Things to know before moving to L.A to become a movie star.
This is based on my own personal experience.
Hi! I’m Lukas and I am one of those non-English speaking – so, expect grammar mistakes 😉 up-and-coming actors with an accent in London whose longest-running paid gig was in a show RESTAURANT playing the role of a Waiter. #ActorsLife.
Living in London and being in the acting/film environment I’ve met a lot of actors who dream of the same thing, become movie stars, some want to be like Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie others just want a long-running sitcom like The Big Bang Theory. Most of them are talking about Los Angeles, how they want to pack their backpacks and make their way to the Dream Land in hopes to become the next best movie star. Most of those who I’ve met after their return from Los Angeles complained how bad it was, how they couldn’t meet anyone, how no one was interested in them, how hard it was for them to meet people, to act. Even those with O1 visas who got lucky enough to get some small agent but, never work, mostly because film and tv studios are not that keen on actors with O1 Visas, but, that’s a completely different subject (coming soon).
Here, is a little difference I have noticed between London and Los Angeles.
Let’s just talk about the actors who blindly book a cheap flight to Los Angeles – in a lot of cases one-way ticket, take their backpacks, and go to work towards that Oscar, without proper visas. First of all, you can not expect to go to the US without permits and think someone discovers you and you become a star, “but, Arnold Schwarzenegger did!” – yes, in the late ’60s (that’s almost 60 years ago!) with a sponsor as a bodybuilder. Second of all – don’t go to L.A. on your holiday visa or a waiver with a suitcase full of your headshots and resume, how will you explain that at the U.S. border? I am mentioning that because that’s exactly what happened to one actress, who then was deported and permanently banned from entering the US. Third of all, don’t think you’re one of the kind. Do you know how many of “you” are out there on the streets of L.A.? And no, you’re not unique. I thought I was, I am a 5’2 quirky guy with a character look, I thought, I’m unique… In 2017 I went to L.A. and in just 6 weeks I saw at least 3 of my type. And if you’re tall, fit, and handsome, most of those who want to be actors in L.A. look like you and most of them are Americans or have the proper permits. So, why would anyone be wowed by you? What do you have that the 10’s of 1000’s of those who look like you, don’t? What makes you special?
Most actors just want to arrive in L.A. hoping to walk around West Hollywood or Venice Beach and be stopped by a WME, CAA, UTA, etc… The reality is if you don’t have anything to offer, why would anyone care? Would you go to an empty supermarket to buy groceries or would you go to fully stock one, that has a lot to offer?
Let me say what I think of L.A. from my first 6 week trip in 2017 and from my own personal experience – everyone’s different.
Yes, maybe I wasn’t in L.A. for long enough to know-it-all but in just 6 weeks I filmed 6 projects without knowing anyone. Los Angeles is a great place with a lot of great people, determined to work hard. Actors in London are a little bit different. I’ve been creating content in London since 2010 and each time I want to do something, finding people to collaborate with, who can fully commit, work together on the project is tricky. Especially if you want to create long-running online content, almost impossible, I don’t know anyone who has a group of actors in London who regularly create content, if you do, please let me know, I would love to meet them! For some reason, actors in the UK still don’t understand that this is the EASIEST way to get discovered. Get that BIG NAME AGENT representation but, nop, UK Actors just don’t seem to get it. They would rather complain about how bad the industry in the UK is, how there is no diversity, no opportunities than get their asses to work, write and create their content. They just go on casting sides and apply for 1 casting a day.
Yes! We all need to pay the bills! The rent in L.A. is very expensive and of course, you need the money to pay the costs of living but, after work, they don’t sit and wait for something to come to them, those who I met in L.A. constantly collaborate in their free times, do workshops, stay pro-active and put all of their effort to create, especially online content, L.A has a lot of YouTubers (who create comedy sketches – there is more to youtube than viral cat videos or vloggers showing what they eat!). People in L.A. are committed to the projects, one guy I worked with on my web series in L.A. spent $300 of his own money for the costume to make it look good, other drove 8 hours one way, from another state just to film for a couple of hours an episode of my unpaid web series MOBSTERS. Forget about anyone in the UK doing that.
I went to Los Angeles without knowing anyone, just one guy I met through youtube who offered me to stay at his place for a few weeks. My aim was to go to L.A and film those 2 videos. But, how do I find people in a foreign city, in a foreign country? I didn’t even know where I should post casting calls so, the only idea that popped in my head was to post a casting call on IMDb. And the second I did, I was shocked.
When I post casting calls in London to find people to collaborate with (unpaid) on youtube videos, I would get 15-20 applications MAX.
When I posted a casting call on IMDb to film in Los Angeles for the same web series I did in London, I got over 2000 applications, YES, Two Thousand people applied, many from out of state who were willing to drive. See what I mean?
So, when going to L.A. I already had people interested, I decided to organize a group meeting asap, 3 days after my arrival in L.A. Of course, I couldn’t respond to all of those 2000 applications, it would be impossible in just a couple of days, so I just picked around 100 – completely random. Most of them weren’t available to meet on such short notice but, I managed to meet maybe around 20 in a bar in North Hollywood which for my 2 episodes was plenty enough. And from the first moment, I’ve noticed a big difference. All of them brought their Headshots and CV for me to keep. They literally carry their headshots and CV in their bags. London actors don’t even carry a business card! From some of those 20 actors, I didn’t get the “I could get on with them” vibe so, I only picked those who got my weird self. Actors who were fun and I could easily write characters for (nop, I did not have scripts yet). And they made the whole process not only easy but, fun and extremally helpful especially one, who I have to mention, Spencer Mathis without whom, I am not sure how I would figure out the “How To Film in L.A.”, I can easily say he saved me (at least my projects). Not only did he help me find a camera person (Joseph Calta) with a Red Dragon, so I could forget about my DSLR, but also other guys to help behind the camera and another actor Joel Anderson. Spencer would also spend his own $300 for a cowboy costume! That is what I call full commitment!
So, 7 days after my arrival to Los Angeles for the first time, I started filming the first episode, the second episode we filmed a week after, then I had 4 weeks to explore L.A.
I would also meet Barney Cohen the writer and creator of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (book, TV movie. FUN FACT: Ryan Reynolds was playing the role of Seth in the TV movie, most of the other cast from the movie went to film the iconic series), Barney would tell me how Ryan Reynolds and Melissa Joan Hart hang out at his place when working on the TV movie. He also offered to meet someone he knew, would like to meet me, unfortunately, I was flying back to London the next day. So, I will never know who that was.
I also filmed a few other youtube skits with other actors and would go to some more workshops as well as did an interview with Alex Czuleger a Talent Manager and Founder of The Green Room Management who, unlike all UK talent agents/managers, was extremely open to actors and liked the fact that I had ANC an acting community in London, something his management is about (but, that’s once again, another subject – coming soon).
So, after my 6 weeks in L.A. filming 2 episodes of my web series, 4 different comedy sketches, filming an interview with a talent manager, all just as a passer by in L.A. I wonder what I could accomplish if I was a long-term, legal resident in L.A.
With my experience, not listening to all the actors who came back to London hating it because they couldn’t figure it out, let me tell you my final thought of L.A.
Yes, Los Angeles has a lot of dreamers, a lot of failures, a lot of wannabes, a lot of next Stallones, a lot of fame-hungry people, a lot of crazy people, a lot of “I hate this city, I go back”. So, if you go to L.A. and become one of those hungry wannabe actors, begging “please pick me” it might be tough. What I think L.A. is about, is hard-working people who have ideas and go to L.A. to create opportunities. So, if you know how to create projects, write, film, edit, if you’re about creating opportunities and communities, Los Angeles is a dreamland for you, you will meet a lot of people and if you go there for a longer period of time to create few projects, who knows who the other people you’ll meet will know?
I love L.A. I had an amazing time and met a lot of amazing people and if only I could legally work there, I believe I could achieve more there than in the UK in the creative field. Because I know I work my arse off and commit to creating.
So, if you’re one of the actors who want to go to Los Angeles, ask yourself, how much effort did you put into collaborating on projects where you are? Because from my experience there are a lot of actors in London who are not really interested in long-term collaborations, especially on online content, something that L.A. is all about, so if you’re not interested in making projects in London, maybe starting a race in a city with 1000s of you, is not the best idea? To me Los Angeles is not a place for actors to come and be like “Hi I’m an actor, help me”, it is more for actors who are more like “Hi I have projects to make, let’s help each other!”, so when packing your backpacks, make sure you pack a few scripts you have written, have few previous projects you have done (created) to show what you have to offer.
I don’t want this to come across as if I am Mr. Know It All, I only spent 6 weeks in L.A. There is so much I don’t know but, the reality is, I did a lot in L.A. in such a short period of time without knowing anyone.
Fun note, on my first day in Los Angeles I took a walk around Sunset Boulevard and I saw a sign: