How to Make It in Los Angeles
Individuals spend months, years, or even decades mastering the art form of living in Los Angeles. My personal journey led me to spend 4 years of my life, ages 21–25, struggling, thriving, and adapting in the big city. I learned the tips and tricks to "making it" only to decide at year 4 that Hollywood was not the home for me.
The accomplishments that I accumulated in Hollywood during my 4-year time period comparatively take most people a minimum of 10 years to accomplish. I moved to Los Angeles with no experience, no connections, and no knowledge of the industry. By the end of my 4-year run, I had connections with all of the top background agencies, was attending top acting and comedy workshops, and was receiving invitations to collaborate with some of Hollywood's most successful actors and producers.
Advice for Anyone Trying to Make It in L.A.
I went from ground zero to box office potential in a very short amount of time. These are my top four pieces of advice for anyone hoping to do the same:
- Don't Trust Anyone
- Don't Compromise
- Be You
- Say "No"
Disclaimer: Los Angeles is notorious for evolving at a rapid rate. The suggestions and advice I will be sharing with you is knowledge being carried over from 2012–2015. The foundation of my Hollywood success will be translated through personality traits and behavior mannerisms that will never age or go out of style. However, the agencies and the recommended locations will most likely vary with time. Please keep this in mind as you continue reading.
1. Don't Trust Anyone
First things first, don't trust anyone. This might be a very scary and horrible concept, but the truth of the matter remains. 99% of the Los Angeles artistic population revolves around self-advancement. A new manager that wants to help further your career, a roommate that you enjoy spending time with but is always late on rent, an acting gig that promises to not exploit your nudity—all of these are prime examples of your intuition screaming at you to run in the opposite direction while your heart tries to convince you that people are good. Listen to your intuition in Los Angeles, not your heart.
2. Don't Compromise
Secondly, don't compromise. Do not do anything or portray any character that goes outside of your ethical standpoint. Be willing to try new things and be open to adaptability, but do not compromise what you know in your heart to be right and wrong. You know what is best for you. Do not allow an agency, a manager, a friend, or a family member to convince you otherwise. Listen to your gut and allow your intuition to guide you. Be your own best friend.
3. Be You
Thirdly, be vibrantly you. You are going to work a lot of jobs that do not fulfill you while progressing to the jobs that will. While working these jobs, the most important thing to remember is that you are you and not your job title. Just because the background actors are not supposed to talk to the main actors does not mean that you have to listen. Do not fan out on anyone ever, always be polite and respectful, but be yourself. Show everyone in that casting room, that movie set, that modeling studio, who you are and what you bring to the table.
Do your best to push fear and insecurity to the side and allow your inner you to shine through. No one is going to pay attention to you unless you give them a reason to. Make sure that reason is a positive one. Make people smile, talk to them, treat them as friends (while remembering not to be naive), and stay vibrant. If you sit in the corner and "do your job" as a background actor, all you will ever be is a background actor.
4. Say "No"
Last but not least, know when to say "NO". As a striving artist, you should always be open and receptive to everything that the universe gifts to you. Every opportunity, every interaction, every casting, this is where your intuition needs to be the only voice in the room. Go with your first instinct regarding every situation that is presented to you.
Now, if you are notoriously timid and your first instinct is to run, that's not instinct, that's fear. Get clear on which of your voices is intuition, which is your heart, and which is fear. These voices are going to determine which opportunities you should take and which opportunities you should gratefully pass on. Meditate and sort your voices out before stepping foot in L.A.
How to Get a Head Start
You are going to need multiple ranges of headshots to show your commercial and editorial range. I recommend getting these taken professionally. You do not need to spend a lot of money to get some great shots. Reach out to some professionals in your area with reference photos like these to get some pricing. You should not be paying more than a couple hundred dollars for a full session with 3-5 looks.
Where to Print Headshots
- Reproductions were my go-to.
The best consistent acting gigs available will be through Central Casting. Join ASAP. Prepare to be there all day. You do not need experience or a headshot, just a valid drivers license. You will be most likely starting out as non-union unless you are SAG. If you want to be treated fairly in the industry and make good money, you will need to look into qualifying to become SAG ASAP. I recommend doing this immediately and taking the necessary steps in order to qualify.
I joined SAG by working for an independent film as a speaking actress. It was a 1-day gig and the producer filed my SAG qualification in exchange for a day of work. Paying the dues is the hardest part of joining. Once I had qualified, I had to shell out $3,500 in order to officially join the union. Although expensive and time-consuming, becoming union was the best decision I made for my pocketbook and acting career.
You will have many agencies for many different things. Agencies are great and will help you get to where you want to be for a fee. Be selective with the agencies you work with. Do a great job and they will reward you with more frequent and better gigs. Do a crappy job and you look at the risk of being cut off from their endless supply of gigs.
I recommend the following agencies.
For TV and Movie BG Work
For Commercial BG Work
For DIY Acting and Modeling Gigs
As always, be sketchy of potential managers and do your due diligence before meeting up with or signing a contract with ANYONE. Allow your gut to lead the way; it will never steer you wrong.
One Dream at a Time
You've got what it takes. Now follow those dreams. And don't worry; if in a few years you decide to take a different path, the confidence and the badassery of following your dream to go to L.A. will make the process of anything you do in the future much easier.
One dream at a time.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.