. You know what I say to that? Pfffffff I came out with horrible black and white headshots, no film experience, no SAG card, no demo and no connections. But I had a will to succeed and endless passion, and so does this young man. I think it will work out for him, but not as quickly as he thinks it will. Building a career takes time. So does starting over. But I like his style.
Ultimately, we both made the leap of faith for the exact same reason: the possibility of making a living at our passion. Unlike my colleagues in Chicago who often work numerous jobs to make ends meet in order to keep acting, I know many people and have many friends that are making a living at acting in Los Angeles. I know it's attainable even if I'm not there yet. That, to me, is incredibly inspiring. Acting is an art, but that doesn't mean we should spend our lives giving it up for free.
Ultimately, Los Angeles or New York City isn't for everyone and there is absolutely no shame in being a big fish in a smaller market. In fact, it's probably a much more fulfilling existence. But I didn't want to live with a "what if" for the rest of my life.
I have another young man that I'm taking under my wing next month. I promise I'm not a cougar! And basically, I will always be there for them and anyone else, really, who wants advice or has a question or just needs a friend. I could've used that when I made the move. Whoever said everybody in Los Angeles was fake and tan and vapid has never met 99.9% of the people I know here. If you can help someone, do it. We're all in this together.
(Above, the view of Los Angeles from my apartment)