The Need-to-Know for Actors Moving to L.A.

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Photo Source: Jonathan Bartlett

A recent geological study conducted by Stanford reveals this entire country has a curved foundation that leans slightly toward the southwest corner, right in the direction of Southern California. Now here’s the real shocker: This phenomenon started about a hundred years ago. Under normal conditions, extreme changes like this take place over millions of years. So what gives? How could this happen in such a short period of time?

If you ask me, the answer’s simple. It’s all about cause and effect. Just look back at the early days of the 20th century. The United States was going through a lot of changes, but there’s one in particular that I think was the catalyst for the earth shifting right under our feet. I’m talking about the birth of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. That’s when actors starting moving west, and I believe the weight of all those dreams warped the very foundation of our country.

Now here we are in 2013, and nothing has changed. Every year, thousands of actors still move to Hollywood seeking fame and glory and an agent. I would estimate 90 percent of them arrive unprepared or at the wrong point in their careers.

Moving here is a huge decision that will change your life in ways you can’t begin to imagine. That’s why you have to be completely ready. So here are three things to consider before you start packing your bags:

Emotional Impact
Relocating is something adults do on a regular basis, but trust me—nothing can prepare you for the emptiness of a new city. I’ve never been more alone in my life than during my first year in L.A.

Leaving your friends and family behind isn’t easy. They’re your support system. Without them, life is going to be much harder. So prepare yourself for some lonely days because everything you know and love is about to go bye-bye.

Money, Money, Money
Unless you want your first few months here to be a living nightmare, you should move out with at least $5,000 in your pocket. That should be enough to cover you during those early days of unemployment and down payments.

Naturally, that dollar amount goes up if you need to buy a car. And that’s one area you don’t want to skimp on. Actors live in their cars here, sometimes literally, and a reliable set of wheels is a must.

Your Résumé
Do not move here with an empty one.

This is an easy fix if you live in New York. There are plenty of teachers there who are known to the industry, so make sure you study with at least one of them. The name will look good on your résumé. The same is true for stage work. I wouldn’t know what to think if a New York actor came here without some decent theater credits.

Naturally, the smartest thing a New Yorker can do is book some work on a local TV show like “Person of Interest” or “Elementary.” I know that’s not easy, but hey, nothing is easy about an acting career.

All this advice can also be applied to secondary markets like Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and several others. Of course, if you’re stuck in a one-cow town that doesn’t have much of an entertainment industry, your choices are going to be limited. But who knows? Maybe you can get some material for your reel by working on student films, local commercials, or industrials. You just need to be creative. There are opportunities everywhere.

Next week, we’ll talk about what you should and shouldn’t do when you finally land on our shores.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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