Prepping for LA


I had an email from an aspiring model the other day. I decided to answer her email in the forum, where others can also read. 

“hi!  I am working on my portfolio now, however I am looking to move to California soon. Not hard to believe but there aren’t many opportunities here in Fort Worth, Texas. Any suggestions on what I should do to help prepare for Cali?”

I am glad you are making the leap to LA. Having seen your pictures (I won’t post them on here though) I think you have a commercial look and you should pursue that. LA is a good market for that, NY as you know does better with editorial. When you come to LA, you should also look into a the San Diego and Orange County markets. Many of the surf, extreme sport markets are based out of Orange County and there are agencies down there to cater to that look. If you have that surfer girl, California beach look then you can also consider that market (and San Diego) in addition to LA. 

Economically I would suggest working for yourself as much as you can. This may take some time but you will benefit in ways that can give your career advantages like making your own schedule, tax benefits, better money, and sharpening your marketing skills. At the end of the day, we are all sales people… every one one of us has to sell something. Consider being a fitness trainer, boot camp trainer (they do well, can get a large customer base), mobile notary, massage therapist, edit actor reels, hair stylist, etc… Those sort of jobs let you work on your schedule for the most part and if an audition or job comes your way, you have that flexibility of changing your schedule. Many models and actors work in bars and restaurants. While that is a great way to earn money in this town and meet people, you face stiff competition because many high paying restaurants shy away from hiring models/actors. They know that the turn over is high and shifts might not be covered because an actor had an audition. Of course I am generalizing but you get the drift. Working in a bar could be fun but it wears you out. Let me put it this way…it ages you! You will make great money but unless you have a strict discipline, many bartenders sleep late because of the rough hours. That cuts into audition times, etc… In high school my English teacher  said something to me, that I only understood years later. She said, “Walid if you are going to make it in Hollywood, you need F*CK YOU money”. To me that means, having a way to make your own money and on your own terms. It means at some point, you can say or think “F*ck you, I have my own money and will not ______________ because I am not desperate”.  

Remember there are many ways to “make it” in Hollywood. The beauty of this town is its frustrating element also. There is no fool-proof way of finding success. You have to see what works for you and really know yourself. Don’t come here without knowing who you are, what you stand for, and how far you will or will not go for a job. Trust me, the offers will come and at some point you will need to make a decision of where you draw the line. 

Very few photographers can get you into a top agency. It’s ultimately up to the agency, but they often trust a photographer’s eye. I would suggest getting your pictures done in LA because there is a difference between photographers IN LA and those inspired by LA. I can only imagine the emails I will get based on that line. Don’t do a shoot unless you have a great make up artist on hand. Sites like Model Mayhem are great resources to finding the people you need. Get references so the photographer isn’t just a guy with a camera wanting to shoot pretty girls. Avoid sites like Craigslist for photographers (although they are the best for everything else you will need in LA). Find photographers based on referrals. Call agencies and just ask, be honest and ask who they recommend that is in your price range. People like to help, that was hard for me to understand at first. 

Feel comfortable with the photographer. Judge how long they spend on the phone with you or how much they pay attention to detail. Are they listening to what YOU want? Or do they hear what they want and do what they want? Think outside the box, always! If you have a few girl friends that need pictures also you can use that leverage for the best deal. Be creative but I promise you, what goes around comes around ten-fold. 

I will not use this blog to preach more than I have, but try to avoid the Hollywood scene. In most cases the people who hire you and make big decisions are too tired for partying. I’ve never seen a model/actor discovered at a party because a big director saw him/her and said, “I must have you for my next project!”. I am not saying it does not happen, but that in itself is a fantasy that happens to microscopic minority. You can still have fun, go out, etc… but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s the way of getting discovered. Most models and actors are discovered during an audition they rehearsed for and by working their asses off! 

It’s a big place, that Los Angeles but it’s a small village sometimes. Your reputation is important. You seem to be on a good path already by asking those in the industry and doing your homework. I wish you great luck and please enjoy the journey as much as the rewards it brings.

Also…

  • AVOID THE 405 FWY at all times.
  • Use Fountain Ave when you can.
  • Traffic in LA, especially streets like Melrose are terrible during peak hours. But the stores around Melrose all have back alleys that you can use to drive and by pass a majority of traffic. It’s wrong, it’s illegal, but it’s not hurting anyone if you drive carefully. I’m just sayin…
  • Be nice to everyone, not because one day they might be able to hire you but because they are people too and have their own story that makes them special. Make friends. 
  • Call home often and appreciate friends and family that are open enough to keep you grounded. 
  • Go home often. Plan trips when airfare is cheap. It will keep you sharp and let you fight harder. There is something about going home to recharge yourself. 
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