There are a heck of a lot of actors who move to Los Angeles. They move here from all over the world for many different reasons. Some want to try acting because it’s something they’ve always wanted to do and never have. Some have just finished acting school and want to start their career in the quintessential actor place-to-be. Other actors move here after having anywhere from some to substantial success in a different market. These are the actors who are ready to kick it up a notch by moving to Hollywood. Today…I’m talking to you. The one who has moved to Los Angeles after working in a different market.
Commercial actors should never take moving to another market lightly.
First of all, I hope this info translates at least to some degree, to actors moving from any smaller market to a bigger market—no matter which market that may be. Or maybe simply moving to any different market! But I’m a casting director in Los Angeles. I know my experience here, and I will stick to what I know.
So here’s the big, bad news: When you move, you are starting over.
Before you burst into tears, put your fist through the wall or start writing me an angry letter, here’s where I back away from that statement…just a little. Of course you have your talent and training and experience. It’s not like you leave those things at the California border. These things mean something, but they don’t mean success in Los Angeles, in and of themselves. Just because you were successful in the market you are coming from, doesn’t mean you will be here. No matter how many people have encouraged you. No matter how many people are positive you will be… You still have to put in the time, work, and money, frankly. In Los Angeles.
Let’s talk headshots. You have to get new ones. Even if you got headshots taken in your home market a year ago, and they are fabulous. You will need new LA headshots. LA headshots are different. I wish I could put it into words, the difference. But it’s generally easy to tell if an actor has had their headshots taken in Los Angeles, or somewhere else. So what’s wrong with it being obvious that you are new here from somewhere else? Well, you become more of a gamble. You could be green. You could be bad. You could not show up to the audition. Who knows! But generally, I don’t think you want to wear the fact that you are the new kid in town, at least commercially, on your sleeve. Not to the casting director. It could be an interesting angle in pursuing an agent! If you are a series regular on a show shot out of NY and are trying out LA for pilot season… this is not what I’m talking about. I’m in commercial land.
How about classes? You have to enroll in Los Angeles classes. Even if you are highly trained in your home market. Even if you have $100,000 in student loans. Arg! This is frustrating, because it means more money. I know this and I’m sorry. But if you want to book commercials in Los Angeles, you should probably take one of the hottest commercial classes in town (and there are a few). You should also enroll in improv classes from one of the most prestigious Los Angeles improv schools. There are exceptions, there are always exceptions… but if you want to work in LA, having hot LA classes on your resume helps. Take them for your resume (and to learn the skills taught in the class, of course) and to meet other actors and knowledgeable industry people in town. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet some people who know a thing or two about Los Angeles?
This might be the place to add that I suggest you come to Los Angeles with some cash in your back pocket. It’s not lost on me that everything mentioned costs you money.
Relationships. You have to nurture new relationships. This is a relationship industry. “It’s who you know”… well, yes. You have to meet casting director in Los Angeles to be cast in Los Angeles. You’ll need relationships with agents, producers, instructors (because THEY have relationships with the people you need to have relationships with!) as well as other knowledgeable and experienced actors. Plain and simple.
There’s a different vibe here…or at least I’ve heard there is. A different rhythm or energy at a casting session can throw you. It throws actors who have lived and worked here for years, when a session is running in an unusual way. You’ll want to get a handle of the general commercial session vibe. No I’m not kidding. It’s something to get used to.
LA Agent. You’ll need one. Maybe you were fortunate enough to be represented by an agency in your former market that has an office in Los Angeles. Cool! Not the case for most actors. And securing good commercial representation isn’t as easy as it’s rumored to be. Not all representation is equal… and saying yes to the first agent who offers your represent you may not be the best choice. Agreeing to stay with the same agency you were with in your former market may not be, either. Having an agent that is truly right for you is extremely important, and a sometimes tough puzzle to solve. Not to be underestimated when moving to Los Angeles.
Even former success with booking commercials in the market from which you hail, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be booking commercials in Los Angeles. Certainly not immediately. This is something you should at least acknowledge. I’d take the footage of the commercials you’ve booked and cut yourself a nice little commercial reel. It could aid you in getting an agent and possibly getting through a casting director’s door… but it doesn’t mean you’ll be booking LA commercials from the get-go.
This may feel like a bit of a bummer, but I’m hoping that realistic expectations of a transition filled with effort, hard work, and time… and money, yes, money, will be more helpful to new and future transfers to Los Angeles than perpetuating the unlikely scenario that not a beat will be skipped when making the big move. Anticipate a few steps back and take the challenge head on.