Do I have to move to Los Angeles?

Starting an acting career.

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“Do you have to move to Los Angeles to be an actor?”A question that I have been asked and want to share is whether or not an aspiring actor must move to Los Angeles (or New York) to be an actor.  The answer to that question is that it really depends on what you want to accomplish and what your definition of “making it” is.

Speaking as a Producer due to the tax incentives that many states have passed over the years Production Centers are all over the country now.  With the infrastructures that are now scattered throughout the country (Atlanta, New Orleans, North Carolina and Chicago just to name a few); aspiring Writers, Producers and Directors don’t need to flock to Los Angeles to get the talented crew that they need in order to produce high quality content.

With non-union projects, Producers are not mandated to cast Union talent in fact under the SAG New Media contract non union talent can work right alongside Union talnet, which opens the door for many actors in other locations outside of LA to get opportunities that 20 years ago would not have been possible.  The stronger a script that is being produced, the less important it is to have an established actor play all the lead and supporting roles.  In situations like these now it really is based off an individual’s look and talent that can determine whether someone outside of Los Angeles books a role.

Many projects are shot outside of California these days because frankly it’s cheaper.  Another reason is that in location scouting different cities can up the production value of a project because Los Angeles cannot look like everything.  I was in charge of location scouting for a major actor’s production company on a project and we were trying to find locations that made Los Angeles look like San Francisco, and it was a nightmare!  This is why major productions might hire their key positions out of Los Angeles and hire the remainder of the crew in or around the production centers that they are headed too; not everything has to come from (or in your case to) Los Angeles anymore.

To answer another question; yes there tends to be more credibility when an actor is asked where they live and they respond that they are a “Los Angeles based actor”, but there are also plenty of “Los Angeles based actors” that aren’t working.   Actors in Atlanta know that projects such as the Walking Dead shoot in their area; as well actors in the Charlotte and Wilmington areas of North Carolina know that shows like Sleepy Hallow are filmed in their area.

Los Angeles is the media capital of the world and is an incredibly diverse city and there are many people from various cultures that will broaden your understanding of the world.  The flip side to that coin is that it’s an expensive city to live in.  Also depending on where you are originally from, you could be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of miles away from your relatives so, especially if you aren’t working or are working overtime to make ends meet, it will not be easy for you to go home every year to spend holidays with your family.

I know actors that don’t live in the greater Los Angeles area that drive in to audition and then drive home and pick up with their lives until they get the next audition.  I personally bounce between Phoenix and Los Angeles when things are busy and then when I have down time and I am writing projects or going into pre-production I go back to see family and friends because I can write from anywhere.

My best advice is to find out what you really want to do and also find out what you are willing to give up to get it (otherwise known as opportunity costs).  If the costs add up to you moving to Los Angeles, welcome to the dream chasing city!  If your answer leads you to staying closer to your home and building up your brand and a body of work, more power to you.  You are not “less’ of an actor if you do not live in New York or Los Angeles; the industry and technology have changed the landscape of where you must live to be in this business.