When Is It the Right Time to Move to LA?

Hi Bonnie,

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything to ask you, but I figured you would be a good person to ask now that you’re somewhat familiar with me and my work.

As you may recall, I currently live in the Chicago area. I’m debating whether or not it’s best for someone of my type to stay in Chicago or to try the great venture west to LA. It just seems as though the roles for someone like me are few and far between and, while there may be greater competition out in LA, there are also more opportunities. After reading your “Lessons from Australia” article, I’m starting to wonder if the reason that I’m not booking here in Chicago is that I’m not right for roles in Chicago. I could be wrong, but I feel I’d be a perfect type for a CW teen drama or something along those lines.

BUT… there are some obstacles…

I’m not yet SAG. I don’t have a lot of theatre experience in Chicago, which I have been told may cause some in LA to question.

So I guess, to sum it up, my questions is: Should I move to LA or try to do more in Chicago first? How can I tell when the time is right??

Thanks,
Ron Lipski

Hi Ron. Thanks for writing.

When I read your email, I thought, “Y’know, I get a lot of email about when the time is right to move to Los Angeles or whether a move to Los Angeles is right for me. I must really need to write about this, because it comes up a lot.”

Then I went back and checked the archives. Y’know what? I’ve written about this a lot. A lot!

I know you’ve done some reading already, but let’s be sure you’ve hit these columns in particular:

Your Turn, April 25, 2005
The First Thing an Actor Should Do in LA
Your Turn, December 10, 2007
NY? LA? Somewhere else?
Your Turn, June 29, 2009
Big Fish, Little Fish
Your Turn, November 30, 2009
Lessons from Australia

Next, let me state for the record that no one outside of you can know when the time is right for you to move to Los Angeles (if ever). Sure, outsiders can look at your work and your credits and your type and your training and your age and your financial security and your ability to hustle and your survival job and your willingness to network and your charm and your sheer luck with all things in life and then perhaps suggest that the time might be right for a move. But no one can predict your success in any market, 100%. Can’t be done.

As for whether there are more roles for your type here, sure. There are more roles for EVERY type here. And there’s more competition too. So… don’t make it about that. Moving to a new market doesn’t automatically get you more work due to a type incongruence in your former market. Odd are you’ll go out more, sure. But you’ll be sitting in waiting room with recognizable actors with much more experience and much deeper relationships than you’ve cultivated, when you first get here. It’s not ever just about ONE thing.

Truly, only you know when you’re itchin’ to go somewhere else to such an extent that you can’t stay where you are anymore. It’s like the butterfly emerging from the cocoon. You know when you’re no longer a caterpillar. You know when you’re ready to stretch new wings and fly. And you know, of course, that even when you feel ready to do that, you may be wrong. You may look back and wish you spent more time building the tools to fly before your first attempt. But you can’t know that in advance. You have to feel ready and then TRY.

What you’re asking me to do his help you figure your odds, basically. Okay. You’re not in SAG. Get thee SAG-eligible, stat! Did you read the wonderful POV contribution from Danielle Cloutier a few weeks back? Read it. Produce your own content and Taft-Hartley yourself, if you’re absolutely sure it’s not a Premature Move to do so. Obviously, if you’d be cutting yourself off from paid nonunion work to become SAG, getting SAG-eligible and staying there is what you want to do, as that gives you the most options.

You’ve not done a lot of theatre in Chicago. Okay. Good news! Very few people in Los Angeles who are in a position to cast you doing paid on-camera work give a poop about theatre credits in any market. Very few! It’s a bummer, of course, as I’m one of those few who thinks theatre credits are awesome to have on an actor’s resumé, but the truth is, theatre is under-appreciated here. So, your lack of theatre credits — especially if what you do have are on-camera credits in indies and student projects — is not going to be a turnoff to most folks you meet in Los Angeles.

So, now I’ve addressed the two issues you felt were important enough to bring up. Good.

You still have the question: How do I know the time is right? Right?

Well, I guess it’s like knowing the time is right to say I love you to someone. You can’t know for sure. You just have an overwhelming feeling and you go with it. Sometimes you regret the timing. Others, you wonder why you waited so damn long.

So, go read those above-linked columns. Do some soul searching. Do a reconnaissance mission to Los Angeles so you can see if it’s a place that feels good to you, deep inside. Do the homework advised in the Your Turn from June 29, 2009 and keep building relationships from afar while you build your resumé. Work toward having a foundation from which to spring confidently, when you know in your gut the time is right.

Good luck to you! Keep me posted on your timing. We’ll see you when you get here.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001185.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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