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Everything They Didn't Teach You About Working In Entertainment: A Series

by Chris Goss on January 22, 2014

Today’s session: Living in Los Angeles. 

So, you spent money on an education, did you? Welp, did you get yourself a film degree? Or perhaps something in Creative Writing or English Literature? God forbid you studied Theatre, now you’re really up the LA River without a paddle…or water…or anything that even resembles a river.

Good news! You’ve got four solid years of creative exploration, peer-to-peer competition and social assimilation under your belt. However, none of that prepares you for a bouncy U-Haul trek with second-hand furnishings up or down the 5 freeway.

Holy smokes this place! People flock to live here?! This is “The Industry.” There are headshot studios in strip malls. Print shops that specialize in three-cents per page script copies. This is a place tailor-made for hopefuls looking to the lights of Hollywood for validation.

It’s also incredibly difficult. Without a proper heads-up and some specific non-film-school related planning, you’re setting yourself up for a classic crash and burn.

Let’s break it down by spreading an ample amount of snark across the entire southland...

Locations:

THE HILLS 

Rich people live in the hills – just like they do in the movies. Unless you’re an heiress to a massive fortune, just don’t even look there. It'll depress you. It's not inspiring. Trust me.

WEST SIDE 

Fancy people who want to appear well-off live as close to the hills as possible. These people pay around $1600 for a one-bedroom apartment in a good part of the west side. The west side is congested and full of self-important people who swear they will never live anywhere other than the west side. They like having to pay ten cents per bag at the grocery store – this is their mantra. They also tend to be rather social – perhaps coming from New York, or another crowded metropolis where the bar scene walkability is crucial. They dig that scene. They like how centrally located they are. They’re generally viewed as smart, hip, trendy, fashionable, and the only LA folks who are really serious about “making it.” (In their eyes only.)

If you can afford living here, it’s a great introduction to Los Angeles. Especially if you’re single. You’ll probably end up working in food service – waitress, bartender, barista – as those are likely the only decent paying “non-career” jobs that will give you enough money to pay the rent. The better your overall self-presentation, the better the job you’ll land. It’s the difference between working at Red Robin or Morton’s. Red Robin will not pay your high-priced rent. Morton’s will. Morton’s will be a harder job to get.

Looks are important. I hate it, but it's true. Buff your skin for thickness, whether you're blessed with beauty or not. Don't take things personally or you'll be doomed to tears on a nightly basis. Find confidence...this is a whole other article...

Living in the west side is as close to the touted ideal as possible. You'll pay for it, and lose a bit of your soul along the way.

HOLLYWOOD 

Very few hopefuls actually live in central Hollywood. It's...well...dangerous. As with all of Los Angeles, there are pockets that are great. I believe we can consider Larchmont as a part of Hollywood, which if you're a cheese, wine, fancy breads lover, you'll like that stretch. Most of living centrally in Hollywood, however, is a challenge. You're faced with the same traffic congestion as the west side but you lose that trendy appeal. Rent is a bit cheaper, but that's because the street next to your street is ripe with potentially illegal activities.

If you're completely naïve and think living in Hollywood means you're as close to the "movie studios" as possible, think again. (Movies shoot in Canada now, we all know that...right?). Paramount and Sunset Gower Studios are the two largest lots, both of which are massively landlocked by sketchy neighboring businesses. The closer you live to the freeways, the more convenient your location to local crime is. There are arrests 24/7 on almost all 101 off-ramps throughout Hollywood. Pay attention when scouting apartment buildings.

SOUTH (OR ANYTHING NEAR USC) 

Read up. There are a ton of news articles about random acts of violence surrounding the USC campus. Just because it's an elite campus doesn't mean the radius is safe. Quite the opposite, actually. There is talk about the area improving (Jefferson Park?). The history of Los Angeles is found here, and the architecture can be quite appealing. It is, however, notoriously dangerous and generally avoided by most LA newcomers.

CULVER CITY 

If you can afford to live here, live here. Bottom line. Centrally located. Not under LAUSD jurisdiction.

EAST  

It's huge and hard to categorize. It's generally thought of as nearly nonexistent to entertainment. I'm not entirely sure why that is, outside of the fact that it's commonly missing an identity. It's a bit of the gray area between Los Angeles proper and Orange County. It doesn't quite fit in either category, as being a mishmash of urban, suburban, and even some rural areas. Pockets closer to Orange County are nicer than pockets closer to Hollywood. It's an odd transitional area, with some communities that seem to be locked in time. Drive fifteen miles up/down Whittier Boulevard to see what I'm saying.

Part of me thinks its LA's best kept secret...if you find the right area. In many instances your commute will be going against traffic. Rent is cheaper and the drive to Disneyland is much easier. But, it's odd and feels Twilight Zone-esque.

HIPSTER CENTRAL 

This is Los Feliz and Silver Lake. It's the west side of the east side. Many people start here. MANY. Rent costs are increasing, so it may be harder to get in at the bottom. If you live here, you better know your coffee and yoga. Even yoga is on the way out, whatever new eastern form of meditative exercise is in. Know it and love it.

Also, when visiting here, count the minutes/hours it takes for some resident to ask if you've been to the Dresden. They will then go on to tell you that the old "Staying Alive" duet from Swingers still plays there. Just wait for it...someone will say it.

THE VALLEY 

Gets so much shit. People hate the Valley. People love to hate the Valley. It's the "other side of the hill" and is despised for being ten degrees hotter at all times. It is known that you are a lesser human being if you have an 818 cell phone area code compared to 310 or 323. If you get the 818, you are branded. Know this.

If you, however, come from a suburban neighborhood and generally like your life of gridded streets and big box stores, this may be a good option for you. It's an easier transition into chaotic Los Angeles when coming from most other parts of the country. A bit slower. Bigger. Easier to navigate.

Warner Brothers, Disney, and Universal are all in the Valley. Doesn't that give it any more street cred? No, but it does mean you're closer to a lot of the heavy action. The Valley is also best if you have a family, or are looking to start a family in the near future. Burbank and Glendale are ideal for this -- but do come at a price. Pasadena is where all the single people from the west side then decide to buy property after they get married. To note, Burbank is not controlled by the greater Los Angeles government. Depending on your political views, this may be a deciding factor.

All in all, you will be judged for choosing the Valley. If you can take the heat, pun intended, it's a good option.

NORTH 

Most of this is out of your price range. Malibu and Calabasas are unreal. You'll be driving a ton and paying through the nose. It's where you end up, not where you start.

Topanga Canyon and Woodland Hills, though, are nice. They are better options compared to Northridge or Chatsworth and a little easier on the commute.

WAY NORTH 

There is a place called Sunland. You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who knows too much about it. But it's on the map and actually not too far.

Santa Clarita is closer in feel to Bakersfield and Fresno than Los Angeles, in spite of its location.

ORANGE COUNTY 

The commute will kill you. You will probably have a more comfortable non-work life, but the commute will kill you. Disneyland is not in Los Angeles. Living near Disneyland means you have to give yourself two hours to get anywhere. But, you'll be super close to Pirates of the Caribbean. Depending on your interests, this may be a huge plus. You think I'm kidding...I'm not. You'll also be able to tell time by the booming sound of nightly fireworks in the near distance. Just know that the commute will kill you.

The OC has a multitude of its own factions, so if you're looking here you'll want to do your research. However, be prepared to have a reliable car loaded with podcasts. You'll need them.

Wherever you choose to live, know that you're in for a challenge. There are massive growing pains associated with moving to Los Angeles. Most of which center around money. You have to learn to budget. Unless you come from money, it will be a daily struggle and is what drives most people to give up on their dreams. Learn to be fiscally smart. You have to be conservative. We'll do a whole separate article on how to save money in Los Angeles, but your overhead (rent/bills) are critical when planning for success. Don't over-do-it on your first apartment. Start small so you can build up without burning out.

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