I will never forget the summer of 2016, sweating my ass off sitting inside “Joe Coffee” on Lankershim Blvd with 13 tabs open from IMTLA, scanning and absorbing the trove of invaluable information you guys put out, striving to wrap my mind around this massive and complex city. Even though I had several friends in LA before I moved here, the articles provided insight beyond what could be learned from just a few friends.
I moved to LA for a very specific reason: I wanted to be forced to make decisions and answers questions about my life that I would have otherwise ignored if I stayed home. I wanted to be faced with ultimatums about which direction I was going in life, and how I was going to move forward. I figured, the high cost of living and competitive culture would surely promote that kind of environment for me.
Up until moving, I had worked as a freelance photographer, video assist operator on feature films, boom operator on indie films, and as a cinematographer on documentaries. The jobs I didn’t want paid more (on set), and the work I really wanted to be doing didn’t have a market (freelance photo). I saw moving to LA as a “sink or swim” catalyst that would force me to make substantial leaps as a professional and as an artist, and very quickly I realized the biggest leaps I would be making- as a person. I knew when I got here, I’d have to hit the ground running, pick a direction and push myself as hard as possible.
I moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans. I do not mean to be over dramatic, but I cannot imagine a more opposite city. I would even say such a contrast makes the move more difficult, but I am quite a sensitive person so my perception of how difficult it was may be, yes, perhaps over dramatic. It is difficult no matter where you come from. New Orleans has many affectionate nicknames, but none characterize it so accurately as “The Big Easy”. It is indeed, easy. In a way, it is kind of like The Shire in Lord of the Rings. Most people there don’t give a shit about what is going on in the rest of the country, they really just care about whoever is sitting next to them. They don’t do political marches or protesting, you really don’t hear much about social issues at all. Most plans are made about 5 to 30 minutes ahead of time, whether it is getting breakfast, getting dinner, or getting a drink. Anywhere you want to go is less than 20 minutes away, and a lot of the time you just walk. Only a small number of restaurants require reservations. It’s a big small town. As you can tell, moving to LA from this culture would be nothing short of jarring.
I moved to LA with $5,000 and my car packed mostly with non-essentials like my coffee grinder and 15 rolls of paper towels. (I had just gone to Costco before I decided to move and I wasn’t about to throw away $50 worth of paper towels, plus, they helped cushion the tv and coffee mugs.)
I was intent on working as a photographer outside of the film industry, and I was told by many people that would be “no problem” considering my portfolio, work ethic, personality, etc. While I may have had some good ingredients, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have anyone to serve. All of my contacts were people working in film, not the art world or commercial advertising.
My first 2 months in LA I stayed on the floor of my friend’s apartment in North Hollywood. We were splitting the rent at his 1 bedroom, which was very generous of him. I spent a lot of time seeking contacts and jobs in commercial, editorial, and freelance photography. As I began to realize how difficult that was going to be, and how much time is was taking, I noticed my money was quickly dwindling. And by “noticed” I mean constantly panicked.
I had to make some money. Even though I had intended on staying away from the film world and focusing on photography, I knew this might happen. I knew five grand was not going to last me very long. The whole time I was searching for freelance work, I was making a parallel, yet less intense effort to find a job on set, as a backup in case the photography world was not clamoring to hire the new guy from New Orleans that no one knows. I reached out to some of my contacts, and lucky for me, a person with my background was needed to run 24 frame playback on a tv show at Paramount. I hopped on craigslist and found a guest house in West Hollywood and dropped the rest of my money on the deposit.
I realized that, at this point, it seems I have conquered my move to LA, “mission accomplished”. However, I merely found a way to stay afloat. I was far from achieving any amount of clarity about myself, my work, and most importantly, Los Angeles.