More to come...
More to come...
Of course every area around a studio tends to be really nice...and really expensive. Live there at your wallet's detriment. Instead, the average Joe (or Jane) begins their homage by residing in one of a handful of areas--The Valley, Hollyweird or scattered places around LA.
The Valley--Studio City, Universal City, North Hollywood (NoHo) Sherman Oaks, Valley Village, Burbank (adjacent)--is cheaper than accommodations on the south side of the hill. [Note the word: adjacent. This usually means near that city--not necessarily in it. Renters will use this word to describe (or exaggerate) their proximity to a given city. This simple word can mean the difference between a few hundred dollars in rent to making sure you're in a place where your car won't be stolen in the night. There are some nice and not-so-nice "adjacent" areas so scope them out. You can tell the difference.] This area is also a very popular place to live in. Old and new digs dot the landscape. Some look like the average apartment, others like old-fashioned duplexes (complete with thin walls). Besides the price, most places in the Valley have gold--PARKING. [Who would have thought that parking is not a given if you are paying enormous amounts of money to live in a building? Alas, most areas in Hollywood/Los Angeles area do not come with this Housing God-given right.] Stores, malls, grocery stores, select restaurants and the like actually have parking lots that come with them—without a fee. [This tends to be a little more rare south of the hill.] Streets tend to be wider and things seem to be cheaper. And entertainment abounds. (You even have your own theme park!) But since it is the Valley, expect it to be HOT during the summer months.
LA/Hollywood: In that cross section north of Wilshire, east of Fairfax, and west of Western (Hollywood or West Hollywood adjacent) housing is on the more economical side but that comes with a price—smaller digs and on-street parking. Apartments here are intermixed with businesses, clubs, restaurants, and a slew of other activity. This makes this John a very busy boy, day and night. Major streets have meters and no-parking times (usually during AM and PM rush hour). Between restaurants and night-on-the-towners, it’s a rush to find available parking. The plus side is that your rent will be less and that you can walk to most happening places in the area. The down side: you wouldn’t want to. (It can be dangerous at night and if you think of leaving for a late-night trip to the store, expect to hike back to your crib once you find your spot taken and you had to park ½ mile away.)
Around Wilshire/Miracle Mile/Melrose: This area will be astronomical due to its proximity to this big bucks district. If it is a complex, they usually have some sort of parking. If not, then it's RESIDENTIAL street parking and that's a whole new ball game. You have to get a permit to park (one process) and have to deal with narrow streets. [Imagine that bob and weave technique in boxing then apply that to your car as you navigate down streets barely bigger than a single car lane and with cars/trucks/moving vans parked on BOTH sides of the street. Imagine seeing a big SUV coming toward you and having to figure out which driveway you can swing onto to avoid losing your door and side mirror.] Also in these residential areas, you will have to deal with that lovely thing called Street Cleaning where you have to park on a different side of the street twice a week for at least two hours at a time. It’s a race to see who can move their car on the other side faster—and who will have to drive two streets over to park because they missed out.
The number one thing! You wouldn't think that such a small thing could mean so much but believe me, it speaks volumes. In LA, one street will look pristine when one block over, it looks like Ross after a 50% off sale. The one thing that you will consistently find in a decent neighborhood is grass. Greenery is such a rarity in LA that any strip of Astroturf is coveted--until you reach the neighborhood that has more dirt plots than Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In this neighborhood, grass is the last thing people are thinking about and if that doesn't tell you something, the abandoned shopping carts and shoes hanging on the power line should.
The forest from the hedges
If you are in an area with high hedges and a canopy of trees, enjoy the scenery and keep going. Chances are you are in Brentwood or on Highland and will not be able to afford a weed much less an apartment in any of these areas. Besides the occasional park, this much green is reserved for the more expensive parts of town; the higher the bush, the higher the price. These well-maintained areas are either for show or for hiding.
Major highways and busy streets
Although the price may sound right, the apartment will not. Unless you plan on getting earplugs that are so tight they need to be surgically removed, do not reside near these areas. The apartments in LA are built of the cheapest material to begin with and believe me, no money was spared to even think of installing soundproof glass. Trust someone who spent over a year on Cahuenga near the 101, earplugs don't work. Not to mention that getting in and out of your complex will become a Houdini act in itself during rush hour or a HW party or premiere.
LA Times, LA Weekly, Penny Saver, etc. FREE. Enough said.
LA Craigslist.org, Recycler.com
Everybody's doing it, join in. But just like everything else, check it out. [Of course do a drive-by. More below.] If you are going to use these listings to have a potential roommate, interview them like they have access to your bank account. Find out their history, their spending habits, their bill-paying habits. Give them a personality quiz, eHarmony compatibility test, take long walks on the beach, pick up a latte, anything. Find out as much as you can about this person and whether your personalities (and bill-paying habits) will click or not. There is nothing like being stuck with a roommate who is Death Incarnate, who sneaks into your room to watch porn tapes, and engages in mold growth experiments with the dinner dishes. Contracts are for a year minimum and are damn near impossible to get out of. Some say both parties are responsible for the rent; others it's all or nothing. Even if you do find that someone special, draw up a contract between you and them so if something happens, you can take them to People’s Court if they "forget" to pay the rent.
Other online sites
Move.com (formerly Rent.net), and 4rentinla.com are some sites to check. They are good for getting a visual but usually the prices are off (you always have to "call" for pricing. Pain in the ass.)
Here is also a link that lists several sites: http://www.at-la.com/@la-re/rent.htm (warning: some of links are out-dated.)
All complexes are managed by some sort of company, agency, leasing firm, etc. If you drive by a place and it is all rented out, check out the name of the management company (most are displayed out front). The complex or the manager usually has a list (or knows of) other properties that the company owns. (If not, you can look up the company yourself online.) The company tends to have properties with similar “perks” so many of the features you liked in one place may be duplicated in another.
Grab a friend (if you can) and just drive around. Scope out the "for rent" signs; if you find one you like, pull over, and give them a call. Some of the best ones are found by accident.
There are several "for rent" and "roommates wanted" sites that are out there. Two that I found with a good list of places are "Westside Rentals" www.westsiderentals.com and "EZ Rent List" www.ezrentlist.com. It helps if someone can go in with you on the cost. (Some people try to sell leftover access time on Craigslist. Beware of scams).
The published version of the Recycler lists some rentals that are not available online. This paper comes out on Thursdays and is published according to the area of LA (Valley, etc). You can look online to find stores to buy the paper (usually at a 7-11 or Savon).
DO A DRIVE-BY!!
If you have an address, take the time to drive by the place to see if it is truly habitable (I once saw a place with the room falling in), is in a decent neighborhood (with grass, no weird graffiti), and you feel safe going to. [If there are more Mickey D’s wrappers on the ground than in the restaurant, keep driving.] Then, and only then make an appointment to see the inside. (I cannot tell you how much time I wasted setting up an appointment to see a place that I KNEW as soon as I got there, it was not a place I wanted to live.) If you really like it, check it out at night as well.
KNOW THAT A STOVE AND A REFRIGERATOR IS NOT A GIVEN.
Who would have thunk-it? A stove and frig not included? Even if you are paying $1500 in rent a month? Yep, welcome to the nonsense of LA. Know that these two appliances do not come standard. Most have some sort of stove but fewer have a frig. This is why appliance stores are so abundant in LA. Personally I don't trust something without a warranty (who's to say a person didn't drop the fridge and then try to pass it off to you?) so do not get an appliance without one. The only exception is someone is trying to move in a hurry and is giving one away for free (or practically for free) on craigslist. [Hey if you can clean it, what's not to love about free?] Oh, and stoves run on gas so have fun learning how to cook all over again without burning the spaghetti sauce.
A few last things about a potential apartment:
**Utilities are not included besides water and sewer. In some places, if you go over your "limit" be prepared to see it in your next bill. An apartment with a gas stove and an electric heater/AC are not uncommon.
**No place in LA County can raise your rent more than 3% a year (except select cities like Burbank so make sure to check it out). Prices have bordered the ridiculous in LA so to help control the gouging, this law was instituted in most areas.
**Know that any place you apply to, expect to drop $20 or more on an application fee/credit check. Also know that you will paying first month’s rent, last month's rent, and a deposit (which can be as big as your first month's rent depending on that credit check) before you even think of signing on the dotted line.
**If at all possible, find a place with central heat and air. Several LA apartments are not that up-to-date. In the Valley, some places still have wall or window units to heat/cool an apartment or worse, only fans. Know that in the dead of LA heat, these units will become sluggish and lethargic and will go on a cooling (or heating) strike just when you need it most. After spending many a day staring at the ceiling in a sauna-like stupor, I cannot emphasize what a difference central heat and air makes.
Estas todos. That’s it for now. More low-down on H-town continues…
Now before I go into more helpful hints, it would help if I included some places where you could actually find these jobs to practice your "amazing" new skills. Here is a list of places to check out:
Tip: Few "pay" sites offer job listings that you can't get for free online.
Now with the Hollywood Reporter and Variety, you can check out the shows and films currently in development, pre-production, production, and post-production. This information is not offered for free on their website so you have to buy the trades [Tuesday's for the HR (best for film listings) and Friday's for Variety (best for tv listings)] or pay for online access. Scope out the pre-production listings for productions shooting in LA, take note of the production company info, find the Production Coordinator, and send off your resume with a cover letter stating the specific position you want to work in. [Sending a cover letter saying you want to work "any" job as opposed to a particular one is a dead giveaway that you are a newbie and practically guarantees an appointment with the dumpster.] You may just get a call for an interview. Some gigs (several higher-up ones) are posted in the Trades' classifieds section. Those you can check out online:
Networks & Studios
Now of course there are the studio jobs where you don't work on a particular show but are part of the backbone/support/executive staff that keeps the network running. Most studios/networks have their own job sites; all you have to do is check out their company websites. Here are a few:
Here is a link to a whole slew of network job sites: http://www.outintvandfilm.org/career/studionets.html
Keep in mind though that few of these studio jobs are filled through "cold" submissions; most new hires are always someone known (either by working/temping/interning there previously or through someone who is currently employed there). The best way to get in if you don't know someone inside is to sign up with the temporary staffing agencies that studio or network is affiliated with. From there you can hope to get a assignment inside and work your ass off to be noticed. [The temp agencies are also great to hook up with if you need a short-term gig to get you between rent checks as you wait for your next production gig to go through...which can be a while.]
Here are a couple that I got a lot of work with:
Venturi (This one doesn't specialize in entertainment but works with several key players who reside on Miracle Mile--CBS, E!, and Spelling Entertainment to name a few--and other parts of LA. Mostly admin work.)
Appleone (Like Venturi, does admin jobs but also does a lot of customer service gigs. The Glendale branch deals with Disney temps.)
Now note: Not all branches are created equal. You want to register with the branch that does entertainment gigs (easy to find out, just ask them upfront). Hint: the branch closest to the studio/network is the one to check out first.
If you want to be in a more permanent position (like someone's Exec. Assistant, etc) these are two big-time staffing players:
Friedman Agency (The most difficult and the most elite entertainment staffing agency to get into. Totally high-end)
Comar Agency (Another top-notch entertainment staffing agency. Higher-up positions, longer term placements)
Word of Warning
Beware, you may not get that gig right away. It can take weeks, months, or longer to "break in". Until then, you have to pay the rent. If you want a short-term (or longer term if you prefer) solution, can type (somewhat), know some software, can answer a phone, or can lift a few pounds, you can do temp work. Once you get an assignment, most times you are paid within a week. Can't beat that.
Try Venturi, Appleone, or the following:
Randstad, Kelly Services, Act 1, Office Team, Adecco, Volt
Labor Ready has more manual labor jobs.
Sign up with more than one agency. One may be dead while another one is poppin'.
Tis all for now. More to follow.
**Get the lunch/dinner order right. Even if you did not place the order, take the list with you and double check that each person's order is there. [Write names on the package; it helps]. If the VP asked that no mayo comes on the sandwich, if the Producer wanted hot fries and a cold drink, check to make sure. Please. There are only 2 outcomes if you don't: 1) a severe scolding because you didn't get the order right (never mind that you didn't place the order or make it) and you will have to return for the right meal or 2) you will have to return...home because you failed to check to make sure the sandwich was correct. (Yeah, I know you didn't make it. Shit Happens. Bye. Bye.)
**Become a mathematician and make sure you have exactly the right amount of anything asked for--copies of scripts, packets of sugar, number of pens--and then add 10 more to the number. There is nothing like arriving on set with the 5th revision of the script and 6 more people need a copy. Never mind that they said they only needed 30 copies. And don't you dare hold everyone up by running back and making more copies.
**Speaking of copies: Moonlight as the Xerox repairman/repairwoman. Nothing gets you 25 million Cool Points and songs of praise than your ability to fix a jammed copier. Usually it's just a matter of following the little diagram on the screen and extracting said jammed paper. But most people just stare at that blinking light in horror and slink away, not wanting to admit that it was they who jammed the copier. Your ability to open a single drawer, remove a sheet a paper, or (worse case scenario) replace the toner in just a few moments will draw gasps and pats on the back for your quick thinking and resourcefulness. Plus you saved them a ton of time and grief. Now if said methods do not work and turning copier on and off fail to solve the problem then and only then do you go to a third party and mention the "problem with the copier".
**Always, always, always carry at least a pad of paper, some pens, and a sharpie or two on you at all times. (You can add your "tool kit" too but we will talk about that later). There is nothing that says you are green than a PA or an intern staring at person while being given a verbal list and not writing a damn thing down. Even if you have a photographic, supersonic memory, write it down. It shows that you are particular and smart about writing things down. And that you are on top of your shit. Remember that lunch order? Imagine if you forgot to write down "no cheese" and you gave that lovely ham and cheese sub to someone who was lactose-intolerant. Not pretty. (It gets worse if you get the Starbucks order wrong.) And of course this isn't just about food. If you misspell someone's name or write down the incorrect title and hand the note to the editor to add to the credits, whose head will roll?...(Hint: Not the editor's.)
**When on walkie and you need to speak to someone and the response is longer than a sentence, please PLEASE go to channel 2 or to whatever channel is designated for conversations. There is nothing like having a long-winded conversation on the production channel; it ties up the whole line and makes people really pissed at you. You do not want the AD or Director calling you out on the walkie. (I have been on a few shoots where someone stubbornly remained on channel 1 for all business, no matter how long. All became very memorable and on a first name basis with key personnel--as in remember this person because he/she is not to be on another set of mine ever again.) Don't forget to tell your buddy to go "back to 1" --as in channel 1--otherwise you both will be on the shit-list for not responding.
**When you have to go on a run, check in. When you reach your destination and have picked up the tape or whatever item you need to take back, call your immediate supervisor and ask if there is anything else he or she needs picked on on the way. It saves you time, headache, and gas. Your boss will think you are on top of it because you think ahead, it will cut down the turnaround time (especially when there is no one else available to go on the run), and save you unnecessary traffic headaches (we all know the later it gets in LA, the longer it takes to get anywhere.) Also if it's going to take you longer to get back to the office (traffic, workload holdup, etc) call-in and tell them. They will think you have gone AWOL otherwise and will start advertising your position ASAP.
**Mapquest, Google, or Yahoo your destination always. (There's nothing like a newbie who calls in to ask their boss, "Where was that place again?") Always, always, always carry a Thomas guide with you. You probably will have to take a detour and will have to know how to get there, especially if the 405 is a parking lot (again). Always learn at least 2 major streets per expressway to detour to in case there is bottleneck or some phantom vehicle causing yet another "accident" on the freeway.
**Bring your tool kit, particular to your position. All should have a leatherman, the all-in-one thingy magingy that cuts, slices, dices, pops, and cracks any and everything you need. If you are on set a lot, have your rolls of gaffer's tape in hand (in the colors of the rainbow of course). Carry your lanyard at all times and make up a mini crew sheet to tuck in it so you can reach out and touch anybody anytime. Carry an arsenal of writing utensils (someone will always borrow one and never give it back). Add other items to your person as you use them.
More to come...
1) The great time you spent in school, struggling to get together that great thesis film (or script) together that got rave reviews in class won't get you a blink in Hollywood (HW for short). Unless you win the festival route with your film or the writing contests with your script, you won't get much attention in the HW. What they don't tell you in school is that even though you will learn all the technical and practical applications of filmmaking you won't actually get to implement any of them anytime soon (unless "Ordering Lunch & Dinner" or "The Fine Art of Lattes 101" were a part of your curriculum.) You will get to see those applications in practice but more than likely it will be from a distance (probably as far away as the production trailer, or worse yet in the rear view mirror of your car as you go on yet another run.)
2) Now that BA you slaved over does come in handy. You can't get a job--not even a decent, moderate-paying PA (production assistant) job--in most places without one. (Don't dream of submitting a resume to a production company or network without one.) It doesn't really have to be in film or television but it helps. If you are a guy, your size and weight will put you [literally] head and shoulders above anyone else to work onset. [They always need big strapping men to haul around heavy objects]. Girls, any great "secretarial" skills you have -- answering the phone, working on the computer, ability to alphabetize and count to 100--will put you in the league for one of the office production gigs. (Or if you are handy with a paint brush or a needle, then the art or production design department just may have an on-set opening.)
3) No matter if you are a guy or girl, you will begin to loathe the sound of your name as it will be called more often than "Jesus wept!" Just when you think you will be able to stop for a second and oh say "take a wee" you will get another blast from the walkie talkie asking you to come hither. [10-100 means you're on the toilet by the way but don't say this unless too much time has passed. You don't want to get those looks.]
4) One thing about LA: since there are so many little fish in a big pond, finding work that pays you enough to afford shopping at the 99cents only store can be a challenge [More on the 99cents store in an upcoming post]. The entertainment industry in HW is one place that gets away with paying people ridiculously low rates if you are below-the-line and hideously outrageously high rates if you are above-the-line. On one of my first production jobs I made about $500/week which is GOOD starting mula in LA. Thing is I worked 65-70 hours or more a week. (No overtime til after 12 hours a day though.) That equals to just over $7 an hour. [It's sad when you can make more money selling 10-count packs of tube socks by the side of the road than you can in TV.] "But wait," you say, "that's $2000 a month, surely you can live on that!" Well if you take out taxes (which is about a $100 out of each check) $400 of that is gone, your rent is anywhere from $700-$900 a month--with a roommate--$100 or so for your share of the utilities, $200 (if you're lucky) a month for gas, a bare $200 a month for food (that's only $50 a week which may get you bread, baloney, eggs, milk, and storebrand cereal), not to mention your own personal bills--cell phone ($80), share of house phone/internet ($20), car insurance ($200), and any credit card payments (bye $100). You're now down to the working poor...where buying Little Debbie Snack cakes are considered a "splurge".
5) One of the best things about LA is the opportunity. Job leads and positions seem to abound, just ripe for the applyin', and you can always network, network, network (a.k.a kiss a lot of ass). But just as you will find many a derelict and pothole on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so too will you find that a lot of what goes down in Tinsel Town is merely a slight of hand. Apply with caution but if they sound too good to be true--check craigslist.
Next up: More on your first foray into Hollywood and what you can do to avoid pimping yourself out to pay the rent between interviews.
*Some great job sites
*Good spots to always run into a celeb
*How to find your way onto set as an extra
*Tips that will help you get a job and keep it
As the biz is jaded and scarred, there will be cheeky rants...and the occasional rave or two. :o)
And of course there will be the mainstays:
*Good places to call home
*The parts of town guaranteed to get you on Cops
*Where to get drunk for less
*Where to get a massage on a 3rd Assistant to the 2nd Assistant's salary
*How the 99cents Only store will be your bestest friend
And other random pertinent, nonsensical information.
Feel free to comment or ask questions. There is much to tell.
But up next: What's the dilly, yo?
Grab a cushion. It might be a while...
Welcome and greetings! Sit back, relax, have a coolada, and enjoy the show. Please make sure all hands and feet are safely inside the chaise lounge and take note of the restroom in the rear of the cabin (for the occasional potty break).
Have fun! Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the ride....