ON ACTING: A Reprise Blog
BUSINESS QUESTION: "When should I go to LA (or NY)?"
"If you want to reach the pinnacle of your acting profession (fame + $$$$) LA or NY is where the majority of the big time work is.
This not to say that quite a few excellent acting/actors do not do excellent acting work in many other and smaller cities in America...but...if you want to get into the big-time oil business in America, you go to Texas or Louisiana, if you want to get into the big-time potato farms, you go to Idaho, if you want to get into the big time skiing business, you go where the snow is. Like it or not, most major film producers are functioning in LA and NY, as are most big time casting directors, most extraordinary acting teachers, and the highest salaries. LA and NY is where the action is.
Unfortunately, it is also where the major competition is: there are more good actors in those two cities than anywhere else in the US. So in designing your career ladder, if you must go to NY or LA (you want it all) the old rule of thumb is: before venturing to NY or LA first become the best actor in your local area; then the best actor in your sub-regional area; then the best in your regional area; then go to New York or LA. (Like in professional sports: the best sandlot football players get on the high school team, the best high school football players go to college, and the best college players make the pros.)
However, like all rules, these rules about climbing the career ladder are only an average wisdom, applying to the average. And we all think we are exceptional, don’t we?
So if you decide to go early to LA or NY, leaping the career ladder five rungs at a time, consider these factors: (1) life style changes; who are you leaving behind, and how much is that going to cost you psychologically and emotionally to move from your town in Anywhere, America to LA or NY. After all, they are the biggest cities in the US? (2) Are you ready for the loneliness? Nothing is lonelier than a being a stranger in big town. Do you know someone? Are they ready to put up with you for six months while you meet and get really friendly with some natives? (3) Are you ready for bald-assed competition? LA was once described as six million ambitious people pretending to be laid back. New York is even worse. (4) Are you prepared for an increased cost of living? A probable general raise in prices, plus apartment, head shots, transportation, phone service(s), etc.? (5) Do you have a job lined up before you get there, or do you have a new egg built up in your former town to live on before you get a job? (Another “average” rule: don't expect to make any appreciable acting $$$ for the first two years.) (5) Are you prepared to work hard on your acting craft? No matter how good you are, you will need to get better. Even if you arrive in LA or NY ahead of your competitors , you will only stay ahead of them if you work harder than them...otherwise they will catch up.
Don’t let me disillusion you, however.
Many years ago I came to LA without a job, knowing only one person, and with twenty five dollars in my pocket…and had a more than respectible career.
But if I have disillusioned you; don’t go. As a wag one time opined: there is nothing logical about being an actor; except that you have to do it.
A final suggestion: If you do choose to go to either town--because you have the guts, the confidence, and the ability--go to NY or LA eagerly with the thought of adventure.
To decide to become a big time actor (or a big time anything else) is a wonderful life journey. And like most journeys, remember that pleasure occurs more in the process, in the courageous headlong attempt, than in any final achievement. And good luck.