Thursday, April 3, 2014

A p.s. to my note on L.A.

A post script to my note on Los Angeles below.  I was out there primarily to attend the LAWebFest, along with other members of the cast and crew of CapSouth (see photo), a WebFest official selection and the political comedy in which I play Congresswoman Gracie Todd Englewright.

Well CapSouth took home no prizes from the WebFest, but at the Indie Series Awards last night at the El Portal Theater in L.A., writers #RobRaffety, #AndrewHeaton, and #SatyaThallam took home the prize for "Best Comedy Writing."  Well deserved and well done Guys!

Rob had L.A. actor Mike Moser on hand to accept.  Rob texted everyone at 1 a.m. and was absolutely beside himself, especially since the competition included Hollywood pros and a writer/producer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 

Here's a clip of the ISA award announcement.  By the way, rumor has it that Sat'ya Thall'am is changing his name to John Smith.  Hah!

Back from Los Angeles. Here's What I Learned about Working in Hollywood.

Back from a week in Los Angeles to attend the LAWebFest, where my web series CapSouth was screened.  Now catching up on my laundry.  I had an amazing time. Took advantage of the trip to meet with actor and production friends and scout the area.  Stayed off the freeway and drove through the neighborhoods – Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Koreatown, East LA, Burbank, Pasadena, Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, all over.  This is what I learned and heard:

1.    Vastly more production going on there than in the East (not surprising), but also vastly more competition from other actors. I bumped into performers everywhere: coffee shops, on the street, and two  stand-up comics just while waiting for the rental car at the airport. Kept overhearing snatches of conversations like: “we just shot their commercial last week” and “we start shooting the film in May.” 

2.    While many of the big production studios are in the Burbank/San Fernando Valley area, auditions tend to cluster in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Century City, and Culver City on the west side.  (I was told that auditions held in the Valley are largely for the porn industry - oops!) Producers have been known to make unethical, immoral, and non-union demands. You have to be a tough negotiator and willing to walk away from the table. (I would think an agent would be helpful with that.)

3.    Much of LA is laid out in a grid, like NYC, with major North-South (La Brea, Fairfax, La Cienega for example) and East-West (Pico, Fountain, Franklin, Beverly for example) arteries.  And while the LA area is huge, the west side is really quite small – about 6-7 miles from Santa Monica to Hollywood. If you can afford to live on the west side, auditions can be accessed by driving the grid and avoiding the freeways (which are scary!)  Also, rents in more “affordable” areas have to consider the added cost of time and gas (at $4 a gallon).

4.    The dicey areas are in Compton, Inglewood, East LA, and (like DC) any neighborhood with bars on the windows, although even there the houses and lawns tend to be tidy so it's not as obvious you're in an area where you need to be on your toes.  Again, it pays to drive the grid and get to know the various cities.  I got to know many areas that were just a name on an off ramp years ago when I lived in LA.

5.    The air is considerably cleaner, thanks to emission controls.  Winter in LA tends to be clearer and summers more smoggy/hazy, but even considering that, I don’t remember it being as crystal clear as it was, even at this time of year.  I kept marveling at the view of the mountains all around.  It was breathtaking.  Also, the places I remember fondly are unchanged, but the places I remember being a bit trashy (Eagle Rock and Old Town Pasadena, for example) are renovated and much improved. LA is a nicer place.

6.    The weather started the week chilly and cloudy, then turned sunny and unbelievably gorgeous. Everything was green and blooming without the humidity of, say, Florida.  After this miserable winter in the East, I am in love with palm trees. 

7.    Yes, LA has earthquakes and we experienced one on Friday that rolled for about 30 seconds.  The newscasts were atwitter with shots of things that had fallen off the shelves in supermarkets, but it wasn’t frightening to most people, even those at the WebFest who hadn’t experienced one before.  It’s not a place for collectors of fragile knickknacks.  My scariest earthquake experience is still the one in Virginia 3 years ago.

Our last night there, my husband and I had dinner with L.A. actor friend Arlan Godthaab and his wife Marty at Gladstone’s, which on the ocean side of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.  Sunset over the ocean and warm enough at 8 p.m. to have our coffee out on the deck listening to the breakers. I didn't want to leave.

Many of those who attended the WebFest just stayed at the hotel the whole time.  I think that was a huge mistake.  If you get out there, rent a car and drive. There is so much to see, from the Hollywood Museum to the Chinese Theater to the La Brea Tar Pits and on and on.  I didn’t see it all, but I got a good bite out of it.