What to Expect if You Move to LA

la-hollywood-sign

by Kathryn Graham

If you’re looking to be a television writer, you’ve probably thought about moving to Los Angeles. With its sunshine and its promise of a better tomorrow, it is still the world’s major hub for television and movies. The City of Angels is home to Hollywood, but also hosts a wide range of culture and taste. Space-age glass and metal skyscrapers rise beside adobe homes and modern castles. World famous landmarks stare at graffitied storefronts. It’s like Los Angeles has a perpetual identity crisis, and maybe it should. Its primary export is dreams, after all.

Here’s a few major points about LA that you may find helpful to know.

People

Almost none of the trees in Los Angeles are native to the area. The same can be said for much of the city’s uprooted population. If you’re thinking about moving to Los Angeles to follow your dreams, then you won’t be alone. It’s commonplace to find people who moved here from any neck of the woods. (Also lots of people from Ohio. Is there a mass exodus from Ohio going on?)

Hollywood is a major draw for a large chunk of the people here. Ask someone what they do for a living, they’ll mention their day-job, but their eyes will light up when they talk about how they’re breaking into writing, acting, or stand-up.  It’s cliché now: the barista by day and aspiring actor by night, but that’s what Los Angeles is often like.

What this means is there’s a huge amount of competition for industry jobs. It also means that you’re in very good company. If you want to meet all kinds of people who love movies and television as much as you do, Los Angeles is the absolute best place to do this. Writers, development execs, animators, actors, the list goes on. Even if you plan on producing your work independently, be it a play, a web series, or a student film, this is where most of the professionals or aspiring professionals you’d need can be found in abundance. They say career is all about connections, and nowhere is that more obvious than Los Angeles.

Angelenos get a rap for being fake or superficial. I can’t say I’ve experienced this, but I’m likely too unimportant to schmooze. In my experience, the friendships I have out here are overall less substantial and not as numerous as the ones I had back east. As to whether that’s because more people don’t connect overall in the LA culture, I can’t say. I can tell you that getting together with people is less frequent no matter what for two major reasons. One is that what’s referred to as ‘Los Angeles’ and its surrounding area is quite large and spread out. The other is…

Traffic

Everyone complains about traffic. But the full impact of its horror will not wash over you until you realize you just spent 45 minutes in the car to go 20 miles. A good rule is to take however long google maps says it will take to get to your destination and then double it. 30 minute trip? Buckle up for an hour. I hope you like sitting in your car or that you can find a way to get used to it because Angelenos spend 70 hours in their car each year on average. Los Angeles is not a walking city, and its public transportation is atrociously lacking. Forget about trying to dodge around rush hour. When it comes to our major highways: every hour is rush hour. ‘Real rush hour’ is the punishment you receive in the fifth circle of hell.

For that reason and many more, people will tell you to live close to where you work. This is very good advice. It’s personal preference, really. If you’re willing to make the commute to live somewhere that jives better with you, then that’s what’s best for you. The one thing that’ll remain the same no matter what is…

Rent

It’s astronomical. Unless you live in New York City and its surrounding area, there’s nothing comparable. It’s so bad that even the rich people agree. I pay most of my paycheck into rent every month. There’s a lot of people on that same sinking boat. As we hear all the time now, wages haven’t kept up overall in the US, either. Unless you’re at or near the top of the chain, you’re likely grossly underpaid and overcharged. So much for saving for retirement.

If you leave the city, you can get more space as you move farther away, but the amount you pay will remain about the same. In a quest to find cheaper housing, I went north into the literal mountains (Pine Mountain) before I came across anything even remotely affordable. It snows up there. There are bears and mountain lions there. It’s freaking beautiful, but it’s a two hour drive to Downtown LA – without traffic. It’s not likely to get any better either. As Los Angeles spreads outward to feed its hunger for housing, rent is likely to just keep climbing everywhere.

On the upside, if you have any cash leftover (or just enough for gas money) there is so much to do in Los Angeles. Always new concerts, comedy clubs, conventions. Everyone comes here sooner or later.

Of course there’s more to LA, but these are the biggest points I would have wanted to know before coming here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m no expert, but I made the leap from Connecticut to California. Was it worth it? Totally. But that’s a story for another time.

About Kathryn Graham

Los Angeles-based television writer, TVWriter Contributing Editor, and lover of women. e-mail: kathrynagraham@gmail.com