Moving to Los Angeles – The City of Angels

L.A. – Nothing can be said about this place that hasn't already been said. It is both a wonderful and cruel place to live…especially if you are an artist, looking for fame and fortune in the entertainment industry. But if you are moving here, then odds are you are probably extremely excited and a little bit scared at the same time. Don't worry about it…that's normal. I moved here 17 years ago with my wife, and it has been the greatest ride of my life. Filled with incredible ups and downs. But I had friends that I could fall back on that had been here already and they guided me through. One ALWAYS needs a few friends to help them in a tough spot. So here are some tips or guidelines that may ease your way into starting your new life here in this crazy, wild-ass city of hope and dreams!

I first moved into the Fairfax district near the Farmer's Market on Third and Fairfax. This area has completely changed since then, as it is now one of my favorite places to eat, see a film or just hang out. And that is The Grove! This is a very high-end outdoor shopping mall filled with amazing restaurants and stores and theaters. It was built in conjunction with the world famous Farmer's Market, so now you have this immense outdoor shopping mart. I had a buddy that was renting the apartment complex called Park La Brea, after the La Brea Tar Pits…which is close by, and he helped me get set up and move in. Rents have changed a lot in the last 17 years…a Studio will now run you about $1700/month and a 1-2 bedroom will be close to and over $2300 per month. But you can walk to a Whole Foods as well as The Grove, where food is plentiful and inexpensive. The best thing about Park La Brea and The Grove is that they are centrally located, and its easy to go anywhere with this as your base.

I personally stayed here at Park La Brea for almost 3 years, at which point I was able to buy a home over the hill in the San Fernando Valley. Here the traffic is still okay and it is very much like a sprawling suburb. I got very lucky in that I found a beautiful small bungalow that my wife and I are very happy with. Would I do it again and buy a house??? Absolutely. But I must admit, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss Park La Brea and being over there. A word of caution tho…this area by The Farmer's Market is extremely congested now…one of the reasons I left. So if this appeals to you…then this is where you should start. The area is filled with actors, musicians and other artists sharing living spaces.

So regarding entertainment…there are many places that will sate your appetites. It just depends on what you are into. There is the Sunset Strip, with many, many nightclubs for music and dancing. The Sunset Strip also has all of the famous Comedy Clubs where you can see a different stand-up act almost every night. There is the Theater District on Santa Monica and Cahuenga, where there are literally over a dozen theaters that produce plays if you are an actor / actress. There is also a theater district in the valley that is mostly in North Hollywood that also has a very healthy production of plays. There are many theaters that produce plays all over the city, so you can always have someplace to go.

Regarding traffic and getting around in this city! All I can say is You NEED a Car!!! There is some mass transit, but it is nothing like NYC or Chicago or any of the other major cities that might have a great mass transit system. And so then, this goes without saying, traffic much of the time is a nightmare. The 405 Freeway (as it is called out here, because SoCal is proud of their highways being FREE) is almost always packed. Here's the problem. There are only 2 Freeways and 3 surface streets that go across the mountains/hills that separate LA proper and the San Fernando Valley. And there are literally tens of thousands of people who must traverse these hills for work every day. So, with only 5 basic arteries…you must prepare ahead of time and expect that it will take an hour or two to literally go 10-15 miles at certain times of the day. Nothing to be done about it…just suck it up and prepare. No place is perfect, not even Eden. I am an actor as well as a filmmaker. I get auditions on a pretty regular basis, so I am constantly caught in traffic. But most of the time, I can get around it. The thing about LA is there is no centralized place to audition for a gig. Sometimes I have to go onto an actual studio lot (which is still a lot of fun for me) or you can go to a little 1-room office in a strip mall in Sun Valley or in Laguna Beach, which is 40 – 60 miles away. Depending on where you start.  So if you are lucky enough to get work or audition often, then I would suggest getting a map and just familiarize yourself with the place. This is the area that I mainly work in: Downtown Los Angeles -> west to the beaches->South to San Diego -> north to Santa Clarita – east to Pasadena. I have never been to east LA. Not that I think badly of it…I'm just never there. LA is just so immense, that there are neighborhoods that I have never seen. I know…shame on me! But I am limited to the amount of area that I can move around in. Just to give you a perspective on how big this place is. So I have auditioned in Santa Clarita and in San Diego and in Pasadena. The distance from Santa Clarita to San Diego is roughly 95 miles and another 15-20 miles east to Pasadena. If I was in Chicago (my hometown), this is the distance from Downtown Chicago all the way up to Milwaukee WI. Filled with homes and neighborhoods. To me, this is just astounding! Anyways, all I am trying to say is…be prepared. It is all part of the game.

I am asked all the time if I see Stars or famous people. Of course I do… all the time. Those stars and famous people live here too. They play here as well as shop, see movies, go to the beach, go to restaurants. And it happens in the most mundane places. I was in a restaurant having dinner, and Allison Janney breezed in, and picked up a to-go order. I think it was when she was on West Wing … not sure. And I am such a huge fan, that I really wanted to go and just say hi. Tell her how much I enjoyed her work… But boy she looked like she had just gotten off a 20 hour set. She was dead tired. I just left her alone. That's another thing nobody tells you about. Seeing stars is great and exciting. But many times, they are just trying to eke out a living like the rest of us. Respect that and treat them accordingly.

Now speaking of these different neighborhoods, they are all very nice. However, if I had my dream house, it would have to be in one of the areas on the coast. Either in Malibu (very expensive) down to Pacific Palisades, or even Santa Monica or Venice Beach! But I have to warn you, these places are very expensive to live in, so get some roommates. Or a sugar daddy or get an inheritance. Or find a small place that you won't feel claustrophobic in. Another word of warning…if you do find a place near the beaches, you will find that traffic will be even worse than I mentioned, because everyone wants to be there, especially the tourists.

If you are moving, here are some of the upfront costs that you will get hit with…

  1. Rental truck – if you have furniture already that you don't want to part with. Depending on how much stuff you have, the truck will be a day rate, plus mileage, plus the one-way charge. $500- $1,000
  2. Apartment Deposit and 1st month rent. For just an example –A studio at Park La Brea = Deposit (usually 1 month's rent)  $1,600 + 1st Month's rent $1,600 = $3,200
  3. Groceries and staples = $250-$350 (guessing)
  4. Odds and Ends - $750 - $1,000 (again just guessing)
  5. 1 year expenses = $30,000 (guesstimate)

So depending on what your tastes are and what kind of nest egg you have, with a nice average place in a nice area, start up costs might run you $5,000- $7,500…or not. I have some friends that came out with $750 bucks in their pockets. Although…they only lasted about 5 months, and then moved back home! This is why I also included the 30K. Listen… I'm from Chicago… and I would constantly hear this phrase “I'm just going out for Pilot Season” and see what happens. Personally, I think this is a huge mistake. Delusional almost. It takes a year or so for the casting directors to even start to recognize you…if you can get into see them for an audition. Most of the time, this never pans out. If you are moving out here… give your self a fighting chance to make it. Have a good chunk of change in the bank that will last you for a year or two. This will give you enough time to really get comfortable here and to really see if this town or this life is really for you. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, and go out with a grand. You can easily blow that in a month, and then you are back to square one. Treat it like a business, and give it time to grow. JMHO!!!

In conclusion, for me, moving here was the best thing I ever did. I grew up in Chicago, and my moving out here was me creating my own life. Too many times people just kinda “fall out of the nest” and hang around. I did that for a long time, until I decided it was my life and I wanted more from it. Have I regretted it? Sometimes…you bet!! But overall, it really is the BEST thing I ever did. Next to marrying the love of my life! I've made new friends, I got a ton of Film and TV credits and experiences, I've learned how to make movies from UCLA, I have a home. Have I hit it big? Nope…not yet! But in this town, your life can change overnight! I've seen it happen. My neighbor across the street just landed his first regular role on a new series. He's in his 50s and he's been at it out here for 20 years. And his advice is this: Never give up, don't lose hope, keep at it.
Pretty Good Advice!


About The Author:
John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.



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