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10 myths and misconceptions about Los Angeles

Fact and fiction, are they really so different?

YES.

Which is why I’m going to list the top 10 myths, misconceptions, and falsehoods (no one says that) about living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry. I’ve lived here for over six months, which means I’ve experienced all of these things recently and also finally the necessary street cred.

And the myths are…

10. The weather is always warm and sunny.

Let’s get this one out of the way real quick: it gets cold. In fact, during December, it got cold enough to convince me to purchase a weather-resistant winter jacket. Also: it rains. Even so, this won’t prevent people from treating this “sky water” like a sign of the coming apocalypse. For some reason, people quickly forget fundamental skills. Like walking. And driving. Just don’t plan on donating your winter clothes or umbrella collection anytime soon.

9. Things to do in L.A.: Movie theaters, night clubs, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and that’s it.

Los Angeles is a city, but there’s more to do than just “hitting the clubs.” And if you can’t do it in Los Angeles, you can usually travel somewhere where you can. A few weekends ago I went snow tubing at Big Bear Mountain. I’ve been hiking. Of course there’s the beach. But there’s also parks, museums, zoos, and quite a bit more. And you can see the Hollywood sign from any of these locations (BONUS MYTH).

8. L.A. is divided into separate sections that are sprawled out across vast distances.

Los Angeles is broken up into various sections, some of which are cities and others are neighborhoods. It’s not uncommon to say that you live in “L.A.” when you actually live nearby cities like Burbank or Glendale or nearby neighborhoods like North Hollywood or Sherman Oaks. Just hearing this creates the impression that everything is spread out across a vast distance. False. Los Angeles is an extremely dense area. You can drive through five neighborhoods in a matter of minutes without even realizing it. Speaking of which….

7. L.A. traffic is the WORST. All the time. EVERYWHERE.

Fact: Los Angeles drivers spend more time stuck in traffic than any other drivers in the nation (thanks John August). However, facts like this distort reality, giving people the impression that this is what it’s like at every street corner:

Giant traffic jam

This is just not the case. It takes me 3 minutes to get to the grocery store and about 15 minutes to get to work. But the opposite side of the city? Okay, now we’re talking. Up to 1 hour and 45 minutes, depending on the time of day. The trick is knowing what roads are congested at what times, and learning when you can avoid them and when you need to load up your iPod with the wonderfully hilarious, hour-long Nerdist podcast.

6. “Cold calling” works.

Cold calling is when you randomly call a studio or production company and say, “Hi, you don’t know me but I’m very smart and talented and you should hire me/read my script/let me babysit your kids for the weekend based on the sound of my voice.” I submitted my resume to 20 post production companies when I first moved here and heard back from one, “We’re not hiring right now. Thank you.” Cold calling doesn’t work. Respond to job postings on Craigslist or the UTA job list will give you a better chance, but you have to be very quick to respond. Hundreds of resumes are sent in the minute the UTA list is published. I do know people who have gotten internships by responding to these postings.

5. You aren’t experienced enough for a certain job.

Experience has little to do with production assistant jobs. Getting this sort of job is about creating an impression with your potential-boss that you are intelligent and self-managing enough to learn as you go. I’m going to expand on this topic on a future blog post.

4. Everyone is an ass HOLE.

A lot of people perceive Hollywood as this fast-moving, jive-talking, abortion-inducing place where morals go out the window and if you aren’t the sharkiest lawyer on the street, then you’ll die of dysentery while your wagon tries to forge the river without you. Not in my experience (then again, I don’t work at an agency). Developing a tough skin is important in general, but there are plenty of people working here that are friendly and intelligent—even those that are willing to help you out if you’re hip enough.

3. People work in Hollywood because they’re passionate about movies and TV.

Me: YOU WORKED ON THE X-FILES?

Them: Yeah, it was so busy and hectic. I hated it.

Me: DOESNOTCOMPUTE

This was one of the most surprising things to me when I first moved here. I chose this industry because I’m passionate about storytelling. But a lot of the people treat “the movies” like “a toothpaste factory.” Not everyone cares whether or not they get off the island.

2. Getting a job is impossible.

Getting a job isn’t impossible. Ask yourself this question: what are you wiling to do? Advice like “don’t expect to come out here and be the next Stephen Spielberg” is obvious, but it’s true in a general sense, too. Looking for work as a production assistant? Treat being unemployed like a full time job. I know no one who spends eight hours a day looking for work and is unemployed. And in the meantime, why not be a waiter? Why not work at Sunglass Hut? I know people who have done both of those things. Just like you hear from everyone, it really is about who you know.While we’re on the subject, here’s a popular assumed myth:

1. It’s hard to know people.

When you move here, call everyone you know and meet up with them. Don’t have their phone number? Email them. Don’t have their email address? Well, then you probably don’t know them. So. It’s probably best to not meet with those people. But this is exactly how I got my last job. I met with someone I sort of knew, and now I know him a lot better. But remember, it’s not about simply knowing people. As I said in this post, getting a job takes 3 easy steps:

  1. Know someone that’s already working.
  2. Know someone that’s already working well enough to where they think of recommending you when a job comes up and they are unable or don’t want to take it.
  3. Be available at any moment to take that job.

#2 is the important one there. Create and maintain good relationships. It’s what will get you a job. And it’s just good advice in general.

Remember, I haven’t lived here all my life, but it’s always good to hear advice from someone currently living and learning about these things and not just recalling from days of yore. If you have any other myths that you’d like to share, or comment on anything I’ve said, please leave a comment. And if you found this article helpful, remember to subscribe to my RSS feed or by email so you can stay updated.