LAX – How To Prepare First
Thousands of people arrive every day at the International Airport in Los Angeles. Full of dreams, full of hope of becoming the next big thing. I’m telling you upfront that I won’t sugarcoat anything regarding this industry, but I’m also helping you to look at the bright side of all things. My attitude is always straight forward and honest, because frankly that’s what everybody really wants to know – the truth, right?
So let’s get started with the Basics of “How to become a successful Actor in L.A.”.
Often when I drive by LAX, I wonder how many people just arrived here for the first time and have absolutely no clue what to do and how to get started. In the very beginning you might feel on top of the world, but we all know that feeling doesn’t last forever, unfortunately.
Rewind To: Home
Now let’s quickly rewind to see yourself at home packing and getting ready for the big move to Los Angeles, California. I highly recommend planning ahead as much as you can, despite me being a big lover of spontaneity and the “fu** it, just do it” attitude.
First, before I will talk about the basic material investments you have to make regarding your move, I’d like to guide you into awareness of the mental and emotional roller coaster ride you’re about to get on to. Yes, Los Angeles is a city where you can make your dreams come true, but at the same time you have to be ready for your illusions to be crushed and for it to take years and years of daily rejections because of things that are simply out of your control. Be prepared for your ideas and visions to not quite turn out the way you pictured it. That national commercial or series regular you were planning on booking six months in your stay hasn’t happened yet and the big agent or director still haven’t offered to work with you after one year of being here. It just doesn’t always work out the way we want it to. Have goals and plans, but stay open to other possibilities and opportunities, surrender and let go and things will always turn out exactly the way they had to. Always work hard, stay pro-active and remember Gladwell’s ten thousand hour rule, then this is how long it roughly takes to achieve mastery in a field. Some others say 5 years minimum of consistent work will hopefully get you recognized by some people.
Also, a lot of statistics say that aspiring actors quit and left L.A. again only after two years, so there’s that. But in reality there is no rules and there is no secret to becoming a success. All you really can do, is always do your best, show up every day and never stop. So be ready for the ride and no matter what, keep your eyes open, hold those hands up high and enjoy the ride!
Secondly, after preparing you psychologically, I’d like to get the financial aspect out of the way as quickly and painlessly as possible, because A) I don’t like talking money and B) I’m sure you all know that it costs a lot to move to a new place (even continent for some, state or city for others) considering all the things you have to invest in within the first few months. So either you are saving up a lot of money – which is what I did, but looking back, I probably should have saved up more. I came here with about ten thousand dollars, but to be honest that went away faster than I thought. So I do recommend that you come here with at least a few thousand dollars. Or maybe your parents are still supporting you, which is very nice, but not everyone is as lucky, so make sure that if they do, you show gratitude and use it wisely. How you personally are going to tackle this subject, depends on a lot of different things, such as where you’re coming from – are you an American Citizen or an Immigrant from Europe, the UK or Australia? Will it be easy for you to get work over here legally or will it be extremely difficult? Perhaps you are coming here under a restricted visa and work permit that only allows you to take on employment in a specific field, such as the 01 Artist Visa? Or maybe you don’t have a visa at all yet and are still trying to figure out which one would be your best bet? Those and many more subjects regarding “how to live, study and work in L.A. as an immigrant” I will address in future blog posts, promise!
Arriving at LAX – Where To?
Now finally, back to arriving at LAX: Trust me, you don’t want to get here and not know where to go. If you know some people that already live in L.A., family, friends or acquaintances, contact them and respectfully ask if you can stay at their place or sleep on their couch for at least a couple of nights. Best scenario, you have a few options of places you can stay at, just in case. If you don’t know anyone at all, don’t stress, I’ve been in that situation and so have a thousand other people before you as well. It’s all doable. Some ideas are www.couchsurfing.com or www.airbnb.com to find local hosts offering bedrooms or even full apartments for quite affordable rates between $30 and $100 a night. These options are definitely cheaper than any hotels or motels. Of course that is just a temporary solution for you, while you’re on the hunt of finding an actual place to live. In the beginning I recommend finding at least one roommate (fingers crossed they’re not crazy) for example on www.roomiematch.com you’ll find appropriate matches and you don’t have to worry about scams like on so many other websites. You could look for a single bedroom in a house with others, a small studio apartment or 1-bedroom or for the frugal and careless people, even a shared room – again, been there, done that. After I lived with a host family a couple times when I was still a teenager (I went back and forth between Europe and LA several times), I then lived in a so-called “Artist House” in North Hollywood with 15 other Actors, Dancers and Singers. Because honestly 1-bedrooms are super expensive and the price raises each year. Back in 2013 a 1-bedroom in a good area cost an average of $1600 a month and now in 2016 the average is $1900. If you’re looking for a place in a more affluent or prosperous area such as West Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Marina Del Rey they’ll charge you at least $2500 for a 1-bedroom!
Most Affordable Locations/ Areas
For the ones of you that come here on an M-1 or F-1 student visa and are not allowed to take on any employment, I recommend living in the Valley or in East Hollywood as a start. North Hollywood, Burbank or even Van Nuys are way more affordable areas (half the price!) and you can find nice places if you’re patient and lucky. East of the 101 Freeway by Hollywood is also pretty cheap and even closer to the center. One of the most popular websites with also the most opposing reviews and a high amount of red flags is Craigslist: losangeles.craigslist.org – BUT you can find anything and everything for very good prices. (We got our super cute dog on there for example!) I’ve heard all kind of stories about Craigslist, it feels like a lottery sometimes, so just find out for yourself (but please be careful).
How To Get Around In L.A. (Tip: Car)
Next topic is “Transportation”: I’m sure you know how large L.A. is and how terrible public transportation services are over here. If you’re from Europe and Americans keep telling you “You NEED a car in L.A., there’s no way around it”, you think to yourself: I’m sure I can take buses, or bicycle or walk even, I’m good at that, I do this every day over here. Yes, I understand, trust me in Switzerland most people never drive a car, everything is doable with public transportation, but not in L.A. I’m sorry. So, either you rent a car in the beginning f.ex. on www.budget.com or you simply take Lyft www.lyft.com/ or Uber www.uber.com/ride/ both of these services are super popular these days. The drivers are normal people, most of them are actors or self-employed (all background checked), that drive you from place to place with their personal car but for much cheaper than any Taxi. Again, this should just be a temporary solution, because living like that for a long time will definitely break the bank.
Best Cars To Buy
Investing in a good, reliable car that lasts for at least a few years, is easily one of the best purchases you can make in the beginning of your journey here. I bought two really bad cars in the beginning, wasted around $5000 and drove them for not even a year each. Furthermore, I suggest you not to lease a car, because it might seem very reasonable in the beginning, but the expenses add up quickly. There are a lot of hidden fees and your car insurance might be about three times as much as it would be with a regular used car that you own. On that note, I recommend buying a used car that above all, has good fuel economy and is reliable. Examples are Ford Fiesta, Toyota Prius or Toyota Corolla, Honda Insight or Honda Civic. Once you’ve found a car and want to go check it out, please make sure you bring someone along that knows a LOT about cars, is very confident, possibly a guy, not to be sexist, but women tend to get screwed over way more often. Check the VIN number online for the car history, make sure the engine is well-maintained and periodically given oil changes such as general checkups. Don’t forget to take it for a test drive and also avoid cars that have really high miles (over 150,000 is too high). You can find a good car on Craigslist, but don’t rush into anything, also www.autotrader.com/ is very recommendable, since these ones are background checked cars (therefore a little more pricey), but compared to Craigslist, where you never know what you get.
And Then What?
Once you have a place to stay and a reliable car, you’re ready to enroll into Acting Classes, get your headshots done and make your resume shine, get yourself out there to audition, look for an agent & manager, take workshops and mingle and connect with new people. You can also start making your own short films and put a demo reel together and eventually work your way up to the top! I will talk about all these topics and much more in my future blog posts. Stay tuned for my next blog post about Day Jobs for Actors.
If you have an urgent question or concern regarding your visa or any other Acting in L.A. inquiries, don’t hesitate to contact me and we can set up a Skype session or even a personal meeting if you’re in the L.A. area.