For years I've been preaching that if you want to follow your passion, you should literally follow it wherever it might take you. If you're an actor and you are not currently residing in some of the bigger spots like New York, Miami, Chicago or Houston, you may be considering moving to L.A.
So. I'm not an expert at moving to L.A. I moved out here from Brooklyn, and the best advice I can give you is that if you are moving across country like I did and you have a lot of stuff you want to move with you, use the Amtrak Express. This hidden gem will allow you to transport a whole crate-load for the low-low. I paid $290 for it in late 2014. Absolutely worth it.
But that's not the most important thing to think of when moving to L.A. Making valuable connections out here is important. Finding the right place to live and work is huge as well. Here are some articles I have been, and will continue collecting for you over a period of time with some highlights.
Below article is from another website which went down, but since I found it helpful I decided to keep it around on the web:
As in any business: do not invest your efforts into things that will not potentially return the investment; otherwise it is an expense, not an investment. I will refer to this rule often in the plan of attack so make it your friend.
Before you move to Los Angeles
- You already need to be on the websites ActorsAccess, and LACasting. All the major casting directors, agents, and managers use a variation of these two systems. If you aren’t on at least one of them (or both), and you are an actor in LA, you aren’t trying hard enough. The End. There is a monthly fee to be on them, but these websites will allow you to apply for work- so it will make you money [potentially]- therefore, refer to RULE NUMBER ONE.
- If you don’t have headshots, you won’t find work (period). Get some. They don’t have to be expensive, but they DO have to be good. A good headshot photographer will capture a variety of looks that will market you across a vast array of characters- all while staying true and honest to who you actually are. It’s a fine, fine, line. Check out “Actor’s Link” for an assortment of well-respected photographers in the LA area.
- Fix your resume. Even if you think it’s perfect… it’s probably not. Fix it. Your resume is a work of art that constantly needs to be tweaked showcasing you and why you’d be a great person for them to call in. Figure out your weaknesses and strengthen them. If you don’t have a lot of training- get into acting class, if you don’t have a lot of experience- find some friends producing a web-series and get yourself on camera.
- You need to start learning who the casting directors are. They are the ones who call you in. I’m not saying to stalk them- but you need to figure out how to get in front of them. Casting About is a great website for this. I used to live across the hall from one of the developers when I first moved out - it’s been fun to watch his site turn into such a valuable tool. If you do this research before you move to the city, you are ahead of the game.
[Side note: you are never better than anyone. Put your ego at the door, because honestly, LA doesn’t care or need it. You will only roadblock your career with ideas of jealousy and egomania. It’s a waste of time and energy.]
You’ve moved to Los Angeles, Congratulations!
- Find a place to live. Rent is expensive, don’t freak yourself out. You will probably need a roommate… or two... or three- but that’s ok. It’s only temporary (hopefully). It’s best to stick in the areas that have the most action: Sherman Oaks, Studio City, North Hollywood, Hollywood, West Hollywood. There are quite a few auditions in Santa Monica as well if you want to fork over some extra cash and live by the beach.
- Get a job. Any job is fine. It’s ok if it is disposable or something that you don’t want to do- because it’ll make you fight only that much harder. If you are having a hard time finding a job, sign up for Central Castingand Sande Alessi Casting to start doing background work. Background work is fine as long as you don’t get caught too long in it. That TV show “Extras” is a very real thing. There are some valuable lessons to be learned however such as how a set works, and humility.
- Start acting. This is the tricky part. And this is where I feel a lot of young artists get sidetracked. If you aren’t acting, you aren’t an actor- so start doing it. Even if that means making your own work. There are so many outlets in this city it is crazy.
- Theatre. LA is the land of 99-seat plan theatre. There are a lot of terrible shows, but there are a lot of good ones too. Be careful, a lot of companies in this town want to charge you money to be a part of their company: always remember RULE NUMBER ONE. What are you getting out of it? If it’s not going to possibly make you money… don’t invest in it. There is a list of credible 99- seat plan theatres as well as LA area regional theatres in the Actor’s Link.
- Submissions on LACasting and ActorsAccess (Breakdown Services). Remember when I told you to sign up for these sites? Now it’s time to start submitting. If you are non-union the possibilities are going to be endless. If you don’t get auditions right away, don’t freak out, just keep submitting. If a couple months go by without any auditions, you need to evaluate: are my headshots the best they could be? Does my resume sell me? Am I submitting for appropriate roles that I am suitable for? Once you think you’ve found the cancer, cut it out. Remember, every audition is an acting opportunity. Also- don’t rule out student films- who knows what train may be leaving the station, maybe it’s one that you want to be on.
- Acting Class is a great opportunity to get you acting, as long as it’s going somewhere in the end. You are not going to get any opportunities only acting in a classroom, you need to find a teacher who believes in you and will mentor you. Beware of teachers that create actor dependency. You should be learning how to practice the process on your own. A good teacher will not just direct the scene you are working on, they will teach you how to explore the scene. If they are directing the scene- you are wasting your money. Get out.
- Casting Director Workshops. Be careful with this one in particular- a lot of them are scammy and you’ll end up paying $200 to get in front of an agent’s “assistant” who actually turns out to be their next door neighbor (I’m serious). Do your research. It’s good to know that when you do these the agents, managers, or casting directors actually may not be looking for anyone (the workshop company is paying them to be there) so if you don’t get an audition out of it don’t freak out. People do however get called in sometimes from them, and it has launched the careers of several people I know- so they are at least worth the glance. The average workshop I’ve run across ranges from $30-$55. ActorsKey in my opinion is one of the best.
- Join the Unions (Eventually)If you are ready, like really really ready, start looking into joining SAG-AFTRA or AEA. Nowadays under the SAG New Media contract it’s easier than ever to get a Taft-Hartley. A Taft Hartley is when you are grandfathered into the union after working on a union project. Commercials are also well known for Taft-Hartley(ing) people. Most agents won’t consider taking you on unless you are in a union- but once you join- you’ll be cutting your job prospects in half. And if that resume hasn’t been built up, it’s like shooting yourself in the foot. You’ll also on occasion hear of mysterious people who can get you into the union if you pay them- these people are swarmy and preying on desperation. Stay away.
- Get an Agent and/or Manager: Unless you come from one of the juggernaut acting programs, chances are you are not going to end up with an agent or manager post-graduation. This means that the grind might be harder for you- but that’s ok. Keep your head high and keep trucking. A good agent takes 10% of your acting work. A good manager takes 10% as well- but I’ve heard of some stretching to 15%. Stay away from anyone who wants more. They aren’t real.Stay away from any agent or manager who requires that you only go through one person for acting classes and headshots. These people are in cahoots with eachother and prey off of desperation. If they seem too good to be true… they are. Commercial Agents should be your first target. They take on more people and are willing to take on less experienced clients. Commercials have the potential to make a lot of money (like a year’s worth in one day of work) so they are the best investments you can make. Don’t get hung up on saying “I don’t do commercials,” nobody says that anymore, and you’ll only look stupid. And nobody likes being stupid. Getting an agent/manager is tricky. If you don’t have a strong resume, workshops are the best way to get in front of them. Another way is just getting out and meeting people in general: agents and managers are people just like actors. Don’t spend copious amounts of energy with mass submissions, most of them get thrown away by the receptionist and don’t even make it to the actual agents (or assistants). If you are going to do submissions, research and make a list of the top agents you think you are realistically suited for and send them your headshot/resume/cover-letter every six months or so. Nothing more is needed. You don’t need to wait outside their office at wee hours of the morning, you don’t need to call them every half hour, your don’t need to show up at their office. Some people have been successful e-mailing agents and managers their info: if you choose to do that, just be conscious that some of them do not like this, and you are gambling.
- Read and Write: As an actor you are a storyteller. Spend your free time reading and writing, it’ll help you learn how stories are constructed, exercise your creativity, and make you a smarter actor.
- Keep acting. Wait… I already did this one… well it’s worth saying again. You aren’t an actor if you aren’t acting. End. Of. Story.
There are also some webinars here as well, some free, some paid - but if you're considering making the big move, you should exhaust all of the resources and listen to all of the available advice, check it out here:
Free webinar - The 5 Mistakes Actors Make When They Move to Los Angeles
Don't know what this one will cover as it will be happening live next Thursday.
Stage 32 webinar from 2015:
This webinar talks about the big mistakes and how to avoid them, how to connect with people and create valuable contacts, and three most important things you need to research before coming out here. It also provides hints on how to fit in and how to get a job.
Stage 32 blog from December 2014:
7 Mistakes which include focusing too much on getting in the union, not saving enough money, being egocentric, having no plan, having no support team, coming out too early and not knowing how to market yourself.
Backstage article from 2014:
You just read why you may not want to move to L.A. Now it's time to look at it from a different perspective. This article gives you the more positive reasons why moving here is the right choice for some of you.
Fighting Broke resources from 2013:
These articles might be slightly outdated, but many of them are still quite valid. Read about minimization and getting to LA, finding transportation and getting a license for your vehicle. This might be a relative assessment, so have an open mind.
Backstage article from 2010:
Yet another one from Backstage - this one is the oldest article that I found that is still worth reading. You won't read anything you haven't read or listened to above, but it just adds a personal perspective of others who have done this before you.
Theresa K. Thanks for sharing, Tomasz. Great info as always. Jessie and I won't be able to take a look at the webinar as we'll be in Utah at the time. Hopefully we can watch it on-demand later.
Tomasz M. I'm not certain. I will know more for sure next week. Enjoy the festival, take lots of photos and shake lots of hands. :)
Julie S. I'm already in LA, but I found these interesting. Very useful. What do you think about Ajarae's The Workshop Guru? Would you recommend it to a working actress?
Tomasz M. Hey Julie, the way I see it, even when you read the other blog posts, you'll see that everyone strongly recommends support teams - you can find those everywhere. Can I vouch for The Workshop Guru? Not at this time, but I will do some more research for you and I'll get in touch soon.
Dara T. Thanks for the insights and links, Tomasz! These suggestions can be used for all industry careers in LA!
Suzie O. I'm making the plunge in a few months and I'm looking forward to checking out these thinks before I make my way out there - thanks for the resources!
Tomasz M. My pleasure Suzie. Don't forget to check out the lounge discussions on Stage 32 as well. There's a lot of great advice on there for you. Try this google search query to find the topic in the lounge: site:stage32.com inurl:lounge moving la