Whether you are considering moving to Los Angeles or have lived here for 30 years, everyone has information to share on what they would have, could have, should have done differently. Here are a few thoughts from some of our guests on what they might have done, but hindsight is 20/20.
Film Courage: A.J. if you were playing Monday morning quarterback with your career. Let’s say you’re looking back at your life, was it 10 years ago when you came to L.A. as a freelance cinematographer, what do you know…you know the standard thing “What do you knew then that you know now?”
A.J. Rickert-Epstein: The things I know now I don’t think I could have done then. I think it took a lot of experience and a lot of gigs to get that knowledge and I’m glad that it took that because I feel like it’s more ingrained in my style and instinct, something I had to learn by working so hard for so long.
I think I had a blind confidence when I was younger that helped me kind of push through things that might have been discouraging or held me back if I had dwelt on it too long and I’m thankful for that. I think that got me past a certain point where (Watch the video on Youtube here).
Film Courage: Trae you said you’ve been here 15 years now from Chicago?
Trae Ireland: Yes.
Film Courage: If there had been a handbook that someone was going to deliver to you and say “This is for you” and you will learn all of this, but it’s going to take 15 years, what do you wish had been in this handbook?
Trae Ireland: Money. [Laughs]
Film Courage: Exactly. Okay.
Trae Ireland: No…because you have to survive. Los Angeles is so expensive. If you are a struggling actor or anybody who comes out here, the cost of living is so high you can’t…it’s hard for you to get a regular job because you have to pursue this. You have to do auditions and meetings and all this, so you’ll get fired or you’ll get laid off from your job. So you have to have money to be able to have that cushion to be able to pursue this…but ask the question again so I can give you another answer?
Film Courage: Sure. But that’s good. I like that book actually. I wish someone had handed me that. But what else in that book could tell you different things [such as] don’t waste your time with this, spend more time on that which you wish someone had given to you that you’ve learned now where. And in turn, you could then hand this same book to someone?
Trae Ireland: Here is the irony of that because you just never know. Because there is a lot of that when I first got here I would try a lot of these showcases or whatever, don’t go to those…(Watch the video on Youtube here).
Film Courage: Here in LA, what are 5 things you wish you’d know right away that you had to learn on your own?
LaPrincess Jackson: The number one thing is postcards to network don’t work. Postcards don’t work! [Laughs] You know when you come here, the number one thing they say is “Actors you’ve got to submit postcards. It works!” No it doesn’t. I would have saved a lot of money not sending out postcards. Submitting to agents through mail. They also say to submit to agents and managers. Submit your headshot reel. It’s a waste of money, too. Another thing is casting director workshops. They are beneficial but usually they can be waste of money. I think it’s only beneficial when you go to a casting director who is looking for someone like you. A lot of directors don’t go to all the casting director workshops that they can. It may not be a good opportunity for them because a casting director is typically casting American Horror Story or Pretty Little Liars, something with younger actors. If you’re an older actor, that may not be the one for you. So you’re just wasting your money because that casting director is not looking for older actors. They are looking for younger actors. Or vice-versa, you know? So it can be a waste of money.
Something that was very essential for me was a casting director workshop for soaps and that is actually how I got my SAG card. And that was going to a casting director workshop for Bob Lambert who at that time was casting for All My Children. So I went to his workshop. It was a 2 or 3 day workshop. I had just landed in LA. I’m here fresh from Kentucky and I submitted to him my resume. I see you have no experience but I would love to get you setup so you can pick the other actors minds and things like that and learn something.
So I got on there…(Watch the video on Youtube here).
Tyler Johnson: So coming from New York to LA, there is a big difference in terms of priorities that are in place (or at least perceived priorities that are in place) and in terms of what’s important in your career and what are the things that need to be at the top of the list…and again…these are implied so it’s not as if this is an explicit thing that is handed down by anybody but in New York it seemed there was a real emphasis on training, technique and craftsmanship. And in LA (moving here initially) it seemed like the priority was really….(Watch the video on Youtube here).
Film Courage: What are some of the first things an actor has to do when they get to Los Angeles?
Bill Oberst, Jr.: Realize that you are going to be rejected a lot. It will take longer than you ever thought. I came with a two year plan and I thought that I was giving myself a lot of extra time. But I’ve been here four full years (this is going into my fifth year). Only in the last year did I have any kind of decent success. And by that I mean that I can put food on the table regularly.
But I think if you come you have to decide am I going to cut all ties with other careers and do this or not? And I chose to not have a day job, which made it more difficult but I couldn’t have reached any kind of success without it.
Film Courage: When you came here four years ago, how many IMDB credits did you have?
Bill Oberst, Jr.: Two.
Film Courage: And how many do you have now?
Bill Oberst, Jr.: One hundred. I just passed my one hundredth IMDB credit and still nobody knows who the hell I am. So you can make a lot of movies without actually bursting in to the big public consciousness. I think that’s another thing actors need to understand. You know, I’ve done a couple of TV movies for the Hallmark Channel and they’re great and I’m glad to be in them and yes, they help. But they do not change your life and they don’t change your career. There is so much noise that an actor has to burst through that you have to understand even if you get a big project, it may be a bump (but it’s probably going to be a slight bump). It’s more the accumulation of IMDB credits that make a difference….(Watch the video on Youtube here).