Sometimes I can be a little selfish. (Aren’t we all a little selfish?)
So I hesitate to post this bit of advice, but what’s this blog about if not a record of my experience and hopefully a guide to others in my position?
The real secret of surviving in LA is….
Setting down roots.
Okay, so that wasn’t actually a reveal because that’s the title of this post, but whatever.
The most common and helpful piece of advice I’ve received from friends is to set down roots. A year ago while visiting the area, an old friend of mine told me, “Don’t move here with the idea that you’ll be a writer in a year. Move here because you like the area and you want to be around people who have the same interests and passions as you.”
Then on my second day in LA I attended a community group through a local church (Reality LA–I highly recommend attending this church if only because their services are held at the Glee high school). The host of the community group turned out not only to work in the industry but happened to have worked as an AD on The Fosters. This is important to note because I’d recently had a conversation with The Fosters EP Peter Paige at ATX where I’d viewed the season premiere on the big screen with none other than Peter Paige and actors Teri Polo, Sherri Saum, and Kerr Smith sitting directly behind me. As fate would have it, my new friend was the AD on that particular episode which was written and directed by Peter Paige himself. This is where I say it’s a small world. Because it is.
Anyway, this new friend gave me a lot of advice that night and when we had coffee a few days later, but the thing that stuck with me the most was when he said, “You’re doing everything right. You’re setting down roots. And that means you’re more likely to stay here and stick it out.”
How do you set down roots?
I’ve detailed a lot of this in previous posts, but some of it bears repeating.
Work. Work as much as you can, make sure you can afford to still live here. The closer the work is to what you eventually want to do the better.
Live with people you like. This doesn’t have to be your best friend. But if you live with someone you like in an area you are at least okay with, if not prefer, then you’re more likely to stick around.
Make friends. Whether this be in the realm of “contacts” or actual friends, a mixture of both is good to have. Keep up with your friends as much as possible, go to their shows, support them. This is another area where I hesitate to reveal my secrets, because I don’t have much going for me (having no experience in production and not being a terribly charismatic person), but I’m good at making and keeping friends. But then I remind myself that if someone isn’t good at making and keeping friends, my telling them this is the secret to success is not going to make them any better at making and keeping friends. Instead, this bit of advice might point out something that a reader might not have put much thought into or not realized is a strength. This is a strength, especially in a place like LA where so much of the culture is independent living. I’m an introverted hermit, but even I realize how important it is to not live completely independently. Which leads me to…
Build a community. This is only slightly different from making friends. Obviously, it involves making friends, but it’s also about building a community of people that support and encourage each other. This is where going to friends’ shows comes into play. Support your friends and they’ll support you (or at least that’s the hope). Beware of one-sided relationships, though. The goal of any relationship is never to be selfish and expect support, but it can also be unhealthy if a friend is happy to take your support but not offer any of their own. This is an important life lesson for anyone, not just those trying to make it in Hollywood.
Tangentially related to the last two points, meet up with friends of friends. These people come with built in personal references, and actually that’s most of the friends I’ve made so far. Depending on where you’re moving from, you might have a wealth of people in your immediate network that you can meet with and see if you click. I’m about 2 for 2 right now, but I’ve met a bunch of people through those 2 people I clicked with, so it’s been fruitful.
Get to know the area. Go to restaurants, walk around, go hiking, find some good hangout spots (coffee shops, creative workspaces, etc), visit neighborhoods, anything that will endear you to the area. I still have yet to do this, but I’m excited to start.
Go to live events. Outdoor movies, podcast recordings, conferences, festivals, concerts, tapings, anything that will get you out into the world. Here are some resources I’ve used to find fun things to do in the area:
Please comment below if you’ve found additional helpful resources.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how you set down roots, but just that you do. I loved living in Portland and didn’t want to leave, but I couldn’t let myself dwell on this. I needed to accept that I will be living in LA for the foreseeable future. Probably at least the next 10-20 years. So this is my new home. This is where I will achieve my goals. This is where my roots are now.