by Marei Annis
There are so many stories about life in LA that it seems hard to imagine that all of them could be true at the same time. And yet there is so much to see, experience and discover in the “city of stars” that you may find yourself surprised after all to find that miracles happen every day, just as well as dreams can be shattered in just an instant.
Dreams and reality co-exist in a very unique way in this very unique place. And while you never know how your story will play out and absolutely everything is possible, here are some things that you will definitely learn after spending some time in the City of Angels, especially if you are trying to make it there as an artist.
1 Everyone is in the industry
Chances are, wherever you’re from, the fact that you are an artist made you stand out. You pursued your dream against all odds and you faced obstacles that were sometimes hard for your friends, family and colleagues to relate to.
In LA you will suddenly find the opposite to be true. Everything that made you unique before is what makes you part of the game in Hollywood. It is not uncommon to strike up a conversation with your taxi driver only to find that he runs a production company on the side. Every waitress who cheerfully greets you with a big smile – you can bet she’s an actress, maybe secretly hoping that you’re a producer, who can finally help her have her big break.
The fact that the entertainment industry dominates all of life in LA can be a blessing and a curse. It means you will always find people, who can relate to where you’re at… but it also means that you have to work twice as hard to actually stand out.
2 Everyone knows somebody famous
Very few people in Hollywood will be impressed, if you show them a selfie you took with your favourite actor or musician at a signing event. In fact, while everyone who isn’t famous is trying their hardest to present themselves in their very best light 24/7… actual famous people in this town are… mostly just people and very much like to be treated as such. It’s entirely possible that you might meet a celebrity in their favourite hangout spot and just strike up a conversation with them, as long as your intention is not to gain some career advantage from that encounter. They can tell whether you’re just out for a good time or actually out with some ulterior motive. You will need to understand that, even if you become close friends with someone way up the ladder… if you’ve not done the work to be en par with them, they can’t actually help you. It’s a complete myth that you “just need to meet the right person” who will jumpstart your career for you. In fact, if you focus instead on “becoming the right person”, you will find that people automatically gravitate towards you. And the right person to help you may very well be your neighbour, your best friend, your bartender or your hairdresser, who isn’t famous or “important” but who is excited to embark on this journey with you and support you to become the best version of yourself you can possibly be.
3 You’re expected to keep learning
As a direct follow up from “don’t wait for a saviour to make your career happen”… you also can’t rely on your past to be enough to pay your way into your future here. In LA you are expected to keep learning and growing every day. People are much less interested in seeing what you’ve got written on your CV than in what you actually bring into the room the moment they meet you. They won’t ask “where did you study”. They are much more likely to be interested in who you are training with right now. Even if you’re a director or a writer or even a producer, you will earn people’s respect if you are willing to try things that you haven’t tried before. And the opportunities here are never ending! Why not pick up a new language or learn a martial art or even volunteer at an animal shelter or children’s hospital? Art is shaped from life after all, so the more nuances of life you are familiar with, the deeper the stories you can tell.
4 Hollywood is just one part of town
This is the obvious one that anyone who’s actually been to LA will already be aware of, but obviously “Hollywood” is really just the name of one particular neighbourhood. It has established itself as a symbol for the film industry so I am also using it somewhat interchangeably for that, but in terms of the actual location, there is so much more to see!
Besides Hollywood itself, there is of course West Hollywood, a particularly trendy part of town, where you’ll always catch the newest charcoal pro-biotic vegan ice-cream trend first. There is Santa Monica, famous for the pier that’s been featured in countless films. There’s Venice Beach, which I always like to describe as “The Berlin of Los Angeles” for it’s significantly more laid back vibe. Burbank (not even actually part of the city of Los Angeles) is where a lot of the big film studios actually are. Downtown LA is the only area there that actually feels somewhat urban. Malibu and Beverly Hills have all the beautiful houses that you can drive past and dream about one day coming home to. And if you want to just escape all the crazy… take a trip to Topanga. Between hills and trees and “hippie cafes”… you can actually find some peace there.
5 The traffic is worse than you can imagine or anyone can describe
…and you will need peace because, believe me, if you think you know bad traffic… you really don’t until you come to LA. Los Angeles has close to no public transportation (yes, there is a metro, but it only covers a very small portion of town and while buses do exist… them being also subject to bad traffic they aren’t much use unless you only have a very short distance to go).
Everyone drives a car, and even though freeways stretching over eight lanes are very common during rush hour all of these lanes will inevitably be jammed for no short time. It is very likely that a journey that should take you only twenty minutes can last up to two hours at the wrong time of day. Everyone always has somewhere they need to be. And they will fight to get there first, because being on time is also highly valued. First come, first serve is a very common theme.
And it doesn’t stop at that. If you realise too late that you’re in the wrong lane to catch your exit… don’t expect any kindness from the other drivers. You may be forced to take a very long detour… which will also be jammed costing you yet another big chunk of your precious time. Luckily google maps is really your friend here, because all the modern navigation apps usually calculate your time including traffic – but that still doesn’t mean that you don’t have to plan to just sit in your car for hours, moving at a pace that makes you feel like you’d been better off walking (which, of course, you can’t, because Los Angeles is not built for pedestrians).
Don’t even think of signing up for a gym that is on the other side of town, even if you really like it. You will most likely end up never going. And if you have to commute for work… well. You better get good at multitasking, so you can at least make some extra use of your time spent in the car.
6 Beauty is everywhere
While that last point may sound like a huge downside, this is the one that has the best chance to make up for all the hardships you might possibly face.
Imagine the most beautiful sunset, a deep red sky, rays of light weaving through pink clouds… this is a sight that you can expect to see almost every day, all year around in the City of Angels. If you can manage to make some time out of your busy schedule, there exists an amazing variety of hiking trails, beaches, woods and mountains that will each take your breath away in a completely unique way. There are art museums, magic shows, theme parks, concerts and of course the chance to see the next big blockbuster premiere at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. There are parties, themed events, galas and charity balls that will make you feel like you, yourself are the star of your very own Hollywood fairytale. And finally, most importantly, there are people, who’s kindness and curiosity about you, no matter where you come from, will make you feel right at home. For all the competition, hard work and business minded approach to life that drives the industry, behind it is ultimately a community that cherishes our shared humanity like no other. People embrace the beauty of their surroundings and will, in most cases, try their very best to share it with you. If you open your heart you may very well feel like the name “Los Angeles”, the angels, unveils the ultimate truth.
I can’t tell you that life in LA is always going to be easy, that you’ll become a star over night or even over several years. But if you are looking for a place to build a beautiful life amongst beautiful people doing what you love and you are willing to work hard and overcome the obstacles that will show up in your way with a sense of pride, peace and perseverance… the City of Angels will welcome you and let you have your chance. If this is where you want to be, go ahead and take it. You never know what miracles might await.