The East Coast Versus West Coast Debate

Photo Source: Britt Sanders

Dear Michael: I recently graduated with my BFA in film/TV (directing and screenwriting) and a double minor in producing and entertainment business from a university in New York. When I first moved to the Big Apple, I didn’t like it. I missed my home state and the place I spent most of my high school years, Los Angeles.

Well, I graduated a year and a half early and moved back to L.A. a week after graduation. And now I’m really missing New York.

I’m a SAG-AFTRA member with ambitions that are exclusively film/TV/commercial. I was accepted into a prestigious BFA drama program in New York as well but decided to transfer to directing because I really disdain theater.

When I was in New York, I met with four agents who passed on me. In L.A. I got offers from two (although the one I decided to sign with only got me one audition throughout pilot season).

My question is this: Do you think I have more chances or opportunities to get auditions or get cast in any role from under-5s to guest stars and beyond in New York or L.A.? My lease expires five months from today. —Empire State of Mind

Dear Empire State of Mind: The New York versus L.A. question is one I get asked a lot in letters to this column, and I’m often baffled that people actually think I can tell them which city will yield greater success. Sans psychic powers, it’s impossible to predict such things, since acting careers follow very few patterns. And as it turns out, I’m not even a little bit psychic.

However, in your case, I think there are some pretty clear indicators: You disdain theater, and you want to do on-camera work. While both media exist in both places, in general, L.A. has the greater film/TV emphasis, of course. So it’s kind of a no-brainer.

Now, yes, New York has TV work too, especially lately, but moving back and forth a lot isn’t a good plan, because it usually takes a while before folks catch on that you’re around and capable. And so, I think that patience—that awful, awful concept—is the name of the game. I’ve sat out more pilot seasons...sat and sat, waiting for even one audition. Sometimes it’s like that. I did temp jobs, took classes, worked at theme parks, worried, and did theater for free. You know, the typical story. After a few years, I started working. A little. Very little. Then a little more. And eventually, I started working a lot. I can’t promise that’ll be your experience, but the point is that cultivating an acting career requires time, regardless of the location.

While no one can predict what will lead to what, I’d make a case for hanging around. Missing New York isn’t a good enough reason to leave your agents and set the career dial back to zero. I miss Venice, Italy, but it’s damn short on acting opportunities. So let’s visit those places, and keep our careers on track.