The “Where” of Your Entertainment Career
One of the most common questions I get from students and recent grads is whether they have to move to Los Angeles in order to work in the entertainment industry.
“Of course not,” I say. “The entertainment industry is all over the place.”
“What about if I want to be a…?” they ask, with their dream position in the … of the question. My answer varies depending upon the position, their level of ambition, and various personal factors they weigh into the question.
It’s often not an easy answer, and it can seem very “now or never” to a young person trying to get the “right” start. But each person’s path is different.
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For some, part of the allure of being in entertainment industry is living in Los Angeles, or it’s just a given that that’s where they’ll be. Chris Markus & Steve McFeely, the writing team behind THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, CAPTAIN AMERICA, YOU KILL ME, and PAIN & GAIN, moved to L.A. right out of grad school, got day jobs, and began collaborating on scripts.
Game Show Writer/Producer Ryan Hopak moved to Los Angeles as a new graduate to build his career. UTA Talent Agent and Business Affairs Executive Mike Rubi applied to (and was accepted in) the UTA Mailroom Trainee Program right out of law school. Editor Eric McCormick, Animation Studio President and Creative Director Chris Hamilton, Actor Eric Lange (“Weeds,” “Victorious”), and Universal Pictures’ President, Film Music & Publishing, Mike Knobloch also started out in L.A.
Others make the move in their own time or when an opportunity presents itself. When I graduated from college, Los Angeles (or what I thought Los Angeles was) was so “not me” that I hightailed it from the East Coast, where I’d grown up and gone to college, to Minneapolis. I got into the industry there and moved to L.A. exactly a year later with a well-paying freelance job and a free place to live lined up through people I met working on movies in Minneapolis.
Studio Programming Executive Andrew Paskoff came to Los Angeles with a year of commercial production experience and got hired by a top TV production company immediately upon arrival. Costume Designer Lou Eyrich (“Nip/Tuck,” “Glee,” “American Horror Story”) spent several years working on movies in Minneapolis and touring with musicians such as Prince and Bette Midler before making the big L.A. move, eventually becoming a frequent collaborator with writer-director-producer Ryan Murphy. Actor Nick Searcy (“Justified”) drove a limo in New York for several years while trying to break in, only to have his golden opportunity come after he’d moved back to his native North Carolina. He moved to Los Angeles with a prominent movie credit under his belt and good representation to help him get on his feet.
And some have great entertainment industry careers and never make the move to Los Angeles. After many years as a theatrical producer in Austin, Writer-Director-Producer Jason Neulander saw his dream of launching his play, “The Intergalactic Nemesis”, in New York fall apart with the economic downturn of a few years ago, only to launch it in his hometown, have it go big and begin touring, and then land on Broadway. He’s still touring, with a trilogy of hit plays, still calling Austin his home. Former Discovery Communications CEO Judith McHale moved from New York to Washington, DC many years ago to be near her ailing father. She took a position in the legal department of a then-small cable channel and over the years, moved up the latter, eventually to the top spot, helping grow it into the global media powerhouse it is today. Not even a brief stop in Los Angeles on her resume.
The bottom line for the “where” of your entertainment career is that it really isn’t about there being an objective “best” or even “better” place to launch (or have) it. It’s a personal decision with different factors weighing in and different timelines. Some people try L.A. and like it. Others try it and don’t like it and go someplace else. Or, like me, they shun it, say they could never live in Los Angeles and then, two years into reluctantly living in L.A. because of work opportunities, realize they couldn’t live anyplace else.
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