Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anony Goes West

I want to begin my rambling tonight by first saying, hello to you, readers.  Although this forum is generally a one-way-communication-type deal, I know you're out there reading, and when you comment, I listen.  When you email, it's me who reads and responds.  When you have a specific request for a topic you'd like me to address, I'm here.  I will never think you're being too forward or stepping out of bounds to reach out to me.  You are the reason I'm here, instead of writing in the pages of my now neglected journal.

I will also say right away, I don't have all the answers.  I'm only qualified to give my opinion, which is just the humble perspective of one single person (who happens to do a shit-load of research and works like an animal).  But it's ultimately up to you to determine how much that opinion is worth.  You are free to agree or disagree, and voice either opinion in these pages.  I'm just here to tell you my story, and I hope it can help you with yours.

That being said, a few days ago an anonymous commenter asked me to weigh in on the big question.  That major decision (almost) every actor has to make... do I move to Los Angeles?  When is the right time?  (I say almost because a couple of you lucky bastards grew up here, and because you've been doing it since you were five, you're probably a lot further along in your career than I am.  But I always joke that my parents probably did me a favor by raising me somewhere else... they saved me from being a washed up ex-child-star has-been with a waning career, but a growing coke problem.  I wouldn't want to be that.)

The truth is, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting is a very personal decision.  I could no sooner tell you who, between two eligible candidates, you should choose to marry.  You wouldn't want me to choose who you wake up next to every morning for rest of your life.  What I want to wake up next to may induce your gag reflexive.  (I like mine in suits, but you may crave more rock 'n roll.)  Similarly, even if you know it is what you want... I could also never tell you when to say, "I do."  There is so much that plays into that decision, and just like the move to Los Angeles, it's one you'll have to make on your own.

I can, however, tell you how I made mine...

I went to college for something other than acting.  I was in theater when I was younger and always dreamed of being in movies, but when it came to choosing a major, I decided to be more practical.  But as I was about to finish my undergrad degree, I realized nothing would make me as happy as working in front of a camera for the rest of my life.  Shortly thereafter, I performed in a talent showcase and attracted the attention of a few industry professionals in Los Angeles.  Among them was my future manager.  He told me, "You need to be in LA if you actually want to do this as a career."

After that showcase, I couldn't get the thought of Los Angeles and a career in this business out of my head.  Despite the fact that I still had a year to go in college, and that I was living with a long-term non-actor boyfriend who was not interested in relocating... nothing could subdue my desire to be in Hollywood.  I was consumed with the need to be here.  At that point, there was no option.  Within four months, I packed whatever I could fit in my car and started to drive.  The distance was easily a two day road trip, but not for me.  I had only $500 to my name and I knew I needed every penny once I got to LA.  So I drove all night to avoid the cost of a hotel room and charged gas the entire way.  (Side note: I am not suggesting you operate your life with such reckless abandon.  I'm pretty sure that every guidebook and half-intelligent person would say this was a recipe for disaster.  I've just never been very good at thinking of consequences, plus I'm pretty fearless when it comes to change.) 
There was only one fleeting moment where the brevity of what I had just done caught up with me.  My then-boyfriend had ridden shotgun to keep me awake for the drive and help me get settled.  I drove him to the airport to fly back a few days later.  As I stood in the airport lobby looking up at him as he went through security, and effectively out of my life, I remember panicking for a split second...

"Oh god, what the hell did I just do?"

But then I took a deep breath and did the only thing I could.  I walked back to my car and resolved to accomplish what I had come here to do, no matter how hard it would be or how long it would take.  And I'm happy to say, though there have been ups and downs, I've never looked back.

So, my two cents for anyone who's contemplating the move?

My manager's advice was right.  If you want a career in TV or film, you will need to be in Los Angeles.  However, only you can know when is the right time.  You also need to prepare yourself for a bigger reality check than you can possibly imagine.  (In fact, even if you're completely prepared for that, it will still get you.  I promise you that.)  I can almost guarantee that even once you move here, you will barely even see the inside of a casting room for a major project for at least a year and probably two.  But during that time, you'll be learning.  You'll be taking classes, researching the business, making student films, and getting acclimated to a town that eats dreamers for breakfast.  How long that learning period lasts will be unique to you based on how much experience/skill you have before you get here, how much internal drive you have (and are able to maintain), and how adaptable you can be to pretty much the most mentally and emotionally demanding lifestyle on the planet.

The big question I think you should ask yourself, is where do you want to start that learning curve?  What is best for you and your personal needs and fears?  You can start wherever you are, or move to a mid-sized market to get your acting sea-legs.  Learn what it's all about -- how to audition, how to hustle, how to develop your own unique skill and process.  For some people, staying in a town they're familiar with will provide much appreciated stability through the rough early stages of a career.  Getting a head start wherever you are (and NYC is certainly one of the best places to get a head start) can help you come to LA with a little more experience under your belt.  (Plus, you'll probably have worked your way up to being a big fish in a small pond.  Once you move, you'll have to adjust to being an average fish in an ocean again, but it's better than a minnow.)   

Or if it's more your style, you could just jump in the deep end without a life vest and head directly to Hollywood.  Just be aware that you'll probably flail around, half-drowned for a while before you learn to swim.  But when you start to figure out how to keep your head above water... that's when it gets really fun...

Either way, commitment is the key.  Stand behind your own decision 150%... because if you're waiting for someone to give you permission or a boost... you're going to be waiting a long time, my friend.  Better to just get after it yourself, 'cause Hollywood and your career ain't waitin' either.

Good luck!!

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