Topher Harless
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The Trip (Part One)


So, by the time we finally left it was May 24th.

I went to the trouble of telling people that was the day we were going, so as to put pressure on myself. I had a due date. I had pressure. I HAD to go.  If I didn’t everyone would know and I would be embarrassed.

Then we had our first giant fall out.

La Nita and I weren’t married yet, so she wasn’t coming on the trip. It was going to be Sean, Preston and I.  Two days before our trip, Sean realized that he couldn’t make it. He had been attempting to sell his Stratocaster Fender guitar for a while and no one could buy. He had a few promising bites, but they fell through completely two days before.

I was extremely distraught to say the least. How could this happen? What about our plans? We worked so hard! But that was how things worked out. So, we had to make it work without him.

And then there were two…

So, Preston went out and rented the trailer for his truck and brought it to my house the day before the big move. I had just gone to La Nita’s house to pick up her stuff, so I literally already had my truck completely filled with her stuff. Yes, women have many many things. That wasn’t even most of her things. That was just all we can fit in my car.

This could lead into a different rant that would get me in trouble with the wife, so I shall let that one go…

We filled out the trailer at my house. As Preston drove off into the distance to go home for the night, I noticed that the hitch was almost dragging the ground. Apparantly, books are heavy. Go figure. The next morning when Preston showed up at the house to leave for the trip, he and his father had taken out all of his and my books. He would simply ship them later.

So, we were finally going! Preston showed up around ten in the morning on the 24th after a long and sad goodbye with his family. My truck was gas filled and ready to go, so all we had to do was say goodbye to my family.

Easier said than done. After many tears and good byes, Preston and I set out on our journey with two separate vehicles. It was time to go west.



The Planning Stage (Part Five)

OK, so…

We had some meaningless idea of where we wanted to live and we had a way to get our stuff to LA.  Now, how to get there?

The big question when moving across the country is whether you’ll take I-10 or I-40.

I-10 is technically a shorter drive from Alabama.  By a couple of hours I think.  However, i-10 has a two day drive through Texas.  A.  Two.  Day.  Drive.  Through.  Texas.  I have a few friends who have made the drive and they tell me that you see nothing but cactus for days.  Not a fun trip.  Just a flat long boring drive.  Supposedly, there are a few things to look at, but there’s not a lot of spectacular sights.

I-40 on the other hand…

The Cadillac Ranch, Twin Arrows, The Grand Canyon, and freaking ROUTE 66.  What’s better than Route 66?  Nothing I imagined.  All those mugs and logos had to have SOMETHING amazing behind their meaning.

That’s what we decided to go with.  A crisp four-ish day drive.  We chose the cities to stop in.  ”Priceline” is THE way to go.  What I didn’t fully understand before the trip is the joys of “Name your own price.”  You can choose how many stars you want and how much you want to spend.  When I bought reservations, I just went with the best price I could get.  Which means a I paid for a couple of cruddy one star hotels.  However, I only paid average 35-45 dollars a night.  Not so bad, eh?  Especially dividing that between a couple of people and getting your own queen size bed.

Except if I had used name your own price, I could have paid the same price and gotten a three star hotel.

So, I paid for the nights in these cities:

Fort Smith Arkansas

Albuquerque New Mexico

Flagstaff Arizona

Los Angeles California

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 4.17.45 PM


(However, we didn’t book the Los Angeles hotel yet because my now father in law had arranged for us to stay in a hotel that he had connections with.  He was really trying to help us out and I very much appreciated it.)

We had our hotels, a way to bring our stuff, our plans, and dreams ahead of us.  Now all we had to do was leave…

The Planning Stage (Part Four)

I have too many planning stages…

Bringing your crap across the country isn’t fun.  At all.  Unless you have an amazing connection with someone who has a moving truck (I almost called it a grip truck…  Force of habit), then paying for one is expensive.  Preston, Sean, La Nita and I looked into renting a moving truck, and even getting a small one, the entire cost looked to be over 2,000 dollars.  This was not even an option.

So, how do we get our stuff there?  After much diliberation, we had a break through.  Preston’s dad was going to trade Preston’s car (his VERY nice car) for his beat up green pick-up truck.

This sounds mean, but it was actually the nicest thing in the world.  Preston was paying high payments on his car, which he couldn’t afford in L.A.  Preston’s dad was now going to take over those payments and give Preston a payment free owned vehicle with a HITCH ON THE BACK!

Finally!  We had some way to get our stuff here!  New problem…  Preston has a four cylinder truck (for those of you who don’t know…  Those don’t carry a lot.  You really need a 6 or 8…).

So, now we had to go through everything we own and narrow down the stuff for several people to fit into my Jeep, Preston’s truck bed, and a small trailer we could rent.  There were four people’s possessions though and that wasn’t a lot of space.


(Imagine this, but it’s been beaten to death and is no where near the woods)

This is where the not fun part happened.  Even though it only cost a couple hundred to get a trailer, it didn’t hold very much and I spent FOREVER throwing away most of my belongings.

P.S…  When getting rid of furniture, Craig’s list is great if you have the time and energy.  If not, the Salvation Army will gladly pick up everything you own and pay you nothing…  This is what I had to do.  But hey…  I had to follow my dreams at whatever the cost, right?

Did I mention that following your dreams may cost you everything?  Including your bed?

When you decide that you love something and you want to pursue it, don’t wait.  The longer you wait the harder it is to go.  In the beginning you don’t have a lot to lose, but the second you decide, “I’ll just wait till all my school loans are paid off before I pursue my dreams,” you’re giving up.

First, you’ll never have as much money as you’d like.  And second…  You’re so much less likely to want to leave a cushy job where you’re getting a good pay check and possibly up-root your children, if you’ve waited too long.

Don’t lie to yourself.  If you want to do it, go CRAZY for it.  Work double hours, get another job, burn the candle at both ends for a couple of months until you have enough money, then GO!

Also, if you are married and you have children, but you think you’ve waited too long and you have too much to lose, you’re lying to yourself.  It can still happen, you just have to push away fear and take the biggest chance of your life.

Are you man enough?

Er…  Woman enough?

The Planning Stage (Part Three)

Why Studio City, Burbank, Sherman Oaks, and some parts of Valley Village?  Because I’m from the suburbs.  I wasn’t raised in any kind of downtown area.  Most of West Hollywood doesn’t feel extremely safe and most stars don’t even go there.  It’s pretty gross.

Also West Hollywood isn’t the place that I most go to for interviews or work.  Work here is pretty evenly divided around North Hollywood, East Hollywood, and West Hollywood.  I’ve driven all over L.A. to get to shoots.  (By the way, NoHo stands for North Hollywood.  Making the mistake of asking how you got in the mysterious city of NoHo when you were just in North Hollywood is quite embarrassing).

You need to get it out of your head that you can avoid driving here.  You drive at least thirty minutes everywhere you go in L.A.  Five miles in Alabama is not the same as five miles here.  It takes longer to get places and public transportation is no fun.  You need a car.  Trust me on this one.

Studio City and Burbank just seem nicer and there are many neighborhoods that you could look into.  Honestly, if you can, ask people in L.A. to look at some places for you.  Some places in Valley Village are super nice and other places look like God abandoned them years ago.

So, back to the story.  Pete found places for me and after tons and tons of deliberation, Sean, Preston, La Nita, and I found five places we liked the based off of pictures.  We made a lot of calls, asked about setting up a tour of the apartments, and pushed to get applications so that we could get the process started.

This was very very difficult.  No one wants to talk to someone out of town about renting their apartment.  You don’t have a job there yet and you can’t even come and speak with them.  This was my least favorite part.

However, after several conversations, I got some applications, filled them out, and had what I thought was a good idea of where we were going to live.

We then needed to figure out how we were going to get our stuff there.  Not a lot would fit in my Jeep Cherokee.

The Planning Stage (Part Two)

It is difficult to plan for any move, let alone to a state across the country.  When you make a move, you have to work on two things…  #1. A place to live and #2. Getting a job.

Before moving to LA, EVERYONE should realize that trying to get a job in LA when you aren’t living here is nearly impossible.  Unless you can transfer to a job out here, you have an AMAZING job history that can get you any job you want, or you have some great connections, getting work is difficult.  Why?  Because a million people try to move here every year!  Every job gets flooded with applications from out of state. They simply throw those away.  Why hire someone out of state when you can hire someone locally?

Now, it was suggested to me that I buy a post office box here in LA or get a friend’s address and put that on my resume, but even then you still have to fly back and forth for job interviews, all the while lying about where you live.  This simply didn’t seem cost effective or smart to me.  I can’t afford to fly over to LA for four or five trips at $500 ticket prices for a part-time job.

The only connection was a small possibility for a valet job at The Beverly Hills Hotel through a friend of Preston’s (a friend who made the trip with me).

P.S…  I did not know how to drive a stick shift at this point…

So, all we could do is plan for a place to live.  This seemed easier.

It wasn’t.

First, using Craig’s List to find a place to live is tough.  Everyone wants an answer very fast, which you can’t give because you live out of state.  Even using websites that have pictures of houses and apartments weren’t a ton of help.  They mostly just do one thing…  Set you up to see the house which, of course, you can’t do.

A friend of mine, Pete, lives out here and attempted to help.  He was really awesome because he happened to be looking for a place himself and was using a service that I won’t mention called, “Something Something Rentals.”  A rental website solely for LA.  He went online and used the specifics that I wanted to find places for me.  He found tons and tons of places that he said were in good parts of town.

Which reminds me.  Find out what places you can live in!  There are places in LA where you simply don’t want to live.  If you really enjoy being shot, Compton is a wonderful town where you can drive down a street and suddenly your tires disappear.

Places I may suggest to live:  Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Burbank, and some parts of Valley Village.  There are more, but I like these places.

People will tell you that the drive from Burbank or Studio City to West Hollywood is horrendous and that would be a huge mistake because you need to get to auditions fast.  I find this to be ridiculous and not true…

And I will tell you why in the next blog.

The Planning Stage (Part One)

October 2010 –

When you first decide to move to any new city it’s exhilarating.  You’ve made a huge choice for your life and for your career and you’re ready to make the steps to get going.  The easiest mistake to make first is to blow head first into somewhere new with no plan or to focus solely on your career in the beginning.

Now, I’ll be referencing my story in LA because that’s what I know. If you remember, I said that a million people come to LA every year.  I also said that a million people leave.  Which means a million people come to act, write, or be somewhere in the industry and they leave to go back home within the first year.  Do you want to be one of the ones to leave?

So, the first several blogs will focus completely on actually getting to LA and staying there.  The practical side of the experience.  First, I’ll tell you what I did, then how to do it better…  (This is long, so I’m breaking it up into several parts.)


A little background…  I’m 24 years old and I moved to LA over 6 months ago.  The plan, initially, was not to move here for 5 years.  See, I had been dating someone for over two years and we were engaged at the time.  I was living in Lakeland Florida and working at a church as an assistant media director.  I had graduated a year earlier from a college that I attended in Lakeland called Southeastern University.  I had two degrees.  One in Practical Theology (As compared to the impractical degree I could have gotten?) and the other in Television and Radio Broadcasting.  My focus was primarily on film and script writing.  I had become a short film maker in college and I had continued shooting shorts in my post-graduate life.  I would still meet my film maker friends, raise some cash and make short films.  This is what I loved to do…  Act, write, and direct.

At the time my future wife and I had already decided on an apartment in the area and we were going to tough it out in Lakeland (where I couldn’t stand living) in order for her to graduate a year after me (May 2nd, 2010) to stay behind and possibly get a job at our old college.  This wasn’t what I wanted, but I was going to deal with it because I loved her and we didn’t have any money to move across country anyhow.

In the following month, Obama decided that college students should get some extra cash for being in school and gave a tax bonus to young people.  This is where the government handed me a fat check of $2000.  I was sooo happy about this.  I had plans to buy a Canon 7D for shooting short films in the area and I was ready to keep investing in my films.

However…  After getting this money, I received a phone call from the apartment I had been accepted to and they relayed a message that they were now increasing their rates of living.  Which completely knocked us out of being able to afford to live there.  The plan to move there was on May 2nd (The day my fiancé was graduating) and it was the end of April that I got this message.

It’s ok I thought…  I’ll just ask my boss for a raise.  What I didn’t mention earlier is that my boss and I didn’t see eye to eye.  We tried to, but we had different ideas about the job and we clashed on many issues.  Recently though, things had been getting better and I figured that we could work something out.  The next day I went in to work and spoke to my boss about a raise.  He calmly stood up, closed the door, and told me that things just weren’t working out, that he’d have to let me go.  He’d let me keep the job though, until I found a new one.

In the same day, I had just lost where I was going to live and my job. All of this happened in less than a few weeks before I had to move out of the apartment that I was currently in.

So, after a LONG conversation with my mentor (A guy named Dave DeBorde that was one of my college professors) and a few prayers, I decided that I was moving to LA now, instead of 5 years from now.  The only question was whether my fiancé would kill me or not…

Fortunately for me, she agreed that it was time and that I needed to go.  I called two of my best friends from back home and to my astonishment the two of them were already moving to LA at the end of May and I was invited to join along.  Kind-of crazy really.  So, I went to my fiancé’s graduation, packed up all my crap, and moved back to Alabama for a month, to plan the trip with my friends.

Did I mention that I was planning on getting married to my fiancé on July 10th of that year?

Yeah.  So, I was moving to LA for almost a month and a half before I got married to prepare a place for her.  A little risky, but I was excited.

When I got to Alabama, our lame excuse for planning began…

To be continued…