THE MIGRATION: MOVING TO HOLLYWOOD
In October of 2010, it was time: I bought a plane ticket, had my visa situation cleared up (what a pain that was), had my enrollment date set in film school, and my suitcase was packed! My dad drove me to the airport, I boarded a plane that would touch down 15 hours later in Los Angeles!
I was pumped! I was ready! I was proud! But most of all, I was ignorant. It wasn’t until about 300 feet above Los Angeles International Airport that it hit me: I had no idea where to eat, where to sleep, how to survive. And also, they speak a different language here than what my mom taught me.
I panicked! All of a sudden my seatbelt was suffocating me. I built some serious anxiety before my brain kicked in: “One step at a time.”
Long story short, the plane landed, I managed to get some help at a way-too-small information stand in LAX from an old dude who wore an oversized cowboy hat (weird). I managed to haul my suitcase into an airport shuttle, headed for the overpriced Holloway Motel in WEHO, which of course was nowhere near my film school in Hollywood, then decided to make my first meal a cheeseburger (of course), walked along Santa Monica Boulevard and stumbled into Hamburger Mary’s, where I was promptly hit on by a gay guy, immediately stumbled back out on the street (please forgive my juvenile insecurities), to end up at Barney’s Beanery across from my motel, for an okay burger, some fries, and a very strange moment over the tip with the waitress (I didn’t know the tip was just left at the table), then to fall asleep in my room and be woken up in the middle of the night by two guys going at it in the room next. And when I say, going at it, I mean, GOING AT IT!
That’s the half of what happened on that evening!
What was to follow were years of struggle to find my place in this town. Los Angeles is a city that’s not easily loved. I think, what makes it home to so many different cultures, people, religions, customs, is exactly that: the creation of little communities in which you are comfortable and safe. It’s not so much about adapting to the city, but rather about finding like-minded people and creating your own community (hello readers!).
Do you have to move to Hollywood to be a filmmaker?
I think there are basically two schools of thought here, and they both come down to you: are you looking to make directing and filmmaking your main source of income; your career? Are you just looking to have a hobby and making films is what’s fun to you? Let’s break this down:
AS A HOBBY…
…there is no need to move to LA. Move to wherever it’s fun to you! Or don’t move at all! You can make films anywhere and what makes a film powerful or effective is not where you make the film or how much money an investor is giving you, but the capability of the director behind the camera.
Especially as a young filmmaker, I always had this need to use the latest and greatest piece of equipment but really what needs to happen first, is that a director learns the basics. And you don’t need to be in Los Angeles to do this! Check YouTube, watch some tutorials, pull out your cell phone, convince your friends to be in your first film, pay for their lunch, make a film! Then make the next one.
When you make films for yourself, you don’t need to answer to anybody. There is no discussions with investors or producers about the marketability of your film, or how much ROI they can expect!
As far as money goes, you may be better off living outside of LA. You might find that you have to deal with a lot less bureaucracy in communities that are less saturated with film productions - yes, I’m looking at you, film permits! And not to forget, LA is an expensive city, if you live in a smaller town, most likely your overhead expenses will be lower which allows you to allocate more money to your next project , or to your credit card debt for your last project!
And who knows, you might just gather some attention at festivals and Hollywood comes calling!
AS A CAREER…
If you’re looking to make a living with it, or you are looking to make films in a studio system, or amongst people who have figured out how the film industry actually works as an industry, Los Angeles is your place! You’ll have greater opportunity to mingle with people, who make a living with what they love. Be warned: these people vibrate on a very high frequency and you’ll have to meet them there to play!
In Los Angeles, you have access to the latest and greatest pieces of equipment and not to forget, some of the most talented up-and-coming crew members and actors that are hungry for work and the next great thing! The talent that exists in this town at any given moment, exceeds any other place in this world!
Los Angeles simply allows for more opportunities to be discovered and hired as director, with most major production companies having their headquarters or subsidiaries here. And even though walking in the door at some office is not common business practice anymore, taking an executive to lunch or drinks definitely is!
So that’s it - personal connection, or networking as some might call it. That’s what it comes down to, for me. And that’s what makes me stay in this town. It’s the chance to connect with like-minded people. And when you find your circle, the energy is electrifying; it gets you hooked!
All in all…
…moving to Los Angeles was a life changing event that I am so grateful for. That ignorance, that I now criticize so much, I needed it, because if I had known what was on the other side and how difficult it would be for the years to come, I might not have boarded that plane, and I would have missed out on the greatest adventure of my life!
Challenge yourselves. Don’t worry too much about the unknown- you might just discover great rewards!
Let me know what your thoughts are on this in the comments below!
All my best!