An Actor’s Dilemma

Anyone who knows anything about the acting business will tell you that you have two location choices: New York City and LA. NYC has been the center for theatre, musical theatre, and true-grit actors – people with years of training with top industry teachers for very long time. LA, though it does have a theatre scene, is obviously known for Hollywood – the film and TV Mecca, and a place of glamour, beauty and glitz.

However, in the last few years there has been a tremendous shift in both the theatre and film/TV worlds. Perhaps we can thank technology, tax breaks, a bad economy, and other factors for this shift. The long and short of it is that neither city is defined by their original stereotype anymore. I can audition via Skype or video submission for work on the west coast, and theatres that once employed tens of dozens of show biz people are currently dark in NYC thanks to an economy down the tank. Thanks to tax breaks, a record number of films and TV shows are filming in NYC, though majorities of casting for these east coast projects still happen out west.

The entertainment world has become smaller, thanks to these shifts. So as an actor, where should one go? Two years ago, I chose NYC. There are many reasons why – I am a born and raised Northeastern gal. My family is only 90 miles away, my friends are mostly in the NYC area, and my training, drive and heart for the first 21 years of my life was pointing towards the musical theatre world: Broadway. New York City was a simple and easy choice.

Though moving to NYC was a little overwhelming and a bit of an adjustment, I fell in love with this town for many reasons. I love how the entertainment industry here seems supportive, positive, and surprisingly small. I love that everyone I know here in this business seem to be cheering their friends and fellow actors on, and hoping they succeed. I love that I don’t need a car, and can more or less predict exactly how long it will take me to get everywhere. I love Central Park, and training for marathons and racing there has become a favorite part of each day. I love the diversity, history, and beat of the city.  I love the change of seasons.

In the last year, I have had producers, directors, and fellow actors ask me why I am not in LA. Some have even gone so far as to tell me that I should be in LA, not NYC. While I listened and processed what was said to me, I also felt like I couldn’t just pack up and move 3000 miles away. For one thing, I didn’t feel like I had given NYC a full chance yet.  However, in recent months I have started to revisit the notion of moving west.

Pros for LA:

A new market, and it’s the center of the film and TV world.

There are theatres in LA, that are smaller and less saturated by movie stars than Broadway, meaning I might have a better chance to get cast in interesting and good quality work out west.

More living space for the dollar.  I could have SPACE!

I LOVE being outside, and the weather year round and the location means I could spend down time at the beach, hiking, marathon training, or out with a puppy – all year long.

There’s more commercial and swimwear modeling out west, which is my nitch.

Cons for LA:

Starting over.  A move across country would be mentally, emotionally, and financially stressful. (And exciting!)

I have very few friends in the LA area, and have zero connection to any Casting Director, Manager or Agent out west.

Traffic and a car.  A big headache.

I’d be far from my family, though I honestly don’t see them all that often now, and for the most part only do when I travel to them as it is.

Pros for NYC:

I already live here.

I have friends who are actors, models, Casting Directors, and have relationships with 10 agencies/managers whom I freelance.

NYC is still the center of the theatre world, and that won’t change.

The record number of TV/film projects in NYC means that if I do get cast, I’m already here.

My commute is always predictable, even on the bad MTA days.

The NYRR and Central Park.

Cons for NYC:

Everything here is expensive.

I hate winter – HATE it. And it hates me.

If most projects that film in NYC are cast out west, there’s no point in being here right now.

Agents tend to “collect” actors and models, which in the end is useless to me. I’d rather have one agent who will seriously work to send me out and market me, and sign with them.

A decent number of my friends here seem to be stuck in the BG track, and that freaks me out. I do not want that for myself. I also realize that my life is more than a career. Is there a coast where I prefer to set roots long-term?

While I do have two films that are slated to film sometime in the near future (I hope!), I often feel like I am spinning my wheels these days. It is mentally hard to be cast in two Indy films, and to not know when those projects will start up. Part of me is scared that one or both will crash and burn before filming even begins, as funding an Indy is risky and difficult to manage.

I am tired of, when I do get an audition, it being for a “sexy brunette”, with all of 5 lines, and nudity. I am BEYOND over it. As a trained actor, with years of experience and study, it starts to feel like a personal insult that the only auditions I get are for such sleazy, unintelligent work. I’m sure my agents don’t mean anything by it, but I want to be auditioning for roles with personalities, inner demons, conflicts, and a sense of humor! Where are those auditions?!?!?

Also, something I try to not dwell on, but am coming to terms with – a time clock is set for every female actor out there. We don’t have the same amount of years to “make it” as our male counterparts, and that’s just a fact.  Which is why I feel like its time to grab my career by the balls and run with it. But how and where?!?


~ by Elizabeth on September 13, 2011.

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