I ask everyone who emails me for advice on moving to LA the same question:
“What do you want to do in Los Angeles?”
Of that 30%, here’s what 99% say:
- “Acting. Just a little bit. Nothing big”
- “I’m a musician. But mostly for the change of scenery. Hopefully some new work”
- “Something in entertainment. Hopefully writing TV or film”
…which is really interesting. Because it means one of two things:
- These guys are the most unambitious, unimaginative people ever (hint: I don’t think it’s #1)
- They feel weird admitting what they really want
I think we’re getting warmer.
Because it’s not #1. Don’t kid yourself. If you’re looking to move to Los Angeles — with little money, no definitive job prospects, and no housing — you don’t fall into the category of unambitious or unimaginative.
Which leaves #2, and this next question:
What are you embarrassed to admit?
Here’s my guess:
You’re embarrassed to admit you expect greatness.
What is greatness?
Greatness can look like any number of things:
- For actors. Broadway, film, TV, collecting residuals from that AT&T spot
- For musicians. Selling out a standing room only venue. Or a platinum record
- For writers. NYT Bestseller, that Emmy, seeing your play come to life
For most of us, greatness is why we move to LA: We believe we’re destined to be great. Not just good, not “also-ran.” Great.
Yet saying this aloud seems arrogant. So we keep it to ourselves.
How do I know this?
I’m guilty myself.
Another assistant would ask: “What are you looking to do? Do you want to be a screenwriter?”
I’d answer: “You know, maybe… I’m still just learning about this business and figuring out where I fit.”
Meanwhile, every morning that week at 5:30 a.m. I’m up typing into Final Draft before spending the next 10 hours answering someone else’s phone.*
There’s an audacity to expecting greatness. For example, if you say you expect to be a great screenwriter, you’re also saying you’re better than the millions who “never makes it,” whether it’s because they don’t have the connections or (more likely) didn’t write well enough.
It’s difficult to admit this to someone…
But it’s even harder to admit this to yourself.
Once you admit you expect greatness, you admit that you’re trying. You’re writing everyday, taking classes, you’re joining writing groups. You’re working on the craft while everyone tells you to “be normal” and “don’t be so hard on yourself.”
The downside is you could fail.
For example, the first screenplays I poured hours into were — objectively speaking — shit.
It’s terrifying to realize your expectation of greatness could be nothing but a mirage you’re stumbled towards.
So when someone asks, “What do you want to do in LA?” you’re better off giving a vanilla answer (“Oh, I don’t know… maybe I’ll take up acting.”) It’s not normal to open yourself up to an emotional, devastating beat down.
But on the flip side, by definition, there is nothing normal about greatness.
*This is not to say you should pour out your heart and dreams to your Starbucks barista and her mother. If it’s a first date or your current boss, they don’t need to know everything right away.
Photo Credit: Topher76