Los Angeles is the hub of the entertainment industry. I recommend moving here as a solid starting point if you’ve just graduated college or have gotten traction on a script. It’s not always a necessary step, but it will be a helpful tool in your career. Living in LA gives you access to parts of the industry that might otherwise be out of your reach. All in all, moving to Los Angeles for screenwriting creates new opportunities to help better your chances of thriving in the industry.
The one thing newbies tend to underestimate is the time it takes to kick off your career. It’s a whole lot of work – networking, writing, day-jobbing, creating. Luck is fickle, so it’s up to you to constantly put your work and yourself out there. Here’s a short guide to moving to LA to be a screenwriter.
Find a Job
It doesn’t pay to worry about money. Find a job right away. The truth of the matter is that it might take several years before you are a working screenwriter. So what do you do in the meantime? Make money any way you can.
You have the option of working in the entertainment industry or working outside of it. Look at the pros and cons of each here. To sum it up, working in the industry is a way to network effectively & open new doors, while working a non-industry day job is going to give you time to write and make projects.
Entertainment Careers – use the paid version
The Anonymous Production Assistant posts the UTA joblist
Temp agencies: Check out this list of the best temp agencies in LA
Utilize the City
Spend your time wisely. You moved to Los Angeles for a reason, so get out there and take advantage of the city. Meet people. I don’t care if it’s at work, in a yoga class, hiking at Runyon, taking a UCB class, bar hopping with friends… socialize. Make genuine friends. These people will become your network. Rather than schmoozing it up at a bunch of mixers, make long-term investments in people who are talented and driven like you.
The cost of living in California is high. Save up at least 6 months of rent. Let’s say the average rent in LA is probably around $850 a month (for a $1700 apartment that you split with a roommate), so that’s $5100. Add in utilities, gas, and some expenses and that brings you to $7000+.
Socialize Right Away
It can take 1-2 years to get your social bearings; I’ve heard this from multiple people, and it was my own experience, too. Finding real friends can be hard if you don’t know anyone. Also, the city is spread out, making friendships seem like long distance relationships at times.
If you know people who have already made the move, connect with them right away!
Here are some options to get yourself out there:
- Join a Meetup
- Join a sports league
- Take improv classes
- UCLA writing extension
- Do activities that have nothing to do with writing!
Where to Live
Live near where you work to cut the commute. When I was living in Hollywood and working in Beverly Hills, it took me forty minutes to get to work in the morning and an hour if there was an accident (it’s 6 miles). If you don’t have a job yet or want to switch jobs soon, just pick a safe neighborhood that suits your personality.
Tips for choosing where to live:
- Visit the area that you want to live at night.
- Rent is generally cheaper in the Valley.
- Google your neighborhood for a broad sense of the crowd & feel. Examples: Hipsters in Silverlake/Echo Park. You can’t afford Beverly Hills. Lots of shady parts in Van Nuys. New high-rise condos in Hollywood equal terrible traffic.
- Get a Westside Rentals account for an apartment, scour Craigslist for a roomie, or even try looking in Facebook groups.
It takes a hot minute to get settled in, find a job, and make friends. Give yourself time. Try a 6-month timeline to get your feet on the ground. This doesn’t include “breaking in.” Breaking into screenwriting can take days or years. You have to mentally prepare yourself, create a plan of action and have material ready.
Be intentional with your time. Consider drawing out a 5-year plan to assess what you want to work towards. Break that plan down into where you want to be in a year.
- Where do you want to work?
- Who do you want to hang out with?
- How many scripts will you have in your portfolio?
Be writing. Worst case scenario is that you get feedback that lets you know you suck. Brush it off and get better. No one starts out great! It’s the people who refuse to push through “the gap” that fail. They become these jaded, mean creatures that leech the happiness out of every conversation you have with them. No one wants to hire or be around those people.
Attitude is everything. Look for the positive, even when it’s hard! We all have bad days.
Listen to all the advice you’re given, then realize it’s just an opinion. Even this. Stay educated about your surroundings and the business. Keep learning and growing. You’ll make mistakes, but everyone does. It’s seriously okay. It’s how you get better.
Hope to see you out here!
What questions do you have about living in LA?