"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where to Live in LA

Every Struggling Actress needs to figure out where she wants to live in LA. I lived in Hollywood, across the street from West Hollywood when I first moved out here. I then moved to the valley in North Hollywood, then a mile over, on the Burbank border, and then to Studio City.

I liked living in Hollywood when I was 21 - the bustle! the tourist attractions nearby! the heavily chlorinated hot tub on the roof of my building! I did not like that I couldn't walk around the neighborhood by myself at night.

I grew up in a suburb of San Jose and am used to the plazas, the parks, the spread out everything, so when I moved to the valley, I felt right at home. I also love the warmer temperatures in the winter.

My aunt loves the Westside. You don't even need air conditioning on the Westside! And those in Santa Monica will never move elsewhere. Seriously, they won't: Rent control!

And as many actors and actresses graduate college, they try to figure out where they should live. Like Shelby here:

Hi Lira!
First off, thanks so much for providing a way for people to contact you and ask you what is likely the same question over and over! I'll try to keep this short and sweet so as not to waste your time. 
I'm about to graduate from Baylor with BFA (or degree in pretend, whichever) and my parents are graciously allowing me to move back in with them to focus on working. My goal is to have at least $10,000 saved up before I head out to LA. I also already have a car paid off, but might sell it to get something more full efficient.  
Ugh, the question! I've been looking at places to live, things I need to do, reading blogs, reading books, and I feel like I'm absolutely inundated with information. One thing I am wondering though, do you have any ideas where a single gal with a cat should look to live? I'd love to be on my own, but most of the places I've seen that fit my price range are in Koreatown/Mid-Wilshire. Would I be safe there? 
I'm sure this seems like an inane question, but I hope you won't mind me asking. Also I'm officially the creepiest of the creeps because I've been going through your blog the past few days and only recently noticed there's an app that shows who's looking from where. So, the person from Waco who keeps showing up is me, sorry 'bout it!
In case you can't tell, I'm the least succinct person ever. Your blog is a wonderful fount of information and I really feel like you've covered most anything else I would have asked, even if I want to ask again because I'm a worry wart and over plan. 
If you took the time to read this monstrosity, thank you! Best of luck in all that you're doing, break all the legs!
 Hi Shelby! Thanks for reading.

I need a few more things before I can answer your question to the best of my ability:

1) What is your price point for apartments? Are you willing to live with a roommate?
2) What type of job will you be working in TX to save up for your LA move?
3) Have you been to LA before?

 Thanks so much for taking the time to answer!
1. At this point, I'm not sure about the price point. I'm looking at things that are 1200 or less for 1 bed 1 bath, but I would live with a roommate if there was that option. I would rather not live with someone I don't know, and I do have friends going/that are already there that I'm going to hit up when it gets closer to my move date, I just don't want to count on it if I don't have it. 
2. I'm going to be serving, as much as possible. I've served all through college at Mexican food places, and I'm going to try to get a job at a higher end place to give me more experience. 
3. I have not been to LA before. I'm going to go for a week or two this summer to really scope everything out before I move in the fall. I'm just trying to get some sort of idea of what would be the best place to look for in terms of price, availability for auditions and such, and safety. Most of the people I know who are there have been for five years or less, so I thought I'd get the opinion of someone who's had a little more stability in that sense.

Okay Shelby, here we go! 

You should probably have more than $10,000 saved up. Heartbreaking, right? I know, I know. But when you move here (and it IS expensive to do so, but save your receipts cause it's tax deductible!) you need to have enough for at least 6 months of living expenses, including rent, groceries etc, because most likely, it will take you that long to secure a job here. Okay, it probably won't take you THAT long, but have that money in your pocket.

You also need to be in an acting class every month for your first year here. It's networking I didn't realize existed, and acting classes are expensive. Take a few months here, a few months there, and broaden your circle. You'll meet people who are happy to give you free advice because they too are living the life. 

As far as the Koreatown/Mid-Wilshire district goes, I can't really help you there cause there are very few casting facilities there and I'm not there that often. Yes, the rent is cheap, and it is a neighborhood that is building itself up again, but I'm really not someone who can tell you whether it's safe or not because I don't live there and don't travel there.

That being said, I also don't have many friends who live there. I have one. He is a guy. A single gal on her own? No, my gut is telling you no. He complains about helicopters all the time; police helicopters.

This is an older article on where to live from Backstage, but most of it still rings true.

As for living alone - I honestly do not recommend it when you first move out here. Get a roommate. You'll want someone to bounce ideas off of, to go with to that new brunch spot, to get advice on where to go on a date. It's nice to have someone to watch movies with, to possibly borrow some clothes from, to go out with for midnight cravings of Animal Fries.

Also, you could find a really nice place for $1,800/month that you can split with a roommate for only $900. Safe neighborhood with plenty of street parking, and you'd still be saving hundreds of dollars on your ideal dream rent.

Okay, now onto your job: Serving! YAY! Girl, I done did that for 10 years and one of the girls I worked with was my Lady of Awesome at my wedding. You'll make some lifelong friends working in a restaurant and that's great. But you ALSO need to figure out another way you can make money that is not waiting tables. Something creative that you can do that will also create a bit of a side income where you won't go batshit crazy waiting on sometimes seriously rude people. It will be the happy counterpoint, and maybe, just maybe, a career that you will eventually get to make so much money off of, you won't have to wait tables anymore. Do you know how to build websites? How to knit Jayne hats? How to....um, I don't know! Whatever! But you'll need something creative that you can do so that you have another creative aspect of your life that isn't acting. Because, unfortunately, you won't be acting very much. You'll act a day here, a day there, maybe a week, maybe a few months in a play, etc, so find something that makes you feel creative, allows you to express yourself, and keep you sane.

I'm SO GLAD you're coming out here to scope out the town. Good for you! You should do quite a few touristy things while you're here, or otherwise you'll probably never do them because they're major traffic jams you tend to avoid as a resident.

You sound like you got a good head on your shoulders. Save as much money as you can (seriously, there are a ton of places for rent in the wintertime, which will give you more time to save money and more options of where to live.) and come out here knowing you're going to love LA, then hate it, then love it again, then hate it once more, and then come to peace with it.

LA can be a magical town filled with wonderful people who are surprisingly generous. Just remember that like attracts like, and you'll find them, no problem.

And like you said, BREAK ALL THE LEGS!!!!

and good luck!


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stay the Big Fish

I'm a decent resource for our Neighbors Up North:
Hi Lira!

Just read your blog for the first time today, and I've been finding it helpful, so I thought you could provide a knowledgeable opinion on something that's been bothering me. I'm 20 years old, living in Vancouver, Canada. I've just returned from an amazing 2 year stint in London, England, and I'm thinking it's about time to sort my life out. I'm, taking a Screenwriting course at Vancouver Film school (a really great program) and am thinking about moving to LA shortly after to pursue acting and writing. I've been acting from the age of 12 or so, represented by a wonderful agent here in Vancouver for a year when I was 17 (just before the move). The industry here was generally taking well to me, and I was making steady progress with casting directors. Anyways, it's been a couple of years, and there have been a few changes.
Along with me having gotten a bit rusty, I also have two tattoos on the inside of my arm. One is tiny and just above my wrist, and the other is larger, about 3 inches in diameter, just below my inner elbow. They are not visible when i have my arms straight down, but I'm afraid they'll put me in a "bad girl" niche.. I feel that my range is much larger than that and was wondering if you think casting agents would find my ink difficult to overcome.
Also, considering the industry here in Vancouver, do you think it would be wiser to establish myself here, and then potentially make the move? Or just go for it? Vancouver is many things and one of them is BORING. I'd much prefer living in LA, but I don't think I'd be willing to risk my career for it. 

I know it's a pretty loaded message.. but any help or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. I've just come back into the real world after spending 2 years partying with the best of them, and am most definitely having a crisis!

Thanks so much! 

Hi Kristina! Thanks for reading. 

I'm going to address the tattoos first:  I'm glad you have found a way to express yourself with art. Tattoos usually are symbolic of something or someone who mean or meant a lot to us. I think they're great.

And a lot, and I mean thousands of actors have them. I once worked on a music video with Elton John (cause I be's fancy!) that took place in the 1950s with an all female band. The violinist had two full sleeves of tattoos on her arms. Was it a problem? Not at all. The makeup artists covered the art up with tattoo covering makeup and wardrobe added see through chiffon sleeves to her dress. Her tattoos were not an issue, and every makeup person and wardrobe stylist has tricks to erase them. They're expected.

I would suggest that you wear a character appropriate layer to hide them (long sleeves, cute sweater, etc) if you want to hide them, and when you're hired for a gig and you get the call sheet, call the makeup artist to warn them of your tattoos and placement, and when wardrobe calls you for sizes,  give them their heads up.

Bottom line: Tats are not a problem. Be proud of them. They're yours.

As for moving to LA...

It sounds like your biggest fear is coming down here and having no career. And that is a valid fear to have. My advice is to always, always STAY a big fish in a little pond. A ton of tv shows are still produced in Vancouver and it's wise to get on as many shows (either as an actress or writer!) in Canada as you can. Book your guest star roles, book your recurring and Series Regular roles up there, and eventually (if not now), you'll be put on tape for LA pilots, and they'll fly you down for callbacks and screen tests.

You're young. You're 20. You probably look younger. You probably pass for TV 16 or younger. So book those younger roles and work, work, work up in Canada for as long as you can. LA is a crap shoot. You already have credits up there, and the casting directors who come across your resume know the shows you've been on, and already know you. No one in LA knows you yet and don't know the shows you've worked on since we don't get much Canuck television. Work the relationships you've been forging since you were 12 and give it another five years to make your money and re-evaluate what you want. Write scripts and see if you can sell them in the Canadian market, or heck, make the stuff yourself.

It's hard to be patient, trust me, I know, but that's what I recommend. 
And is Vancouver REALLY boring? Maybe you haven't found the cool underground things yet.  Since you said you were rusty, get into a few acting classes and make new actor friends. Explore your community by yourself and with your new friends and live life to the fullest. Check this out and do some of those things.

Be a big fish in a market that already knows you're a reliable, talented actor. Moving here now means your starting at 0, and there's no need for that. 

I'll see you in a few years. 

The winters are marvelous!

Friday, April 5, 2013

You're Hurting My Heart

This is the first time I've ever gotten an email looking for advice that hurt my heart.

Dear Lira,
I happened to come across your blog (very interesting read) and was convinced you'd give me the best advice. I dont want to be an actor but would love to be in commercials. Thought would ask you what a good place to get a headshot done would be? I'd really appreciate it.
I'm not quite sure I understand where you're coming from. You don't want to be an actor but you'd like to be in commercials? Why? Because it looks easy?

There are thousands of actors who train, train, train their butts off so that they can book a commercial or a television show and make a living. They get a theatre degree, they take commercial classes, they study everything on tv and note what their type could realistically sell.

They spend thousands of dollars on the right wardrobe for the right headshots so that they can then submit those photo reproductions into manilla envelopes and mail them each for over $1 in postage to around 50 agents, hoping that one of them just might call them in and represent them. They will drive hundreds of miles and sit in hours of rush hour traffic to make their audition, their call back. They will spend over an hour waiting their turn where only their photo is taken. They will be on set and wait 8 hours before they're needed for ten minutes.

You want to be in commercials. Why not, right? The money is good. And sometimes it IS all about your look. But if you have no commercial training, no acting training, what makes you think you could book something? What makes you better than the girl next to you who has been training for years? What makes you more bookable than her?

Because commercial audiitons are hard. They're ridiculous. And if you don't want to be an actor, you probably don't know the lingo. You don't know how to slate. You don't know how to be real in front of the camera.

But heck, maybe you do. Maybe you're a natural. Maybe you'll book the first seven commercials you go out for.

But I think you're not seeing the whole picture: It's very Expensive to be a commercial actor. And you probably Will Not book an audition within the first six months.

You don't even want to do your own research to look at headshot photographers yourself.

Why don't you want to be an actor? Is there something wrong with being an actor?

Why would you go to a Struggling Actress and tell her that you're not going to put in the work to be an actor, nor do you have any intention of ever doing so, but can she help you do something you obviously don't understand the scope of?

P, if you really want to act in commercials, and you probably really can, you need to research that information yourself. You also need to understand that you will spend over $1,500 just to get the photos and put them up on the submission services.

You need to understand that you have to make money in the meantime with part-time night work, so that you can be available ALL day for your commercial agent who might get you an audition once or twice a week. You can't decline an audition if you're working at your "real" day job. Your commercial agent will drop you in one hot quick second if you don't take your commercial job (which is actually being available to audition at a moment's notice) seriously, because there are hundreds of actors with credits and more experience right behind you wanting in. So what are you doing to make money to pay rent? Are you waiting tables? Making coffee? Dressing up as a Princess on the weekend at children's birthday parties? Walking dogs? Are any of those jobs beneath you?

Research. You haven't done any of it.

Come back to me next year, show me your thumb on your nose, your residual paychecks, and how you thought I was so rude to you and look, ha ha ha, you did it after all!

And I'll congratulate you on your hard work, because P, that's what being a commercial actor is: very, very hard work.

And I'll be happy for you, honest.

But you need to do the work first.