Los Angeles, California is an oasis. From our beaches, to downtown, the snowy mountaintops, and everything in-between we pretty much have it made here. At least that’s how it seems to so many on the outside looking in. As a Los Angeles native I’ve become somewhat of a unicorn around these here parts. Every new person I meet has relocated here chasing the all to familiar dream: FAME. As an actor and writer I understand the desire and incredible pull that Los Angeles has. I mean we are home to Hollywood, Sony, Warner Brothers, and countless other studios. All of the best agents are here from WME to CCA and literally thousands of others.
Los Angeles is shiny, glittery and sparkles at night. The Hollywood sign sits on a mountainside you can see from pretty much every popular hiking trail. It’s elusive, inviting and has an incredible backstory that fills you with hope that maybe one day, no someday you will tell your own unbelievable backstory about how you, “made it.” Driving down the palm tree lined streets of Beverly Hills, Hollywood and the like, you often see the TMZ bus shuttling along tourists with their cell phones and cameras in hand. I swear you can literally see the stars in their eyes. They are so hopeful.
They don’t see the drug addicted and homeless lining downtowns Skid Row, no, they see all of the Instagram worthy pics from their favorite youtube sensation in real life, and think that polished exterior is what LA has to offer. The tour bus doesn’t show them the all of the homeless Angelenos that sleep on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and the other hopefuls who perform there day and night with a bucket out for tips. They also don’t see the overworked, underpaid, and mostly immigrant nannies who walk around Beverly Hills with little white kids in tow. That’s the thing about LA…its the most beautiful illusion you’ll ever experience.
Most of my actor friends are jobless, or working several part-time jobs while shuttling from audition to audition. They’re sleeping on couches, or have multiple roommates just to be able to afford an apartment in the valley. Oh…the valley…that includes Sherman Oaks, Ventura, Burbank etc. and most of you will move there because its close to all the studios, casting agents offices and you won’t have a car so you’ll need to be in a central location. Buses and the Metro are what you’ll use to get around because you will quickly run out of money if you use car services. The Metro is still being built so you may have to use a combo of the two when traveling, so buy pepper spray and make sure you walk with your keys between your knuckles at all times.
Signing with an Agent:
Finding an agent will not be hard, but they will take advantage of you and manipulate you into thinking you need them. You don’t, but you will believe you do. Your agent will take 20% of your earnings if you are not SAG (Screen Actors Guild Union) and if you are, which more than likely you are not, your agent will take 10-15% of your pay. Get this into your head right now, your agent doesn’t give a shit about you. You are a commodity and there to make them money. Until you start pulling in the big bucks, you are just another wannabe on their roster they submit for any and everything to earn money for their winter vacation. Be strong. Ask for what you deserve and do not sign a damn thing without taking it home first and reading it in its entirety. If you don’t know what a particular word or clause means, look that shit up, Google is free. Walk away from anyone your intuition tells you to get away from, and do not be afraid to say no.
Working as an Actor:
Early on you will take every job thrown your way. Why? Well, you have no money and you think you have to because how else are you going to be famous? You will work as an extra which will suck for many reasons including but not limited to the following: you’ll be on set all day/night, you will make maybe $100 if you’re lucky, you cannot eat before the principal actors-that’s if you’re allowed to eat the food provided to them-and if you can’t eat what they’re having, you’ll get a brown paper bag with some crappy ass lunch in it. You won’t be discovered on set by the director and in fact, you won’t even get close to him. Yes, I said him, because in all likely hood, it will be a man…just keeping it real. After about 10-12hrs on set of walking back and forth behind Debra Messing in the same scene shot one thousand different ways, you’ll be sent home and you will feel absolutely incredible! You got to be on a set and Debra looked at you for like twelve seconds. It will grow old really fast, but keep going, and do not give up. You have to start from the bottom when you get here and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Hollywood Night Life:
The night life in LA is just as intense. You will kill yourself trying to get into all the hot spots in Hollywood and after parties at your fave actors house. You will meet men who tell you they want you to be in whomever has a hit single on the radio at the time new video, and since he’s partying with him in the VIP area you’ll believe him. Don’t. This is how they get you to go home with them and fuck whoever has a hit single on LA radio at the time. Drugs are everywhere, especially in the clubs and in the valley. The valley is like meth, molly, porn and crack all rolled into one. You will see your fave singer/actor/director/writer/producer doing it. Stay the hell away and do not join in. You don’t have to do that to be successful or to be apart of their entourage. Stay strong, say no, and get your ass home.
Predatory behavior is rampant and you will be sexually harassed. You have to learn to stick up for yourself and not let these assholes exploit you because, trust me, they will. You do not have to sleep with anyone you don’t want to and please do not believe him when he tells you he’ll give you a role in his feature film. He will not, and if he does, then he has all the power over you. Don’t give up your power.
Talk to the other actors/writers/artists at your auditions or in your area. Genuinely befriend them and stop chasing the illusion of friendship with your favorite star. They don’t want to be your friend. You remind them of where they once were and they’re beyond that now. You will be one day too, but stop looking to level up instead of reaching out. Call your fellow struggling actor friend and hold writing sessions together. Film yourselves so you see how you look on camera, practice improv, and submit yourselves to castings. Be each others club buddies, and never let the other leave the club alone with some guy dripped in diamonds and pinky rings.
Form actual friendships and motivate one another because in this town everyone is out for themselves, and not worried about you. I have been acting and writing for about ten years now, and within the past two years come into the next level in my career. You have to stay determined, hustle and keep going after every rejection. You’ll need to see beyond the glitter and sparkle and realize this shit is hard as hell and will not get any easier. LA is absolutely beautiful and positively brutal. It will chew you up and spit you out if you let it. Don’t let it, and I’ll see you on the other side of the Hollywood sign.
Are you an actor/writer or fellow creative? How are you navigating the Hollywood scene? Sound off in the comment section below!
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