Anything Goes : Trying to move to L.A: need advice by Axzavia James

Axzavia James

Trying to move to L.A: need advice

Hello stage 32 community! Let me first say I appreciate having this outlet to share my thoughts as an artist. I haven't spent as much time on the site talking to fellow artist as I should but I'm working to change that. I'm a screenwriter from Chicago on a mission to make a move to L.A. in the near future. I understand that there are many of you currently residing in L.A. so I'm assuming that many of you know the area pretty well. If you could spare a minute, is there any advice you could share that would help in my quest to relocate there? The best area to live, best place to find a job, agencies that work with local screenwriters, etc.. any info would be much appreciated.

Danny Manus

In terms of where to live, you should check out Geoff LaTulippe's article on it. He's a pro writer here in LA and put together a pretty true and hilarious article on it. You can find it on his website. Best places to find a job? Have someone you know get you one. There's UTA Joblist, Mandy, entertainmentcareers.net, temp diaries, etc. No agencies work with screenwriters specifically because EVERYONE in LA is a screenwriter (or wannabe screenwriter).

Alex Bloom

Silver Lake! Los Feliz!! Or West Hollywood if you want to run into more industry peeps.

Danny Manus

Alle, maybe because he wants to work where the real pros work? ;-) Silver Lake and Los Feliz are the places to go if you're a hipster or enjoy hearing the word KALE and IRONIC 48 times a day. Go to Noho for price, or Culver City/Palms for a nice place that isn't insanely expensive. Weho to be part of the scene. Hollywood to get stabbed.

Axzavia James

Thanks for the info Danny! Well Alle I'm looking to move closer to where the industry is. There are more opportunities available in L.A. when it comes to pursuing a career as a screenwriter.

Steve Tomas Fecske

Be sure to have a car

Anton West

See if you can visit for a few weeks to check out where the best areas to live are for yourself. Get a feel for the place. I've only just moved back myself after many years away so have no up to date info on jobs etc. When you do finally relocate, be sure to bring your sense of humour, a thick skin and to take everything anyone 'in the biz' says with a big pinch of salt. Good luck!

Anton West

I agree it's not necessary to move to further your career but I know a lot of people feel it's a great experience just to be there 'in the mix' whatever the outcome, especially when you're maybe not yet tied to a mortgage or kids etc. Go whilst you're young I say! It also might give you some real impetus to say to yourself, right I've got two years in LA and I'm going to give it everything I've got in that time. A kind of self-imposed deadline, I guess.

Axzavia James

Thank you All for the words of wisdom. I'm truly convinced that I would feel better being in an environment that supports creative people. As a graphic designer I've been able to stay afloat in Chicago but as a screenwriter not many avenues have opened up for me. That being said, I look to make the journey to L.A. For those of you who have lived in the city any length of time I'd would like to hear what your experience has been like.

D Marcus

Alle, who are the A-list writers you know who do not live in LA? Did they never live in L.A. Or did they reach the A-list level and then leave?

Danny Manus

Yea I don't know any who NEVER lived in LA. many did and then left, or broke in and THEN moved here, but don't know of any who never lived here except perhaps a handful of UK writers.

Jazmen Darnell Brown

I understand the desire to move to Los Angles. I lived in Michigan when I was hired to write my first screenplay. It was a great experience, but I still felt I was missing out on a lot of information. After moving to L.A., I got to see how things really worked out here. How good my screenplays needed to be if I truly wanted to get somewhere, how to network, how to approach people. It also felt great to be around those who were as interested in this business as I was. Yes, moving to Los Angeles doesn't guarantee anything, but it does increase your chances. You can go to a party or networking event and meet someone who can truly help your career or just give you some helpful advice. I couldn't do that back in Michigan, or at least, not on the same level.

Shelley Stuart

If you can, get the day job first, then worry about where to live. LA can be amazing, and it can be amazingly brutal. Having a job lined up will make your other job (screenwriting career) less stressful. And once you know where you are commuting to every day, you can look for a place that suits your commuting requirements. It kind of sucks to work downtown and live in the valley -- unless you're on a train line. There are good and bad places to live scattered throughout the city, and everyone has their own thing. If you find a place to live first, you can end up looking for a job where you live, and that can limit your choices.

Danny Manus

Anyone who tells you not to move to LA is masking their own inability to get out of their own living situation and chase the dream. If you can afford to do it, and you're willing to work your fucking ass off and network and go out a LOT and get jobs or intern or learn and keep writing in the face of constant rejection and jealousy of everyone else around you, then you will meet more people in LA in one week then you will anywhere else in a year. Yes, LA is hard. Really hard sometimes. I've lived here almost 12 years. But compared to NY, it's a cake walk. Everyone else - stop trying to talk him OUT of moving here and get the balls to do it yourself.

Derek Ladd

Ah! What a delightful conversation! And many good comments to boot. Alle has some good points, and her moving to L.A. makes sense since she's got so many wheels-a-turnin'. I guess my question to you, Axzavia, would be, "Where are you presently as a screenwriter?" Have you written a dozen screenplays? Fewer? Have you submitted those screenplays to contests or for coverage as a measuring stick to see if you've got the goods? (DISCLAIMER: even though winning a contest doesn't guarantee anything, entering contests can be a good way to see what industry professionals think of your work.) ~ My take on this would be, if you've nailed down a dozen winning screenplays that have gotten good coverage, or you've been read by some real producers and received positive feedback, and/or you've got a contact or two in L.A. that loves your work and might help open some doors for you, a move would make sense. If, however, you've written half a dozen scripts that haven't received any attention or recognition at all you might want to focus on honing your craft first. Which is NOT to say that you shouldn't move if that's really what you want to do. Just understand that if your work isn't great (and I mean GREAT) it won't matter where you live. Whatever you decide to do I wish you luck!

Shelley Stuart

One note. Contest reviewers are very often NOT industry professionals (in the sense that "professionals" are working readers/producers/execs in the industry who can shape careers). I've been a contest reader. It is not a job that attracts industry pros.

Derek Ladd

@Shelley -- that may be true for the preliminary rounds, but if a script advances into the final rounds of a contest (a REAL contest, not something like 'Bob's Screenplay Awards') it is most definitely read by industry pros. If my work doesn't make it past the prelims I know it's not good enough and I rework it.

Lori Crawford

I do not recommend doing what I did when I first moved out here. I found my apartment online - in Long Beach - and then worried about a job. As a result, I ended up commuting mostly to Burbank which killed a giant chunk of my writing time. My commute isn't much better now, but I love my place in Santa Monica so much that I'd rather quit my job than move. Don't brush off warnings about the traffic here. It is brutal most of the time and that should be a real consideration when you decide where to live and work. L.A. covers a lot of land area. So even the little bit of public transportation we do have is going to eat a big chunk of time out of your day. As for areas, there's a lot you can find out online. If I'd then what I know now, I would've used street view in Google Maps to check things out before moving. That's assuming you can't swing a trip out here before committing or if you just want to cut down on your search. Gangs are not limited to S. Central and street view can help you ID areas that are tagged. Also, check out apartment reviews on Apartments.com and probably Yelp. Speaking of reviews, do NOT under any circumstances move into Paradise Garden Apartments in Long Beach. If you like the area West of the 405, Westside Rentals seems to have that market sown up. To avoid them, you'd have to do a search for individual apartment management companies. They list their open properties on their websites. Two I know of in Santa Monica are Sullivan Dituri and Roque & Mark Co. And totally random tip...Make sure the place you rent includes a refrigerator. I had to rent one from my first landlord, but my 2nd place came with one.

Shelley Stuart

@Derek -- true, dat!

Shelley Stuart

Ah, the refrigerator. Yeah, expect your new place to not have one. True of renting or buying. What a weird west coast thing.

Arlene Mantek

I live in NYC, but have visited LA occasionally, stayed with a friend, rented a car, etc. I would suggest that one way to prepare living in LA is practice driving up and down hills before you get to LA. Some of those hills are extremely steep.

David Bryant

This is quite a multi-sided discussion with good points all around. Here's my two cents and please take it for what it's worth. A good friend of mine, who is currently working as a successful producer in LA with offices in other parts of the world, once went through the same process you're facing Axzavia. He did commit to the move, but he did have a job waiting on him, a great one at that. Despite that, he was prepared to make the move regardless. One thing he did, he knew exactly what it was he wanted to accomplish before he came out. I guess that's the advice I have for you. To move or not to move isn't the big issue, truthfully, Alle is right, years ago, to make a career in the industry, a move to LA was MANDATORY. Now, in the era of world flattening social media, it's not as critical as it once was, its easier to be in LA, but not essential. However your location is your own choice. If you have it in your heart to be where the action is, I say do it. Go for it. But be smart about it. Research while you're in Chicago, start building a support network now, so that when you come out you have people that can help and guide you. Also, and most importantly, decide exactly what kind of writing you want to do. Truth be told, screenwriters reside all over the world, but eventually they have to come to LA for business, meeting, etc. Episodic TV writers must go where the job is. This is your career, plan it thoroughly and be smart about it. Visit LA as often as possible to lay the ground work, then go for it if you feel you need to. Again this is YOUR FUTURE, no one else's. Do what you know in your heart is propelling you. All the best to you man, and remember, passion under the control of wisdom and experience is the best combination for success.

Dave McCrea

it depends on what stage you're at - are you at the learning how to write scripts stage or are you at the dealmaking stage? If the former, stay in Chicago where you don't have to concern yourself with a million things like traffic, where you're going to live, etc. L.A. is a stressful place and if you move there as a fledgling, you might feel even more removed from the industry than you currently do in Chi!. Instead move to L.A. when you're bringing stuff to the table, when you can walk in a room with a big set on you and tell people you got 3 different fully written scripts that are all the bomb.

Arlene Mantek

I live in NYC, and found from my LA visits that you can get a much nicer apartment for the money in LA. Cost of living seems better, but then you have the expense of a car, gas, etc. (although the $$ for a crummy subway system here in NY is getting ridiculous!)

Kae Roshun

Hi, just saw your post. I wrote an article about that a few years ago, based on an interview I had with a Texas actress who moved to L.A and she definitely gives advice from that point of view. Here's the link if interested. Good luck. >> http://www.kandiedelley.com/jsaunders3/

Axzavia James

Thanks for the info everyone. To answer Dave question, I'm somewhere in between the two extremes as far as my writing. Working a full-time job definitely slows down the process but I've managed to flesh out five feature films with two that are potentially ready for option. I'm looking for information about the city from an artist point of view as oppose to basic life style perspectives.

Axzavia James

Wow. I've just found out how many of you commented on this topic and I'm over taken by the amount of inspiration you've given to a total stranger. I'm propelled to say thanks again. Alle in particular has caught my attention. The impending voice of doom draped in a cloth called reality. You make good points but I'm aware of the pitfalls doubt. I'm also a educated man working full-time as a graphic designer. I'm making plans not just dreaming. But once again thanks for the info.

Doug Nelson

Axzavia – From the jist of the conversation, I understand that you want to move to LA to further a career as a screenwriter. Why? I’ve breathed that brown LA air long enough and wasted a lot of time in traffic to finally understand that that’s no place for me. I have friends down there that are show runners and agents and they tell me that they would much rather live where I am – rural setting on the south bank of the McKenzie River. It’s easy for me to get to LA for meetings – but I don’t have to live there. But I’m a screenwriter (Gramma Ott, A Midsummer Night, Aces and Eights…) I’m connected to the outside world via the internet. You need not live there to be a writer. But if you want to go into directing, cinematography or editing or get a 9-5 job on a production – then moving to LA makes sense. Then too, the filmmaking industry is undergoing a seismic shift right now. My advice is to try to be ahead of the curve.

Axzavia James

Thanks for the info Doug. I'm not the biggest fan of big city living coming from Chicago, but I believe that a change of environment may prove to be helpful in my goal to become a working screenwriter. I'm curious about this seismic shift you mentioned in your message. If you get the time please elaborate.

Doug Nelson

The seismic shift (good word for LA) has to do with the relocation of the major film production away from the LA basin; happening for whatever reason – but it is happening. There will always be demand a for those huge capital intensive sound stages in the Hollywood/Burbank area but most of the major motion pictures are being made somewhere else. So if you want to be ‘on set’; LA may not be the place for you because the set has been moved. But as a writer, you can be anywhere. The indie filmmaker market is growing in sporadic areas that may be of more interest to you.

Shaun O'Banion

As someone who USED TO make quite a good living on set in L.A., I can tell you without any equivocation, that coming here to work on set is a BAD IDEA. You have a far better chance of working in the OTHER LA (Louisiana) which had no less than 14 massive films shooting there in the last 8 months and became the number one shooting location in the U.S. (recent films shot there: TERMINATOR:GENESIS, JURASSIC WORLD, FANTASTIC FOUR - the reboot, and more). Second hottest shooting destination? Atlanta. Then New York. Then Michigan (where WB is shooting the BATMAN/SUPERMAN film DAWN OF JUSTICE). Then there's London, with STAR WARS, PAN for Warner Bros., and a ton more. Check out the website Filmworks to see all the other hot location towns. If you're a writer, I also see no reason to be in L.A. If you write something great and people want to meet on it, fly out, but don't stay. Even though they're trying to increase and extend the California Film Incentive program, it's almost too little, too late. Like throwing a stick into the Mississippi River and hoping it'll slow the flow... The film industry left while our politicians slept and failed to realize that Film isn't just the ATL crowd, but the BTL personnel, too. Heck, even MY last three features shot in other states (Az., Mass., and NY). So, yeah. My advice? No need to come here. In fact, I'm planning my escape as I write this. Good luck.

Anton West

And here's me just moved to LA, Shaun! But then it's my home town so I have reasons other than work for coming back. It's very interesting, what you say though. Especially about Louisiana.

Craig Cothren

Good idea to move to LA. Move to Burbank. That is one of the greatest concentrations of writers. Visit the Writers Store there. I have no financial interest. They can get you grounded. Forget writing movies, focus on TV show and Mini Series scripts. They are far quicker to complete and there is more demand. Read what the moves the Cohen Brothers are making and figure it out from there. Also, LA is a music city too. Think you can write lyrics hook up with the music crowd too. Burbank is good for that. Burbank is inland, not near the beach, but is it where it is at as far as writing both TV and music. Good luck. Craig

Axzavia James

I appreciate the info Robin and Jeffrey. I'm soaking in all of the advice everyone is giving me. I'm set on the move to L.A. because it puts me in a situation where I can get to opportunities quicker instead of having to fly to L.A. any time a agent or producer wants to meet.

Kamala Lane

It sounds like your mind is made up and I’d say you’re making the right choice. LA is where the deals get made and the deals begin with a great script. Some agents don’t even read query letters that don’t have a SoCal zip code. I know a few ppl who’ve scored high on the BlackList, had talks with producers and managers, but their scripts were passed on because the writers weren’t in LA or weren’t willing to move. You’re right about the meetings. I’ve been told by several folks that you may have consecutive meeting requests from agents and they’re not gonna skype with you or chat with you on the phone. It’s a face-to-face biz. You can’t fly out every time someone calls you and wants to meet with you. Whenever I read about unknown writers finally breaking in, the common denominator between them is that THEY’RE ALREADY IN LA. It totally makes a difference. Are there exceptions? Yes, but I’ve been in DC the past 6 years hoping to be an exception. LA is where all your connections are if you want to become a paid, working screenwriter. Time to pull the trigger!

Axzavia James

Thanks Brandi and Kamamla for the encouragement! The more I read your golden bits of advice I realize making this move to L.A. is the right choice. I'm just looking to collect as much insight on the town as possible. As for Alle, you are serving to be a dream killer (for those who are not extremely confident in their abilities) but you've only convinced me even more that relocating to L.A. is the right thing to do. From what I understand all your future plans evolve around you moving to L.A. and all your professional connections (80%) reside in L.A. Unlike yourself most people don't have the financial freedom to operate as smooth as you appear to in this business. Putting it frank, I encourage you to discover a more fruitful environment for your disparaging commentary, thanks.

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