When I was in college, I thought I was a real writer. I had taken a screen writing class and I was deeply inspired. I had all sorts of glorified images in my head of what it was like to be a screen writer. I thought they all smoked cigarettes while drinking coffee huddled over a computer in a crappy diner all night long and for some reason I loved this. I have always and will always hate cigarettes, but everything else seemed great. I would fantasize about writing an oscar winning screen play. I would imagine myself as a mad artist, all disheveled and dirty, scribbling ideas on a wall that would change the world. Because of this I would spend several nights in a Waffle House writing. This was nothing like I imagined. Waffle houses are gross. Everyone smoked around me and it was completely unnecessary to write all night because I had plenty of free time during the day. I was just a kid trying to be cool.
During this time, I got an offer for a show runner of a popular sitcom to critique a short film I’d written. I gladly jumped at the chance. I went to a film festival where he taught a class on screen writing and at the end he critiqued my script and two others. During his critique he complimented one thing about my story. He said that it was clear what my character’s goal was right from the beginning. After that he literally had about 400 negative critiques for about 10 pages of writing. *Insert weeping and gnashing of teeth here*
For the next year, I was terrified to write anything. Whenever you create something, it becomes your baby. Your creation is an extension of yourself. If someone insults your baby, they’re insulting you. Have you ever insulted someone’s baby? It doesn’t go well.
Later on, I started writing again, but I never wanted anyone’s help. For a while it was fine. Then suddenly I realized that everything I wrote was super crappy. Mostly because everything sounds good in your head. When you say it out loud, however, you realize that you just wrote a story about two cows running a fortune 500 company.
That’s when I realized that I needed help. I needed someone who I could trust to read what I wrote. That led me to meeting three types of people:
- The Pessimist
Whenever, you meet a person who says, “Not a pessimist, I’m just a sceptic,” that person is wrong. He/She a pessimist. He/She is lying to you because no one wants to admit that they’re just mean. This person thinks everything is dumb. Every one is doing everything wrong in their mind. They critique and commentate on everything that everyone is doing, but they don’t actually do any kind of creating themselves. This person can not help you. They never say anything positive and they’ll make you want to stop doing anything because you’ll start to believe that they’re right.
- The “Yes Man”
This is the worst kind of friend you can have. This is the friend that is either trying to impress you or has no self esteem. Why are they the worst? Because they’ll let you think that everything you do is GOLD. They’ll get you excited about the worst things you create and that is neither constructive or helpful. They don’t make you better, they make your mistakes more obvious. Instead of you producing something awful that you think is good and showing it to a few friends, you produce something awful and you show it to the world because your friend has let you to believe that it’s incredible.
- The Confident
I’m fortunate. I have a wife that I love. Not only is she beautiful, but she’s smart, professional, talented, creative, and funny. Not to mention, she a COPY WRITER. She’s incredible at everything she does. When she reads something, she’s great at finding ways to improve it and make it look more professional. The best and worst thing about my wife is that she’s honest. She critiques everything I create. When it’s good, she sings my praises to the moon. She tells her friends and family and helps make whatever I’m doing even better. However, if it’s not good, she’ll be the first to tell me.
Her – “This sketch isn’t funny.”
Me – “What? It’s hilarious. Don’t you get the joke? It’s about sea captains and-”
Her – “Oh, I get the joke. The joke is kind of racist against pirates and I don’t think you know what ‘booty’ means.”
I need that in my life and so do you. You need someone who can tell the difference between something amazing and something that’s just garbage. You need someone who will tell you honestly what could help it become better and what you should remove because it just doesn’t work. If this person is only telling you that your material isn’t good, and not helping you add things to make it better, than you’re working with a pessimist, but… If you find that one person that will be honest with you and bring creativity to the table as well…
You’re in business to create something that you’ll be proud of.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/dollar_bin/2340605507/”>Dollar Bin</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ldgermain/558538200/”>ld_germain</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Two weeks ago, l was on a photo shoot in Beverly Hills. I was shooting modeling shots of about 14 people for a talent agency. As I was taking pictures, one of the actors and l started talking. I asked him what he did for a living besides acting. He told me that he didn’t do anything else. He was a full time professional actor and that he was constantly getting booked.
After several follow-up questions, I discovered that all his bookings weren’t acting roles, they were extra work jobs.
Let me make something painfully clear. Do not deceive yourself. Doing extra work does not make you a professional actor. Doing extra work makes you a professional extra.
Extra work is great. lt’s a great way to get started working immediately when you‘re looking for a job you want. If you‘re looking for auditions, extra work is a nice way to keep an open schedule. However, being an extra does not equal being an actor. Walking in circles behind a real actor does not make you an actor. Some people would say that when you get paid to do something that makes you a professional. That may be true in some cases, but not with extra work. You cannot consider walking for 12 hours a day acting. I don’t care how good your pantomiming is. You’re an extra. It’s not shameful. Move on.
On the other side of the coin, extra work is a great place to get started and l think everyone who moves to LA should jump into that immediately. It’s the best way to get paid fast. I wish I had known about it when I first moved here. That way I could have avoided that awful valet job.
How to get extra work:
- Get a commercial extra booking agency
The two I suggest? Background Talent and Virgo Talent (Links Below)
Both have a small up front fee ($30 to $60) and charge you per booking that you get. You’ll get paid $100-$200 per job. Usually the pays around $135 for 10 hours. Thats pretty average.
- Get a calling service
If you decide that you want full-time extra work you need to sign up with a calling service. A calling service is a service where you go online or call their office and you tell them what days you want to work. So, for instance, you’re available Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Then they choose the days that you’re available and book you on them. They place you on any TV show that fits your description.
The first one I worked with was a calling service called Cut Above. That calling service usually booked me on and the TV shows, Greek and Glee because I look like I’m 12.
The calling services charge you varying rates depending on which service you go with. The prices are anywhere between $60 a month to $90 a month. So, if you signed up for a year it would be much cheaper, per month, if you signed up month-to-month.
Other services I’ve used have been Joeys List and Booked Talent. Both were good calling services. I enjoyed Joey’s List the best. They didn’t charge a lot, they got me a lot of work, and all of the work I did was on smaller sets. Which was nice. The worst days of extra work are the days the you show up and there are 1000 people on set.
Calling services pay you $64 for 8 hours for non-union jobs, which is terrible, but again, this is a temporary job. If you decide to spend $3,000 and become union you would get paid more.
If you can, be available as many week-days, in a row, as possible. That’ll get you more work because they have shoots that last more than one day.
Also, depending on how unique your look is, you may not get booked as often as you’d like. Girls get booked more than guys. If you have a more unique look, you’ll get booked more. Try and figure out what your look is and dress more like that look when you get your picture taken at your calling service.
For instance, I wasn’t getting booked a lot until I realized that I can fit the 18 to play younger role. Once I realized that, I wore a hoody and shaved my face for my picture. Then I got booked all the time.
Things to bring:
- A book
- A fountain pen (This is important. If you have a roller ball pen, it won’t write on the receipt like paper they have you fill out on set.)
What not to bring:
- Anything you don’t want stolen
- A fold out chair (Not because this won’t be useful, but because this means that you’re an extra for life.)
The only things you need to know are:
- When you get there, find the PA in charge of extras and sign in. (I did not do this my first day. That made everything much harder.)
- When you leave, sign out and KEEP A COPY of your paperwork.
That’s it! You’ll then be an extra.
Now. At this point in your career you’ll start working on TV. When this happens people that you knew back south or wherever you’re from will begin to see you in the
background of their favorite TV shows. They will then proceed to take screenshots of you on that show and draw giant red circles around you and post these pictures on your Facebook wall.
To them this is the greatest complement of all time. You are on their favorite show. To them you’re a superstar. To you they just posted an embarrassing picture online. This will happen a lot.
Get a job she says.
It is 2013, and jobs don’t work the way they used to. You can’t fill out a resume and get a 9-to-5 job immediately. Most of the time, you have to know someone to get a job that you’d actually like, unless you want to work at Dairy Queen. I’m pretty sure that’s a job you could get with a cold call.
Not only that, a but jobs don’t work the same way they did back in the day. Instead of getting a college education and that being sufficient enough to get a good paying full-time job, you have to have experience to get hired these days. Today, it’s about your skill sets and what you can do that gets you a job.
In the past, people were able to get a college education, get a job right out of college, then work said job for 30 years. Not a lot of people had a college education back then and having one meant instant success. A college degree no longer means that. Now you have to have the skill set. You have to have experience. You have to be able to provide a service. No one wants someone straight out of college. They want someone who can do the job well immediately.
How do you get that experience if you can’t get the job? It is the Catch-22. You have to have experience to get the job, but you have to have a job to get the experience. What does one do? How do you get a job if you live in Los Angeles, New York, or Seattle, and don’t know anyone? How do you survive in a connection based job society if you don’t have connections?
I think the best thing anyone can do is reading (learning anything you can) and taking action. If I could go back in the college and change the way I did things, the number one thing I would change is I would have applied for internships. I would have started working in the film industry every single summer. That way, when I got out of college I would have had three full summers of experience already under my belt. Doing internships is a great way of making the connections you need. I can’t tell you the number of people I know who have gotten a job because of an internship connection they’ve made. The fact is, the more you work, the more you learn and the more connections you make. That’s what’ll get you a job.
Artists have a hard time with this. An artist thinks, “If I had a full-time job, it would keep me from pursuing my dreams.” But that’s simply untrue! I’ve recently reading this book called Quitter by Jon Acuff. The book is about keeping your day job while trying to close the gap between your day job and your dream job. His thesis is that you should keep your day job long enough to protect your dream job. Which is wonderful except you keep wondering how that works for artists. How would that work for an actor that has to go to auditions?
Since I’ve been in Los Angeles I had several jobs. Only a few have been industry related. I’ve been trying so hard to get a job that I love doing, but at the same time, taking jobs that I can get, just to survive.
Best jobs so far?
Casting Associate for Paramount
Photographer – Present
Tech Booth Operator at the Upright Citizens Brigade – Present
Valet for the Beverly Hills Hotel
If you’re moving to LA or NY, get working as fast as possible. The bills pile up fast. I’d suggest extra work. It’s not great. It’s mind numbing work. You spend your entire day being told what to do by people who think that all extras are stupid. And worst part is there’re right! Most of the extras are trying to hide in the craft services. They spend their entire day just trying to hide from doing work and they’re only job is WALKING.
Look, it’s an easy way to get work. It’ll get you going until you can find something you like.
Fashion Event in Beverly Hills.
Most people have no clue what to do when they move to LA. You likely moved here with no job, no where to live, and you know no one.
Wait, was that just me?
Either way, you probably have one or more of those problems.
The thing people don’t tell you, when you move anywhere new, especially LA, is that you seriously need to spend a large portion of time actually surviving. Everyone wants so badly to just start in the entertainment industry, but you need to get regular work at first, find a place to live and keep paying the rent. People will tell you that everything is more expensive out in LA, but that is simply not true. Really, the only thing that is more expensive is housing. Whether you’re renting an apartment or buying a condo, it can get expensive. I already suggested places to actually live, so I’ll move on from where to live and to how much you should expect to spend and how to get a job.
How much approximately does it cost?
Well, it really varies between different cities. If you’re living in Valley Village, Studio City, Van Nuys, or Sherman Oaks its not too bad. You could get a studio apartment (Quite a small one) for around $750 a month if you shop around. If you live in Burbank, or Hollywood, you can usually add $100 to $400 more for those places.
The one I first lived in cost $750 and included all utilities, even elextricity. It was nice, but annoyingly small.
However, it’s a great place to start.
You can also do what Preston did and look for people searching for a room mate. He found something for around $400 a month, however, this is risky and you could end up with a psycho. Preston got VERY lucky. No one even tried to force a physical relationship on him.
Those are the cheap options. You could always spend 2 to 3 thousand dollars a month and live in a NICE apartment, but I doubt that anyone who would take the time to read this is looking to spend that much.
Oh, and things no one thinks about… Finding an apartment with more than one parking spot is EXTREMELY rare. Even in the expensive ones. For the first year I parked on the street, which was awful. Avoid this if possible or find a place with great street parking options. It pays off in the end. Trust me.
Also, a washer and dryer is hard to find. If the unit doesn’t come with them, you need to make sure that there is plenty of washers and dryers and that a thousand people don’t use them. I almost shanked a guy over a dryer once. But let’s be honest, he deserved it. He took my clothes out of the WASHER and put them on the ground, soaking wet.
Dude had it coming.
Now, if you’re looking for something with one bedroom, you’re looking to spend average $1,200 to $1,600. I found one that was $995, but that’s RARE. It’s out there if you look for it.
Two bedrooms average is $1,600 to $2,200.
It’s expensive, but if you find a room mate with a job, you can pull it off.
Alright, that’s about what I know about prices out here. If you have more specific questions, please ask. I know more, I just can’t remember all of it at the moment.
Ok, so to recap…
Preston and I are in Los Angeles, we have a trailer on the back of Preston’s almost broken trailer attached to his almost broken truck, that has to be returned in a day. We have one last night in a hotel that has one full size bed that Preston and I are sharing (please no jokes. I’m married, she’s not my beard, and I hate sleeping on the floor.) We only have enough money to pay a security deposit on an apartment and for one month’s rent, so if we don’t get one by tomorrow, we have no where to sleep, we lose the trailer, which we can’t afford to rent for longer, which means that we must keep everything we own on the ground at some random park and finally die alone and homeless.
Oh and we just found out that it’s Memorial Day weekend and every place we have visited so far, won’t let us move in until Tuesday, two days late.
So, after considerably freaking out. We walked away not sure what to do. Until we looked next door. Another apartment complex… Eh, let’s just give it a look.
It was called, “The Reef Apartments.” The lady showed us around. It was a carbon copy of the complex next door. So, of course we loved it.
Afterwards, she asked us if we wanted to apply. We asked when we could move in and she said…
If we were approved…
I then filled the application out (It was under my name since, I was paying for it to prepare a place for La Nita when she moved here) then left and PRAYED.
We then spent all day waiting.
We went to bed that night, and had the most nervous sleep ever. The next day, we checked out of our hotel and went to a Starbucks. Then waited more. At this point a logical person would have looked at other apartments, and applied to another place.
If you find that person, please tell me. I could use advice in those instances.
So, we sat there until 4pm until we finally got the call. We were approved!!!
We then , frantically moved all out crap into the room, which was a pain and returned the trailer that night.
Suddenly, we had an apartment, and a VERY tiny room with enough stuff in it to fill a Goodwill.
Then La Nita sent some money to help out. That was nice. She was a HUGE help. (Again, tell her nothing.)
OK! So, then I lived in LA. I was getting married in a month and a half, I was paying a reasonable $750 a month for a studio apartment (Which is a great deal here) that I had to pay for a year, and wait… I had no job.
So, the next blog will truly be about surviving as an artist. When you get to LA with no job, I have some ideas about what you should do. Everyone moves out here with huge anticipation that as soon as you get here you should dive into your dreams and be a actor, writer, director, etc. What no one tells you is that most people who move here, blow their wad quickly, then go home. What you have to do is establish yourself and learn how to live here. There are affordable places, to shop, live, hang out etc…
Alright, so there I was. Staying in a hotel on Sunset Blvd, sharing an uncomfortable bed with Preston, and really hoping that I wouldn’t get shot among the sounds of gun shots followed by screams of terror. Mine of course.
That first night was NO FUN. The room didn’t even have cable.
Oh, I forgot to mention, our first meal that first night in LA was “El Polo Loco,” or in English, “The Crazy Chicken.”
Which is actually quite good for fast food.
The next day we ventured out to find other apartments to view. We ended up going to all of the places that we had found online and none of them were what they advertised. Either they were WAY more expensive than they advertised, or they were nothing like the pictures.
So, there we were… One more night at a hotel, no place to live, no money to rent a hotel any longer. I had enough money to pay a security deposit on an apartment and not a cent more. Preston had nothing. It cost hundreds more in gas to pull the trailer than he had planned. Also, it was Friday and we had to return the trailer holding all of our earthly possessions on Sunday.
So, if we didn’t find a place to live, like that day, we were done.
I wasn’t sure what we would do if this didn’t work out. Neither Preston’s parents or mine were rich, so literally they couldn’t afford to float us money to survive until we found a place. If this didn’t work out, I’d have to use our rent money to get back to Alabama and even that wouldn’t be enough, so we have to sleep in the car each night and we couldn’t afford to bring our things home because the trailer cost too much. Not to mention that Preston’s truck could no longer handle the stress of luging around the trailer and was smoking.
Panic slightly hit me at that point.
So, Preston and I sat down at a Quiznos. Ate a sandwich, spoke to La Nita a ton on the phone, and looked up places in an apartment book we found at a newspaper stand.
La Nita that day did one good thing and one bad thing. Don’t tell her that I told you this, but if it weren’t for her, I would have sucked it up and moved into the apartment that the HKG (Hello Kitty Girl) showed me and risked both my, Preston, and La Nita’s lives for the next year. She really pushed me to go look at other places and because of her we ended up in a nice place that was much safer.
The bad thing? She was more stressed than I was and she started fights with me over the phone. I almost killed her over the phone about a million times.
That’t how you know that you’re in love kids. One moment, you want to hug someone because you miss them and love them so much and the next you want to stab them in the face with a fork.
Ahhh true love.
Anyway, the book of apartments that we found didn’t help at all, so Preston and I ended up going to a few apartments we found using an app on his iPhone.
That’s when we finally found “The Montego Apartments.”
This was the first place that we went to that looked nice, was in a nice location, and I didn’t feel like I’d be killed in my sleep for a cup of sugar. We got a tour of the place from the guy. He walked us around, it had a pool and a balcony. It actually resembled an old remodeled hotel.
So, he handed us an application and we smiled like idiots because we knew that we had found our new place. Once, he handed us the forms, we asked if we could go sit down and fill them out immediately, so as to get the process going faster. He said that was fine and if we filled them out right now, we’d know if we were approved on Tuesday.
Was of course our response. That’s when he gave us news that we hadn’t counted on. It was May 28th, Memorial Day weekend. Virtually no place would take us in until Tuesday. Which is about three days AFTER we needed to move in to survive.
*Commence the weeping*
The last day of our trip was driving into Los Angeles. Now, if I didn’t make this clear before, I shall do so now. I moved across the country from Alabama to Los Angeles California without ever having been to the west coast at all.
The furthest I’d ever been west was Wisconsin. P.S… The cheese is really good there. However, there are two types of cheese curds. One is fried cheddar and the other is some kind of raw oyster thing. Just be aware of what you’re ordering…
Back on topic.
So, we just saw the Grand Canyon and now we were driving into “Tinsel Town.”
What is it that you were told about LA?
Were you told that there are only gorgeous people there? Were you told that the sun never stops shining and it’s gorgeous all the time? Were you told that LA is a cesspool of evil where liberals go to die?
Yeah, that’s what I was told too…
The last drive was supposed to be a 7 hour drive. I was supposed to drive straight to an apartment that Preston and I had been looking at online thanks to my friend Pete. We had spoken to them on the phone, arranged a meet and greet to see the place and already been emailed the paperwork which we had filled out.
So, the first snag was that driving into town was mostly hills. So, Preston’s big ass truck had problems. Which meant we were behind schedule and we had to get to our meeting. So, Preston being the nice guy that he is, calls me and insists that I go ahead of him and get to the apartment, so as not to be late. Of course I didn’t want to do that, but he pushed me till I did.
So there I was. Driving into LA alone. I rounded the hill to see the sign that said, “Los Angeles.” I of course frantically tried to take pictures of the sign. However, the second I got over the hill I looked down to see traffic as far as the eye could see.
So, I was alone, I was stuck in traffic, it started to rain, and I looked to the right to see a transvestite pushing a homeless man in a grocery cart along the street.
All I could think was… Welcome home.
The road I was most excited about was “Sunset Blvd” partly because my favorite show of all time is “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” but mostly because I thought Sunset blvd was Hollywood blvd. So, when I drove down Sunset, didn’t see Grauman’s Chinese Theater and all I saw was about a million tiny buildings shoved into the smallest amount of space with a Subway on every other block. I was less then elated.
P.S… I hate Subway and I had just moved into the land of Subway apparently. Did God hate me? Probably.
So, after a long time I finally arrived at the apartment… on Sunset. Yes, the apartment I was visiting was right off Sunset Blvd. Reason being, when Sean, Preston, and I were originally planning on moving here, Sean insisted on living in Hollywood. His Uncle who lived in Burbank told him that everything was in Hollywood and living anywhere else meant hours of traffic. Which meant that we absolutely must live in beautiful Hollywood.
By the way… Most auditions are in Santa Monica. I go to Hollywood all the time to hang out with friends or go to random jobs, but everything really important seems to happen to me in Santa Monica. Granted, the traffic is bad when you “go over the hill,” but you learn to deal with it and you learn tricks to get by it as much as is possible. Overall, there are safer and cheaper places to live than just Hollywood. Before you decide where to live, shop around. Hollywood is a good place to be, but you do have other options.
So, I arrived at apartment, on possibly the worst looking street I’d ever seen in my life. I called the woman I had spoken to on the phone, and said that I was there and needed to be let in.
A young Asian girl in her early 20’s wearing “Hello Kitty” footed pajamas greeted me at the door. She spoke absolutely no English, but led me to the room. Where was the other woman I had spoken to? No clue.
Maybe she was somewhere laughing at my expense, thinking, “Stupid southerner. He’ll be dead by dinner time.”
Hello Kitty Girl or “HKG” led me to the smallest room I had ever seen with bullet holes in the wall. That’s not a joke. The rent was $800 a month and I now knew why. I promptly thanked her, which she didn’t understand, and ran like hell.
Preston finally arrived in town and was immediately pulled over by the Police for talking on the phone while driving. Apparently, that’s illegal here. Thankfully, he explained his way out of the ticket and the cop let him go.
We then met up at our final hotel of the trip, which we didn’t get till the night before. There had been some confusion about what place we would stay at. So, after we realized that we had nowhere to go, La Nita kindly went online and got us a hotel for two days in a place off Sunset.
Problem is, she didn’t specify that there needed to be two beds in the room. So, when we got to the hotel that night, it was super small, super crappy, and had only one full size bed. We attempted to upgrade, but the price was too high to do that, so we got stuck with only one small full size bed for two grown men.